Yes, it really has been a month since the last post in this series. My apologies for the delay; I have been sprinting (flying) toward Thanksgiving with events scattered from New Hampshire to Lake Tahoe, Philadelphia to South Padre Island, Chicago to New Hampshire, St. Louis to Boston, and Jersey City to Jacksonville in just the past couple weeks. The airlines were amazingly/suprisingly good to me, and each event and client workshop was a blast. So, like many of you, I’m tired – and ready to wrap up the Fall Selling Season, and to rest and reflect over this long holiday weekend.
Telephone Prospecting Tip #3: A Great Start to the Call
The single hardest part of telephone prospecting is blocking out the time and actually picking up the phone to dial. We are ALL very good at finding excuses (and distractions) to avoid starting a call block. But once our butt’s are in the chair and we start cranking out calls, the next hardest part is when our prospect answers the phone. I know. it’s often a shock when they do pick up because my clients’ salespeople get voicemail about 77% of the time. That’s a big number and we’ll dedicate an entire article on how to effectively use voicemail in a future post.
I head up…
After listening to too many sales reps stumble, bumble and get outmatched by executive prospects very early in the call, I decided it was time to upgrade the first few words out of their mouths. When prospecting, as Jeb Blount loves to remind us, we are interrupting the prospect. They aren’t expecting our call and, in most cases, aren’t thrilled to discover it’s a sales call. To both raise the prospect’s perception of the caller and to help reduce their reflex anti-sales reaction, it’s helpful if we say this very simple, yet very powerful, little line when introducing ourselves: I head up… “Hi Joe, It’s Mike Weinberg from Acme Consulting; I head up _____________.”
There are two helpful benefits from using “I head up.” The first is that it makes us feel good. Has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you agree? Kinda makes you feel important and that you’d be worth the prospect hearing you out, doesn’t it? I certainly like the way it feels and many sales reps agree. The other benefit is that it sets us apart (temporarily) in the prospect’s mind. The immediate reaction is that someone of importance is calling. And you must admit, that’s a very different reaction than the buyer might have when immediately concluding that some sales rep is interrupting their busy day.
Try “I head up.” You’ll like it. In almost every situation, we’ve been able to find a way for a salesperson to deploy that phrase. I head up our agency business. I head up sales in the western US. I head up distributor relationships. I head up the XYZ client solutions team. I head up ________.
Let me take a minute…
Once we introduce ourselves, we must acknowledge that we’re interrupting and get some type of green light from the prospect to proceed. For obvious reasons, I’m not a fan of the all-too-typical, “Do you have a minute?” or “Is now a good time?” I don’t like those bridges into the call for two simple reasons. First, they’re overused – just like “I’m reaching out” is overused to the point of nausea. If everyone else is saying it then we don’t want to. And the second reason I’m not a fan of those questions is because I don’t like the answers they often produce. The truth is that even if the prospect does have a minute or it is a good time (unlikely), why would they tell you that? Asking if it’s a good time or if they have a minute makes it way too easy for the prospect to simply say, “Honestly, no.”
My coaching is to try this very simple phrase after your introduction/I head up line: “Let me take a minute.” I suggest saying this in the most calm, confident, executive tone. You’re an important person (who heads up something) calling another important person. You know you bring value to people and companies just like this prospect so you go into the call believing it, and assuming that, of course, this person will grant you a minute. They’d be foolish not to :). Instead of asking for permission, we simply state that we’re going to take a minute. “Joe, Mike Weinberg with ACME Consulting. I head up __________. Let me take a minute…”
If it truly is a horrendous time, as in the prospect is running late for a meeting with the CEO or finishing up a package for the FedEx driver who’s waiting in the lobby, the prospect will tell you that. And in those cases, let them go! Don’t even think about launching into your mini-story (tips for the mini-story coming in the next article.) When that happens, just say, “I’ll give you a shout on Thursday morning” and let them go. Trust me. When you do that, you not only score a respect point, you’ve also set up your call back. When you call back on Thursday the call doesn’t even feel as cold. You are more confident because you’ve already spoken with that person once and your opening is even easier: “Joe, Mike Weinberg getting back with you. I caught you scrambling to get that FedEx out the door the other day. Let me take that one minute now.”
I promise you that when your mindset is right, your voice tone is good, and you start off the prospecting call with simple, effective phrases like suggested above, you will be more confident and more effective. I’ll make another promise, too: It won’t be a month until the next article with the next telephone prospecting tip!
If you’re looking for more resources to help increase your effectiveness securing meetings with prospects, these are my four favorites:
- New Sales. Simplified. by yours truly. Chapter 9 has my best thoughts on using the phone.
- Smart Calling by Art Sobczak is a must-have. I’ve bought more copies of this book for clients than any other. Art’s a pro’s pro when it comes to the phone and sales. I highlighted about 60% of the book.
- Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount has been a bestseller, often #1, for over a year. And that’s not just because I wrote the foreword. This is the most comprehensive guide to prospecting I’ve read.
- High-Profit Prospecting by Mark Hunter is a powerful new book with great, specific tips to raise your prospecting game. Mark helps you aim higher and earn meetings with the people you really want to see. The introduction to the book ain’t half-bad either.