Do you make incoming phones calls count?
For many businesses, the telephone is one of the main tools of their trade and yet they give it little thought. If the telephone is the first contact you have with a prospective customer, they will form an immediate impression of you and your company. Based on how the phone call goes, it could make the difference between closing a sale or not. Managing incoming phone calls and selling over the phone is an art and not something that should be left to chance. If it’s not you taking the call – then train your staff to manage incoming calls as well.
1. Have an objective
There are two ways you can react to receiving an incoming sales call. You can either be reactive or responsive. Obviously you set yourself up for greater success if you are proactive and prepare how you will respond in advance.
Always have an objective when answering the phone. If it’s an incoming sales call look to either establish a relationship with the caller, make an appointment to meet them face-to-face, close the sale or simply get their name and address to add to your data base. Whatever your objective is, make that phone call count.
2. Prepare your work area
By being prepared to receive incoming sales inquiries demonstrates to a prospect that you are efficient and competent which helps in their decision to buy from you. Have your computer ready if you need it, pen and paper in case you have to take notes, price-lists and any other sales materials that might be relevant. If you are running a promotion, a copy of the advertisement might be useful. You might also have copies of current promotional activities along with catalogs, brochures or any other materials that will assist in providing the answers a prospective customer might want to know. If you use sales scripts to handle incoming inquiries, have these handy where you or your staff can access them easily.
Most important, have a diary handy in case you need to make an appointment or check delivery dates.
3. Prepare a sales script
One thing that helps manage incoming calls is to prepare a sales script in advance.
There are several essential ingredients to writing a good sales script. Ever heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words?” When you are handling a phone inquiry, the client can’t see a photograph of what they are interested in buying. Therefore, “paint a verbal picture” of how your product or services will benefit the prospect. The prospective customer isn’t interested in your products or services, they are interested in what your products and services will do for them. Prepare a response to the questions you are most likely to receive. Often it will be a “how much” question in which case you want to sell the sizzle not the sausage. Make sure you know your sales script thoroughly. Don’t read it word for word as it can come across as insincere. Use it as a guide and put your own personality into it.
4. Answer the call promptly
There’s nothing worse than making a call and hanging on for what seems like forever for someone to answer the phone. When they do, they sound out of breath or stressed. Whenever you can, answer the phone promptly, ideally by the third ring. Smile! Believe it or not, a prospective customer can tell if you are smiling. It helps to build rapport.
5. Prepare a standard greeting
Make sure that everyone answers the phone the same way by having a standard greeting for consistency. Resist the urge to say “Hello Mac’s Transport this is Mary speaking…..” The last thing a person hears is the word – speaking. Always finish with your name as it gives them the opportunity to make a connection with a real human. For instance, “Welcome to Mac’s Transport you are speaking with Mary”… or “Thank you for calling Mac’s Transport this is Mary.” Using your name last means the prospect is more likely to remember your name which also helps build rapport and personalize the response. Use the caller’s name throughout the conversation but not too often. Be careful not to overdo it or you will sound insincere.
Redirect calls quickly. Callers get very frustrated when they don’t get to speak to the right person or they’re put on hold for any length of time. If you are the person they need to speak to and you aren’t available, have others take a message and make sure you call them back as quickly as you can. There’s nothing more frustrating as giving a caller the run-a-round.
6. Actively listen to the prospect
And – the biggie…. Here it comes…. listen carefully to what they are saying.
Use active listening skills by staying engaged, reflecting back on what they have said and paraphrasing to ensure you have understood them. It gives the prospect the opportunity to clarify any points you may have got wrong. Active listening gives you a very clear picture of why they are calling. The prospect will know how well you listened by your response. If they feel like they are being heard you are far more likely to build trust and rapport quickly.
Watch your tone and body language – yesssssssss body language! Callers pick up on your body language because it comes across in your tone and the words you use. Match the speed at which they speak along with their tone and pitch. This all helps to build trust and rapport.
7. Start the buying and selling cycle (Bi-Sell-Cycle™)
Incoming sales calls are no different from taking the prospect through the buying and selling cycle (Bi-Sell-Cycle™) except they are just over the phone instead of being in person. Just like the Bi-Sell-Cycle™ you want to find out the prospect’s need, explore the impact and assess their target goals through careful questioning without sounding like you are interrogating them. Once you have more information about why they called, if you can’t close the sale over the phone, it might be more appropriate to set up a face-to-face meeting. A meeting gives you greater control over the buying and selling process. It also gives you the chance to get into rapport and calibrate body language before launching into probing questions to uncover the prospects needs.
Deal with objections the same as you would face-to-face. Be positive with your responses. People gravitate towards can do people – not can’t do people. If you can’t help them perhaps you can recommend them to someone who can. They’ll remember you had their back and might recommend you to others.
8. Focus on the value
When asked the “How much do you charge….?”question, remember it’s not just about price. A lower price can mean higher costs in the long run. The only time a customer buys on price is when they are shopping for the exact same product with the same dimensions, same specifications, same features and same colors. In other words a product they can compare apples with apples like the same brand kitchen appliances, or televisions. Even then, they buy from someone they trust.
You are always going to get the price question over the phone, that’s why having a sales script to handle this will make the conversation flow smoother leading to better outcomes. When they ask you how much you charge, always bury the price in the middle of the conversation. If you say the price at the end of the pitch, all the prospect will hear is what you quoted and continue to call around for the best quote. Focus on the value you provide along with the benefits they will receive and if you do have to give a price, wherever possible, give the price as a range.
9. Confirm any details
Before you hang up, confirm the details of the call. For example, if you made an appointment you might say, “I look forward to meeting you Michael at our office tomorrow at 3 pm to discuss the next steps.” If you agreed to send them something finish with, “I will email you that proposal tomorrow. You should have it by 4 pm.” Whatever promises you make, make sure you keep them.
Make sure you thank them for their call before you hang up.
On a final note
Follow these simple steps when dealing with incoming phone calls and you will convert prospects into customers more easily.
In A Nutshell
- Have an objective
- Prepare your work area
- Prepare a sales script
- Answer the call promptly
- Prepare a standard greeting
- Actively listen to the prospect
- Start the Bi-Sell-Cycle™
- Focus on the Value
- Confirm any Details