By Carolyn Landesman
There are two types of telephone selling, managing incoming sales calls and making outgoing sales calls.
Many sales opportunities are missed because either you or your team are not trained how to manage customer inquiries effectively.
1. Prepare to succeed
Like real estate where location – location – location is key, to convert incoming enquiries into sales you need to prepare – prepare – prepare.
It’s very difficult to sell something if you or your team don’t know what it is you’re selling. The first thing you must do before you answer the phone, is to prepare a catalog, a product list, a price list and a sales script. Why? Because ideally, anyone in your business should be able to handle an incoming call. That means preparation and training.
First up, design a “collection” of products, services and delivery ideas. What product and services are you offering to potential customers? Ensure your products and services are priced to cover your overheads and they are profitable.
2. Create colourful and concise descriptions
Not everyone has the gift of the gab and can describe products or services off the top of their head which is why sales scripts come in handy. Equally, you don’t want the person handling the call to be hesitant and speak with lots of ‘ums and ahs.’ When you try to wing it, it doesn’t give the caller very much confidence that you are the right person to speak to or the right company to deal with. Therefore, having a colorful and concise description of your products or services prepared in advance allows you to handle an incoming sales call with ease.
If asked the question “How much are your products or services?” scripts allow you to answer an inquiry in a compelling and persuasive manner. Of course, sales scripts should never be read word for word or they will sound canned. They are meant as a guide only to ensure the call is handled well and to maximize sales. Practice is the key.
3. Create a uniform greeting
One of the most frustrating things callers hate is getting a robot or answering machine. Make sure callers connect to a human, preferably within 3-4 rings.
Consistency is the key to answering incoming sales calls. Regardless of who answers the phone, the caller should be greeted with the same script. The way the phone is answered should include each of these two basic elements.
- Firstly, they should make a brief salutation mentioning your company’s name, such as “Thank you for calling [Company Name]” or “Welcome to [Company Name].”
- Secondly, they should tell callers their own name, “This is Mary” or “You are speaking with Mary.”
The reason for saying your name last is, the caller will remember the name of whoever answers the phone and are more likely to give their own name. If you say…. “Mary speaking” the last word they remember is speaking. By giving your name in this manner it helps to build rapport with the caller more quickly.
4. Engage the caller
Once you have answered the call, the next important step is to engage the caller. You do this by asking open-ended questions that allows the caller to elaborate on exactly what they are looking for and the reason for their call. Open-ended questions are designed to identify the problem or the opportunity that caused the inquiry in the first place. It opens the lines of communication and the potential customer feels as if you are interested in providing them with excellent customer service and equally, they are being 100% listened to.
In finding out their needs, be careful not to interrogate the caller with your questioning techniques. Every time you ask for information, use your manners by saying please and thank you. It helps you stay in rapport and builds trust and confidence with your caller.
Because customers want to know what your product or service will do for them, understanding what their problem or opportunity is and seeing it from their perspective puts you in a prime position to help them “solve their problem with your solution.”
When a customer asks… “How much do you charge for…?” what they are asking for, is your help.
A great line to use if you are specifically asked about price is to answer, “We have [products and services] for all budgets. Tell me more about what you are looking for?” By asking this question you are offering to help the caller solve their problem.
This stage is critically important. You must understand what they are looking for along with along with what their why (target goal) is before you present any solutions.
5. Explore the impact
As with the six step sales process, you also need to explore the impact of what would happen if the caller doesn’t buy today. Will the problem get worse? Will the opportunity disappear?
You may have a special promotion that is due to close soon or a price offer that is advantageous to the caller. It’s important the caller understands the urgency for them to make a decision today. You also don’t want to come across as a pushy salesperson. Your role is to help the caller make the right decision for them, not to sell them. Callers don’t like being sold to but they do like to buy – especially from someone who is helpful.
Be careful not to push too hard too soon. You need to be in rapport for the caller to trust you and the advice you are about to give them.
If you are running a promotion, be sure to communicate this to all employees so if they have to answer a call, they know exactly what is on offer. You might even have a copy of the promotional advertisement near the phone for them to refer to.
6. Presenting solutions
You can’t really present a solution until you are sure of what the callers needs are. If you do, you are likely to come up against an objection or the caller will end the call. The best method of finding out customer needs is to follow a sales process and work through the right questions that help uncover buyer needs. Once you have established the caller’s real needs, only then is it time to offer your solution.
Here’s a simple script you can adapt to your individual callers.
“Based on what you have told me about your situation, what I would recommend is [your specific product or service]. What this will do for you is [add the benefit that will resolve their problem or opportunity].
When answering their questions, or providing a solution to their inquiry, choose words that help solve their problem or realize an opportunity. In other words, don’t just talk about features – focus on the benefits they will receive from your products or services.
- Use words that appeal to the emotions like… delight, amaze, impress, easy …
- Use words that describe like… spectacular, massive, sparkling, sensational, unique…
- Use words that embellish like… ruby red, sunshine yellow, vibrant orange…
What you are in effect doing, is painting a verbal picture of how your solution is the best solution to their inquiry. Preparing scripts in this manner will help you present solutions more effectively.
7. Bury the price in the middle of the script
Always bury the price in the middle of the description when presenting solutions. The emphasis should be on selling the idea, the feeling, the effect – not the price. Giving the price at the end of a script leaves the caller with the impression they are buying on price alone. You may not have the best price. Understanding why the customer has called you, allows you to concentrate on selling the benefits rather than the caller focusing on the price.
Here’s an example.
“For $35, I recommend [product] that is easy to use, saves you time and money and allows you to [explain the benefits they will receive].”
By using this methodology, you have told the caller the price, which is what they asked for, but price is not the last thing they hear. The last thing they hear will be what your product or service will do for them [the benefits].
Here’s another example: If you were a customer looking for a romantic weekend away and you were calling around several hotels, which one would you choose.
Customer: “How much are your rooms?”.
Hotel: “A standard room is $100 a night a deluxe room is $120 a night.”
Customer: “Thank you.” Hangs up and makes more calls looking for the best price.
Customer: “How much are your rooms?”
Hotel B: “We have rooms for all budgets. Tell me about your stay and what you are looking for?”
Customer: I am looking to surmise my partner for a romantic weekend away?”
Hotel B: We have the perfect room for you at $150 a night. It has a massive king size bed, overlooks the ocean and has a spa bath big enough for two where you can relax and soak away the cares of the day. We are a short stroll from our award-winning restaurant where can book into our cosy couples corner and enjoy a sensational candlelit dinner for two with a complimentary bottle of wine.
Customer: I’ll take it!”
You notice in these two examples that Hotel A gave the customer exactly what they asked for, the price of the room. Why did the customer pick Hotel B – the room was more expensive? It’s because Hotel B sold the experience not the price. They mentioned the price up front but left the customer with the dream. Hotel B sold the sizzle – not the sausage!
Immediately you have taken away the price and begin to help the customer!
Focus on benefits not price
They may have started out thinking they will spend as little as possible. After you sell them the benefits your solution offers, the caller will quite often spend more than they originally intended. By burying the price in the middle of the script, you change their focus away from price and towards the benefits they will receive. If the last word you leave the caller with is the price, they are more likely to hang up and shop around.
8. Closing the sale
If you have handled the inquiry well to this point, you should be able to wrap up the call and close the sale with a simple script.
- Repeat back their problem or opportunity.
- Repeat back the impact if they don’t buy today.
- Re-offer your solution focusing on the benefits they will receive.
- Repeat back what you have accomplished during the call and assume the sale by reviewing the order, price and ask for payment and delivery details.
- Reinforce they made a good decision about their purchase and say something that relates to the conversation like, “I appreciate your business, thank you for shopping with [company name]” and “I know you will be thrilled with [the product or service]. Let me know if there is anything else I can help with in the future. Thank you again for your business.”
9. Handling a price inquiry
When a caller specifically asks about the price of something, apart from the obvious, wanting to know the price, what they are really asking is…. “I have a problem can you help me?”
It is much easier to help the caller and sell them the solution to their problem if you have all the details in front of you which of course is your catalog, product list, price list and sales scripts.
There are several essential ingredients to writing a good script. Ever heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words?” When you are selling over the phone, the customer can’t see a photograph of what you are describing unless you have pictures on your website. Therefore, an essential ingredient of selling over the phone is to “paint a verbal picture” of the solution to the caller’s problem. Focus on value, not price.
A simple sales script for a price inquiry for a service would be:
“We cater to all budgets, tell me more about your [problem, opportunity, requirements]” or whatever the inquiry is about.
A simple sales script for a price inquiry product would be:
“The [product] ranges in price from $x – $z depending on whether you will be collecting in store or having it shipped. Tell me more about your overall requirements?”
“The [product] ranges in price from $x – $z depending on the specifications. Tell me more about your specific requirements?”
People don’t buy insurance; they buy peace of mind.
Women don’t buy cosmetics; they want to feel good about themselves.
The customer is interested in what the product or service will do for them [their personal benefit]. It’s not just about price. 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, same colors. In other words, a product they can compare apples with apples like the same brand of kitchen appliance or television. If this is the case, they may or may not be your customer especially if you don’t have a low-cost pricing strategy.
To overcome getting into a bidding war with other suppliers, there are several things you can do to differentiate yourself from your competitors. One is to prepare a value proposition for your business, the other is to build trust and rapport over the phone as quickly as possible because people buy from people, not companies.
On a final note
When you train your staff and prepare to succeed with inbound sales calls, you will close more sales over the phone.
In a Nutshell
- Prepare to succeed by preparing a catalog, product list, services list, price list and sales scripts.
- Create colorful and concise descriptions of your products and services.
- Create a uniform greeting for all employees to follow.
- Engage the caller to find out more about what they want and need hrough open-ended questions.
- Explore the impact to create urgency – especially if you are running a promotion.
- Present your solution tailored to the callers needs using emotive words that appeal, describe and embellish.
- Bury the price in the middle of the description to focus on the benefits not the price.
- Close the sale by assuming it will happen by reviewing what has been covered in the conversation.
- When handling price inquiries focus on the sizzle not the sausage.
Remember, people buy from people not companies.
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