New business development is the lifeblood of every company. Prospecting needs to be a regular behavior if growth is to occur. However, there are some techniques that shouldn't be used, others that should.
I've recently received three telephone calls that are great illustrations of what not to do. Here's the gist of what they said. My replies are in quotes.
"Hi, may I speak to the person responsible for purchasing office products? (Speaking.) Oh, listen my name is Bob and we’re having a contest to see who will be the first to sell 500 cases of premium paper this month. Would you please help me out by buying one or two cases today?" (Sorry, but I don't need any paper right now.) He hung up. Why would I buy paper that I don't need? Why would I care about his internal sales contest when I don't even know him?
"Hi, Sharon, are you the owner? (Yes, I am; and, you are…?) Great, listen it'll only take me 30 seconds to tell you what we do, then I'll close with a bad joke and let you go. Sound fair?" (No, I don't care for bad jokes.) He hung up. While I'm all for injecting humor into conversation, it has to be appropriate. And, launching into a canned speech without identifying yourself will always turn the prospect off immediately.
"Good morning, ma'am, are you the owner? (Yes, I am.) I'm calling from "x" publication representing "x" and several of our members have recommended that we contact you regarding purchasing an ad in our upcoming issue." Without pausing he continued for 2 minutes to tell me all about how fabulous the publication was, glossy, full of important facts, schedules, etc. Unfortunately, I tuned out immediately and then became frustrated when my repeated attempts to cut in were ignored. While it may feel great to finally get a 'live one' on the line, launching into lengthy one-sided dialogue doesn’t generate a two-way conversation.
So, what should you do? Here are some pointers:
1) Remember, your goal is to get an appointment, generate interest
2) Always respect the prospect's time (Is this a bad time?)
3) Ask for permission to continue speaking (Mind if I take 30 seconds to explain why I'm calling?)
4) Ask them questions based on the top 3 or 4 ways your product/service has helped others (Those we help have experienced "x"; have found themselves in "x" situation; are concerned about "x")
5) If they nibble, keep asking. If they don't, move on. Either way, you kept them in charge of the conversation by granting them authority to decide. It's about them, not you.
6) Practice! Sound conversational. They must believe you care more about their business than a potential sale.
7) Realize it's only a phone call.
8) Never push or focus on your features and benefits, this is not the time for that.
9) Accept the fact that you’ll encounter rejection. If they hang up on you, congratulate yourself. You choose never to work with people that would treat you that way and it only took you 30 seconds to figure it out, that's great!
Keep moving. Each call is great practice, makes you better and brings you one step closer to an appointment with an ideal prospect.