For many years I hated selling. I would rather have done anything but cold calling; even though I know this is a proven tool for developing new business. In this article Carolyn Blunt shares 3 strategies for success.The chances are if you call enough people someone will buy from you. Working it into a numbers game was one of the techniques that eventually helped me to get motivated. Once I realised that on average in my industry, 1 in 100 calls resulted in a sale I could look at the list of names and numbers to call and know that in there one would be my earner for the day. I became so enthused about developing business through the telephone that I was able to pass on some of that enthusiasm to others who also hated it.
Make a good first impression
The voice is made up of five key elements, and understanding how these create a first impression is vital. If the volume of your voice is too quiet you will sound passive and lacking in confidence. If the volume of your voice is too loud it creates an impression of dominance and aggression. If energy is lacking from the voice then people will find you (and your product or service!) lacking in credibility. If you are unable to get fired up with enthusiasm for your own product or service your prospective customer won’t be able to either!
Over the telephone you do not have the ability to express emotion through facial expressions or body language. Your tone of voice is more important than ever. Speaking clearly and pacing your speed is vital to get the message over and to avoid irritating the other person. Pay attention to the pace and volume of the person you are speaking with. If they speak a little more quietly and slowly than you naturally do, slightly alter elements of your tone of voice to match theirs. This will create rapport: it sends the subliminal message that ‘I’m like you’. Since we know that ‘people like people who are similar to them’ it makes sense to create a good rapport. People are more likely to buy from people they like and trust.
My father (a locker salesman!) pays attention to people’s accents on the telephone. He has lived and worked all over the UK and can pinpoint an accent to a radius of 30 miles. His icebreaker on the telephone is to say ‘You sound like you’ve spent time in…Aberdeen/Newcastle/Peterborough’. He gets his prospect talking about themselves (which we all like to do!) and then shares a complimentary fact he knows about their area –‘I was there about two years ago, the castle/shopping/nightlife was great!’
You might not be a whiz at spotting accents like my father, but you could ask a question like ‘You have a nice accent, whereabouts are you from?’ Successful sales people ask more questions than the less successful ones!
Ask questions, find out what problems they have and make your product or service the solution
I was taken aback the other day when chatting to someone I had just met and without any obvious association or link she suddenly asked ‘Do you use Aloe Vera?’ I was a bit confused. We had just been talking about my recent house purchase. ‘Do you mean for cleaning?’ I asked (trying to see the link between my new house and Aloe Vera!). ‘No, for yourself, I sell it you see…’ and off she went into a boring pitch that I had no interest in. My desire to continue a friendship with her plummeted. Her desperation to make a sale was evident and this made me feel used and targeted. Also if she was pushing her product with this evident desperation the association that I made was that it couldn’t be very popular or good.
I do not stay awake at night thinking ‘I wonder where I can buy some Aloe Vera juice’. I do, however, stay awake thinking, ‘I have an important training course to deliver tomorrow and I have a huge spot on my chin – again. I wonder what I could do to improve my skin?’ If my ‘friend’ had asked questions about what I do for living she could have then asked ‘So appearance is quite important for that job?’ A good leading question, and I would have replied, ‘Yes, definitely. If I don’t feel I look presentable it undermines my confidence in front of a room full of people’. She could then have naturally introduced her product: ‘I sell this product that makes your skin and hair glow…’ Then she would have had my attention.
Fight the fatigue
Nobody likes rejection. On our training courses I am constantly asked how to avoid being rejected; but there is no magic method of avoiding the blunt ‘No thanks, not interested’. Cold calling is about establishing prospective customers and there will be a process of elimination to go through – it is not possible to sell to everyone so don’t beat yourself up! You might tire of hearing ‘No’ and your pride may be a bit hurt but that’s the worst that will happen. When that sale finally does come in it will be worth it and your confidence levels will rise. Fight the fatigue and hang in there! Do not let your disappointment show in your voice – especially when you leave a voicemail message.
Keep your energy levels upbeat by smiling into the telephone and sitting upright in your chair to project your voice. Give the person a compelling reason to call you back – a phrase such as ‘I have some information on… (a competitor) that may be of interest’ or ‘I noticed you exhibited at… and would like to check something with you’. Avoid the tired old phrases like ‘My name is… and I’m calling from…’. These will switch the listener off before you even begin. Instead try ‘I don’t know if what we do would be of interest to you, can I ask you a couple of quick questions?’
Set yourself realistic goals to achieve on the telephone. Do not put off making those calls. Get stuck in – you’ll be glad you did!
Carolyn Blunt is a communication skills expert with Real Results Training.