Friday, October 5, 2012

Call reluctance – why are we stopped cold?

Everyone experiences it, but some more than others.  Fearing rejection is the most obvious, but it’s not the only reason we pause before we pick up the phone.  Not knowing what to say is a bigger factor in holding up the process.  I once had a CEO tell me, he always jotted down the three things he wanted to accomplish in a call, so he could stay on track.  It’s too hard to keep it in your head, and chances are you will miss one of them during the flow of a conversation.  I think that’s a simple exercise that we could all use, even in calls that we don’t normally battle and it can get us quickly over the hump on picking up that deceptively heavy handset. 

For the calls that stop us in our tracks, more preparation can make a big difference.  Most companies we work with have sales teams and one of the areas they constantly struggle with is how to do outreach consistently.  There are all kinds of incentives you can put in place – extra commission on new business – requiring a set number of calls to new prospects a week – threats of being fired.  They might get someone calling once in a while (usually the last one), but it doesn’t necessarily make the calls effective.

What is the purpose of your call?  You need to be crystal clear in this to make any call effective.  For a first introduction, consider a very simple purpose.  ‘We would like to send you information if it makes sense.’  I like this idea because it lets the person know you don’t just want to blast them with information like a phoning spammer.  Ask to send them information (almost anyone will say OK even if it’s just because they know that will get you off the phone).  Then the important final step, take just one more minute to make sure you should send information.  Ask them one thing that will confirm for you that it makes sense. 

Optimally, make it some kind of open ended question that will let you know there is a reason to keep communicating, but that doesn’t require them to open the books.  It’s just the first conversation of a long term relationship if it’s done well, so don’t press too far.  You don’t need to get all the way on the first date when are looking for a long term relationship.  If they start asking questions you can keep pursuing the conversation as they are opening the door, but our first call should really just explore the potential a little bit and not try to close the deal all at once. 

Very few things are as frustrating for me in reviewing a call history as seeing a salesperson excited from the first call when their prospect ‘asked’ for information in the first call and then in the second (or 7th) follow up call said 'actually, no I’m not interested at all'.  What a waste of effort!  And we’ve wasted the non-potential client’s time to boot.  We could have likely figured out in that very first call that it wasn’t a fit.

What if we’re interrupting the person we’re calling?  This thought you need to completely dismiss.  You are guaranteed to be interrupting something, so get over it.  This makes it all the more important to have a plan for your call to keep it on task and have something you feel is important to share and learn.   If you respect the person’s time when you call them, you will more likely get that second conversation as well. 

Many more reasons stall salespeople from picking up the phone and if you have questions about how to get past some of your teams specific challenges, give me a call.  No really, the phone is right there!