I would like to focus here on SHUTTING UP…a much overlooked skill…
When I speak to those in my care for telephone sales help there are often several instances where you are on a roll with feedback which in itself is good. However, it is not so good being on a roll with clients as you pitch them your products and services.
I sometimes have to stop everyone several times just to get a word in by way of an answer to a point raised before the next one comes crashing through like a wave onto a beach. You need to mentally and physically train yourselves to make a point and then shut up. You are awaiting that first point sinking in and there should be a reply from the other person. Instead the steam engine just barrels along with more "stuff". When you just keep talking in a pitch you are often harming your chances. Like horses jumping fences in a race you have to clear one fence at a time and do so with a clean pair of heels. We are all guilty of talking too much in pitches, so does this apply toy you? It surely applies to you and to me in equal measure. It applies to everyone. We all sometimes talk past the point at which what we say is effective. Learn to pause, learn to shut up. You will get more sales not less.
Not shutting up happens for one main reason in a pitch. That is the fear that you will get an objection. You have to welcome the objections and not try and bluff your way through the other person by continuing to talk over them. Understand this: The reason you keep talking is not to impart more selling points its simply avoidance of questions by the potential client. Once you own up to this you can seriously do something about it. Products and services are sold by dealing with objections not by taking a bat to the prospect with a very long monologue. The proof of this is in listening to our own voices being played back in recordings of our calls. Listen to yourself and you will hear the clattering sound of hooves as you talk over any possible lull in your one monologue. Take note of this and watch your numbers increase and your conversions. Shutting up is a very powerful skill and usually practised only by the most confident in a team.
If you get this one point and nothing else from me my job will be done. More sales are lost by salespeople being boy racers with their pitch than everything else that is poor about a pitch put together. Think about it, is this you? Of course it is. It's all of us in sales. We need to be reminded to shut up. A suggestion I always like giving is for salespeople to shut up at almost every opportunity given to them! Try it and watch your conversions improve. It takes confidence and the ability to answer questions and objections which is what shutting up is all about. People in sale talk about closing the sale all the time. Shutting up often leads to that magic phrase from your potential client. What happens next or maybe How does this work? Both these statements will mean, barring sheer idiocy on your part (!) you have a new client. Often achieved by simply shutting up.
I came across this great placard (below) inside an Antiques shop in an Essex village at the weekend…
I am here in Essex to conduct some sales coaching this week in a nearby town and I am combining a weekend away with the work aspect of my trip.
I am here in Essex to conduct some sales coaching this week in a nearby town and I am combining a weekend away with the work aspect of my trip.
The antique shop owner was able to tell me that the reason for this sign is the number of dealers she has visiting her. They typically go straight for the discount telling her "You have £75 on that item's ticket so how about 40?" She is fed up with it.
Her explanation is that much of what she sells is on commission for others and any discounts come off her part of the profit in her eyes. Because the nation is now programmed by TV to ask for discounts everywhere, this is why it happens. Antique shops bring this dilemma upon themselves is my opinion.
Part of her problem is having been seen on TV four times in two years for a particular Antiques show where she does give genuine discounts live for the show. The reason being it's a TV show and there would be no story if the hero presenter was not seen haggling in the shops. Her pay-off is the immense publicity being on National TV brings. But she doesn't want to extend her largesse in discounting to the general public in real life. I think it is a great sign, see below.
In your own businesses here you are telephone selling products and services you will get many, many buyers who haggle because they have been taught to or they only buy on price because they think that's all there is to it . Or worse, they want you to think that's all there is to it. Sometimes you offer a discount to a small buyer and then you still get the run around and no order. Heartbreaking stuff on the telephone. My advice is to stick to your guns and do not discount that first order.
Deliberately building in a discount margin is something many companies do when selling by phone do when selling by phone. My advice is not for them or that type of sale so take note if your company does that deliberately. It has its pluses and minuses but it's not in the scope of what I am saying here.
My advice is for companies and staff who have a large number of clients paying at a certain price and quite a few potential new clients attempting to chisel them down. The advice and the tip is to stick to your guns. Tell people straight up that you have X number of clients paying your price, whatever that is, and that these clients see your company as providing good value and good service at that price. If you have market leaders buying at that price mention that too. But then shut up. Shut up completely. That's my tip in this message…you have found it!!
Don't beg for the order and do not discount no matter what weasel tricks are played. As soon as you become a discounter your life changes and you are a soft touch for ever and ever. (That's a rough translation of an old Chinese proverb).
Finally I will give you the greatest quotation on discounting that I have read:
"It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you'll have enough to pay for something better." John Ruskin (1819-1900)
P.S. The postscript to this story is good. I spoke to this lady for fully ten minutes about this sign she had written and how much I liked it. Then I looked around the store and saw a seascape painting in a very good frame that I really liked. I carried on looking and noticed that she ran a tea garden as well at the back. It has been a quiet Sunday so I had a coffee and then she came out and showed me the extension to her garden which had a £1 charge for charity, so no problem with that and we chatted away for a further 5-10 minutes until she was called away. I returned to the shop and took the picture from the wall and eventually she came over to me. What had been marked up as a £35 picture ended up wrapped up very well and placed in a good carrying bag for £25. That's a 30% discount! So, never believe what you read on a sign! I did not say a word. I promise you all. I just looked at the picture and she looked at the picture…she looked at the price tag and started talking, and talking and talked herself into offering me the picture at the price above. It was interesting and, of course, would not work every time even if you planned it. I am just quite used to shutting up to get a sale and also shutting up when being sold to. Saying less often brings you much more it seems.
The learning being: Give people what they want and be courteous when you are selling and be very complimentary where you can be and be courteous without being obsequious when buying. In selling, the way to get what you want is to give the buyer what he wants but at your price. In buying just shut up. That way....the seller gets what they think they want and you get what you want without always paying full price and without having to do any haggling. That last piece of advice takes a bit of mastering, but when you manage it on a Sunday afternoon you can go home and blog about it.
Advice there for being both a seller and a buyer!
Below is a light-hearted cartoon view of an old fashioned telephone sales guy...
The phone in the cartoon pictured with this post, dates the image as probably from the late 1950's, right back in the day and before my time. Before computer screens and, by association, email. See if you can spot the similarities and the differences. You probably won't see it as I do so please scroll down for my observations which might inspire you. I hope they do. My conclusion will certainly surprise you.
1. The first thing you probably notice is the cigarette burning away. That was a distraction, nearly everyone in telephone sales or customer service seemed to be a smoker. Nobody needed to go out to smoke. Offices were full of ashtrays and smoke was everywhere. You could barely escape it. I cannot remember a single non smoking office when I started working. So that's one thing that's it's good to no longer have around. Today's distraction is naturally your tablet, your mobile phone and all manner of social media that you feel obliged to use 18 hours a day. He had his problem with fags and you have your problem saving time with all these gadgets...so much so that you have little time to work efficiently. You are too connected where he was too disconnected.
2. The "always there " sandwich. That was always there sitting in front of our hero just waiting for him to get connected to a prospect and then he would start munching away as he spoke to prospective clients. That's always been a common feature in a sales office. The sandwich eating time (now known as grazing time) is still around though it has morphed into all sorts of food dressing the office desks around the country. Non stop grazing is not a great thing, is it? It's bad and always was but how do you drum this into a sales team? Don't pitch with a packed mouth was the answer then as it is now. Eating at your desk is almost OK but don't mix it with answering the phone or initiating a call. Please! By the way you will never, ever, see a top telephone salesperson eating at his or her desk during call times. It just kind of doesn't happen, does it? If you know different let me know as it will be a first.
By the way, back in those days management pretty much insisted that everyone left the office at lunchtime. I acknowledge that more and more these days this does not happen as fewer people are even mobile enough to get out of their office or see the point and certainly don't see the value in recharging their batteries. The pub is certainly out these days but anything else could be seen as a welcome break? A walk outside, a visit to the gym (I know people in sales offices doing this every day) or moving to the canteen and having a positive chat with some colleagues. Working more and more hours in my opinion is rarely extra productive. You are better off getting in early, making those 8-9am calls and possibly leaving early. Do more of the right stuff in the time you have available is my point here. Work smart, all of you start working smart and efficiently in normal office hours.
3. A good point for the guy in the cartoon is that he is dressed for work, he has made an effort and that's the first step on the road to success. He will have clean and smart shoes on and no trainers, no American hats and no bomber jacket. He is dressed for success. The same is apparent today. There are those that "do and them that don't." These days management often don't insist on a dress code. I would, it makes a huge difference in attitude. Dress like a professional and a winner and it will work for you. I worked in several very broken down places in my sales career but always wore an ironed white shirt and a coloured tie. It kind of held my head on. If you get that you are on your way to a better life in sales. It's called going to work....being the man or woman and acting as if you are really in business. The difference will be immediate if you are currently a distant relation to the hippy generation. Being a hippy in the office never cuts it guys!
"The consciousness of clean linen is a source of moral strength second only to that of a clean conscience". Quoted by John M. Wilson in Open the Mind and Close the Sale.
4. Our hero has a glass of water to keep himself hydrated. Essential. I always have a bottle of sparkling water near me when on the phone all day. I have sat with people who seemed to drink nothing all day and yes they sounded pretty dry and some were pretty terrible much of the time but even water wouldn't have saved them. They were in the wrong workplace frankly. You know what I mean here ? Just not up to the lively, hydrated fun person that they needed to be.
5. He has a script on the desk in front of him. Every successful sales person had a script. Nothing will have changed. Not using a script is not as smart as you might think, you will often miss opportunities. Have you ever heard of a play where actors did not follow a script? Pretending we know it all and don't need the script is a bit of a Faux Pas. Not having a script will catch you out at least a couple of times each week. It did in those days and still does today. I see it in every office I visit. The worst of it is that staff without scripts don't even realise how poor they are on the phone, they think they are the bees knees and it's the prospects fault that he is not buying today. A script or a skeleton script laid out in a progressive way allows you to bring a wandering prospect back to your process. It works so well that I am astounded by the number of unscripted people who think they have their prospects where they want them. They rarely do. They sometimes tend to rely on an email doing their job for them. If that sounds familiar you are not really in sales. The guy in the cartoon certainly was.
6. Our hero also has a list of people to call. He will start at the beginning and go through this list. To make it interesting, he will sometimes call from the back forwards as fewer people at the end of any list get a call as most sales teams wimp out long before the end of their list. On a good day, our hero's handset will not rest on the hook for more than a few seconds. It's one call after the other...bang bang bang until he was able to make a pitch. He had a manager and his manager reported to a director. The theme of the day was to stay on the phone for certain periods of time and then have a break and probably a cigarette. That method has very little in common with what happens today. But it worked and our hero was often more productive than his modern day counterpart. Certainly a ton more calls were made back then. Leads came from directories and yearbooks and were a comprehensive list. What do you rely on now ? Sometimes it will be better but often very time consuming and ages between each call which was never the case when you simply called everyone and left no stone unturned.
Now everything is a bit too precise. You do not need to know via Linked-In or any social media what your prospects eat for breakfast. You simply need to be making calls, getting along with people who answer and get put through. That's the same as it always was. The additional details come as the process continues. You ask questions as to...you do not need all the answers before you pick up a phone. Take note of that, it really is well worth remembering. People give you the answers more readily than 20 minutes on the internet 'researching'. This may be the first time anyone has suggested this to you but if you really want to make to the winners’ enclosure every month you will reverse the amount of time you are on the computer compared to the phone. Make calls and make money and stop fiddling around.
7. The cartoon guy had no email system, no computer and yet he was more productive. How is that? Email has revolutionised business but now the cracks are there for everyone to see. This is a coaching email so it can be long but will still be ignored by many recipients. It's the same with your own well crafted emails. Emails do not sell, the phone sells. Back in the day people closed deals all the time on the phone. It's what we had to do. Now, there are many, many people in sales whose only function is to get as quickly as possible to the point where they say or the prospect says "send an email". That's it . That's the pitch and the Close is to await the order or the call back. That regularly passes for selling these days. Dream on guys. Real sales guys are still making a ton of money on the phone not on email. Wise up to this.
My conclusion is actually that things were very different then and there was a lot of success and there still is a lot of success. The big difference, and I know this well is that people no longer have the same amount of time as they used to have. You have less time, your buyers have less time, we all have less time. And yet the clocks have not speeded up? Why have we all got less time then? Mainly in my mind due to computers and all the time saving devices and systems we have allowed into our day and now clutter up our business and our lives. We are so busy saving time that we don't have much time left. Another conclusion is that the world inexorably moves relentlessly forward and with so much choice available to buyers that everything is being bought pretty much on price where there is no discernible difference from one supplier to another. That's where personality comes into it, as it always did of course.
People buy from people they like. Be the helpful person that your clients want to buy from. Give them sound examples of others who have trodden the same path with you and your company and really got the best out of their purchases of products or services. That is what binds these two eras together in my mind. Serving buyers and their company politely and with genuine empathy with information you would want and need in their position has always been the key. The reality is that nothing much has changed in the balance between buyer and seller. We do the same thing as all those years ago with some pluses and some minuses in technique and of course technology but essentially exactly the same thing. Think about that.
As ever, I am interested in anyone else's observations or any questions you may currently have.
Follow this guidance and you will improve automatically...
You can have quite an interesting conversation on the subject of what is the most important truth in appointment making. Over many years, I have come across several truths in selling but only one truly stands out as being the number one truth when trying to arrange meetings.
There you sit with your list of prospects: some are existing clients and some you hope will become clients. You already know that the best way to sell something is face to face. You also know it is both the best and worst way to communicate depending on who you are and how you approach face to face meetings. So there you sit knowing, really knowing that what you want is these face to face meetings. Don't go picking any phone up without this knowledge.
Making calls with no purpose is very prevalent in telephone sales. Please don't be that guy or girl. Always have spirit in your voice and know exactly what you want from the call. Listen and keep going for what you wish for, but always be listening. Much failure in making meetings is down to simply not listening to what to what others are really saying.
On the other side of the fence are the seemingly really busy people you want to communicate with. At this point in time they already have a busy day and you are rarely, if ever, going to be a priority when you call but some will take the call. Some will agree to meet you and some will not. That's the way of it. Do not look for 100% success as that will deflate you. You are looking for a % success rate and your aim has to be to keep consolidating on that %.
Your aim and mission is to get those appointments and increase the % that you get over the line for the 1:1 meeting. Not much else should concern you. This is like a tactical battle. You have the product or service and you are up against an army of gatekeepers, middle management and decision makers who all need to be won over.
Mainly they are not going to be rollovers so you need to be at your best. "Hold on" you are thinking: I have read all this and there is no mention of the number one truth in appointment making. Well, now that I have established the way battle lines are drawn up in appointment making here is the number one, and overwhelming, truth of appointment making:
EITHER YOU SELL THE IDEA OF A MEETING TO THE PERSON YOU ARE CALLING OR THEY SELL YOU THE IDEA OF NOT MEETING.
It's never a draw. You either get off the phone with a meeting set up or you don't.
If you keep this thought in your head every time you speak to people you will start increasing your percentage success rate. It completely works as a motivator and as you speak to people you will change from selling product or service to selling the idea of a meeting to discuss their issues, their pain , their needs and not yours. By helping others and being the guy or girl that is there to help you will not get all the meetings you would like but you will get considerably more than you would before reading this. Be the helper not the telesales drone.
Don't take my word for it. Put this into practice every day for a month. Always remember somebody wins and somebody loses in every appointment conversation. Be the person that people want to meet, have the knowledge to share and the sense to listen closely to what is said to you and then give your best shot at setting up a meeting.
I challenge anyone to follow this advice for a month consistently and get back to me with less than a 25% improvement in meetings set. Everyone will get the 25% at least if not considerably more.
Tip: We all make appointments with the Dentist or Doctor. None of us much like appointments like these. Take the sting out of what you say by arranging meetings not appointments. People buy 'friendly' even if they are acting tough as nails themselves. Persevere with this tip as this will work for you.
Follow the above and you will improve. It's like daytime following nighttime. Improvement will happen automatically if you are straight with yourself.
Mistakes we make around voicemail in telesales and the problems that ensue...
A few thoughts for you on voicemail. The problem is you are all being a bit too lazy. We can all be this way and here is the answer or a good part of it.
If you imagine an old style hotel reception desk with a huge box of compartments in a big unit behind the check-in desk. That is traditionally where messages went and keys were kept for guests before telephones in rooms were introduced. If you are too young to remember then you will certainly have seen them in films. That was the equivalent of today's voicemail. Messages came in and was put in the box. It was picked up when the guest next came for his key and was either read and acted upon or read and discarded.
Same with your voicemail messages!
You are new to the client's and sometimes to the work and like me you are playing the short game first. The short game is phoning Ms or Mr Big or the name in front of you a few times and hoping to get through and make an advance. That is assuredly the short game and has some quick wins and many dead ends no matter how good your message. But ultimately it is the lazy game...as many calls go no further than voicemail where you either hang up or leave a message and 95% will not reply if it is a new business call.
It’s not working with most. That's just the way it is. It works with some but not most. So you give up or you get frustrated with a less than 5 % strike rate. Right?
The mistake we make is then continuing playing the short game. We just keep playing the short game, making those calls back to the voicemail machine like leaving messages in the hotel lobby for someone who is just not going to reply. And, with ever increasing frustration. Voicemail is now a screening device for most in many companies, they just are not going to pick up and we keep dialling like robots and simply waste our own time. The Big Boss just don’t care enough about you buddy! He really doesn't care how extra-screwy your screws are. He wants a quiet life.
So, stop and re-group. Stop the short game when it fails and start the long game. The long game is getting the receptionist to help you. How you do this Is for you to work out a strategy and run it past me. I do not do that for you. But you need to work out the best way through either to Ms or Mr Big's assistant or their PA or someone in their department. See this as a game of snakes and ladders. You need ladders not snakes. Gatekeepers are often snakes but some will certainly provide you with a ladder.
Stop the endless voicemail block. Only you can do this. Get some real enthusiasm going and call that receptionist back, every time and say you are getting nowhere with voicemail and enlist her help. A word of warning: Historically Gatekeepers are very much better at their job than we as salespeople are at ours. Don't try and trick them, don't be dishonest, enlist their help and do not antagonise them. You will be the richer for following this advice. On a percentage basis, the above method works better than any other voicemail strategy. It really does, so just do it and keep a record of your successes.
Figuring out what the problem is and how to change it...
Confidence in the field of telesales and telephone selling, even appointment making, has long been an issue for most practitioners of both. Sales managers and business owners all scratch their heads in dismay when looking at sales figures. Managing directors bemoan the lack of appointments made for sales reps out in the field. Everyone looks at confidence and ultimately everyone sees the problem as a lack of confidence on the telephone by all concerned.
Are they right or wrong? In my opinion they are assuredly and supremely right. A lack of confidence is indeed the main reason for the woeful figures many telephone sales teams return. For me it's simple to see where the problem is.
I ask everyone to take themselves back to their education. In every case if examinations and University degrees have been passed it is mainly due to the pupils and undergraduates having done many, many hours work at home. It was called "homework" at school and we all did it.
However as soon as we get into the workplace there is this train of thought that tells us that it's our employers duty to train us and pass on knowledge and all this has to be done in the employers work time. Home-time is playtime these days, yes almost universally in sales home-time is just play time on all the modern gadgets and going out on the town with our mates at every opportunity. Really?
This, of course, is the crazy bit. If you are to excel in the workplace and be confident on the phones then there is nothing that will help you more than your own homework done at home just the same as you did at school. I am referring to the company website. You learn it backwards. I am referring to product knowledge and any pictures, any handbooks that your company has. You learn them backwards. Industry journals, White papers, your competitions websites and products. All these things are the key to your success with regard to confidence. Please stop blaming others for your lack of confidence. Confidence reigns supreme when you absolutely know what you are talking about and your clients are not tripping you up or holding their phones in disbelief as you continue to spout garbage on a very regular basis.
The answer for all of us is to become experts and very much in our own time not our employers time. That is the answer to phone confidence and your lack of it. It always is the answer and it always has been. Homework guys! Do some serious homework every week. You will thank me one day for this advice, although that day is hardly going to be today!
Understanding who is the most important person you speak to on the telephone...
In sales, we are all making a variety of calls to new and existing clients in the hope of generating some new business from existing clients or building some important bridges to gaining elusive new clients. Telephone Sales is 80% persistence and 20% talent not the other way round. Relying on luck and the "numbers game" is a quick route to being very poor in sales. Preparation mentally and physically before you pick up the phone is essential.
Our job satisfaction and income really comes from getting our personality package across in such a way that we draw new business clients towards us. The techniques employed are always as old as the hills. There is nothing new, but it's how we employ those techniques and how we drive ourselves forward each day that makes us reach the winners enclosure. Success is pretty much in your head and your hands. Going through the boring motions each day is where you each need to give yourself an electric shock if you are simply doing this.
There is nothing new in the art of persuasion though many will tell you something different in order to get you as their customer for a sales seminar! I can guarantee you that there are no new telephone sales techniques that I know of in the past 30 years. How you use the existing techniques and really make progress can be taught and this is what I do. The techniques are all out there. What is new is technology not the methods of persuasion. You will not find books on persuasion telling you that it's a new science. Persuasion and salesmanship are as old as time itself, nothing new here folks. So you have to focus on the "How" of delivery of these techniques.
So, back to my question, who really is the most important person you speak to each week? That is the Magic question. Is it a managing director of a large company, the purchasing officer of a group of companies, sales directors, marketing directors, sales managers, specifies or secretaries to any of the above or any number of new job titles that have been created over the recent years and beyond? Who really is the most important person you speak to?
The answer should surprise you as it's none of the above. The most important person you speak to every day, and every week is not necessarily the one with the big job title. At the end of each day we are all just people and go home to our lives. We cease to be important people outside our own sphere of influence. So again, who is the most important person we speak to every day and every week?
It was not a trick question. The most important person you will ever speak to when trying to make your sales call is the person you are currently speaking to. Makes such simple sense once you grasp the concept, doesn't it?
If you make that person feel they are the most important person you are speaking to this week they become empowered and in turn will generally and statistically help you. No need for 'getting past the gatekeeper' techniques and no need for lies, obfuscation, fakery of your importance or the importance of the call. You simply make people feel that they are very important and valuable to you. You respect them, you are courteous to them, you do not dismiss what they say, you listen closely and quietly to what they say and you do not try to walk all over them. Each time you speak to them you follow the same pattern of courtesy. You will be in a tiny minority of people selling that will be doing this. The results will astound you.
The pressure and Hubble-bubble of an office and a sales team will often make us rush our calls with impatience and that is a major roadblock to avoid. Most salespeople on the phone are simply their own worst enemy. It's not the clients, it's not the gatekeeper, it's not the leads and it's not your boss. It's you buddy just like it’s me and always was. We are often the biggest hindrance to our own successful outcomes. So wise up is my advice. You need to shift your behaviour on the phone towards being the nice guy and not the steamroller, not the faker, and not the person nobody wants to engage with.
You won't win them all, by any means, but you will hit your percentage of successful calls that means you hit your target on getting through to Mr or Ms Big and if you follow the same behaviour with them....be courteous and make him or her feel important without you yourself becoming creepy and obsequious.
Look that word up if you don't know it! Obsequious describes the worst sort of salesperson. There are several varieties of the worst sort of salesperson, more on that another day, but this is one of them. Don't be that person.
Stick to the advice given above every day and you will surprise even yourself. There is a knack to this and you will have to work at it very hard to perfect it but all of us can do it. Make the person you are currently speaking to feel like they are the most important person you are speaking to this week.
Cultivating and developing your approach on a personal level...
1. We all tell ourselves a story that allows us to be the person we are. This is true when you sell or make appointments on the phone. Be careful how you follow the script in your head. If you expect success it will come and if you expect failure you will normally fail. Don't start work without a very good story in your head. Develop the winner’s mentality.
2. Perseverance in sales will beat ability and talent every time. Persevering people are the ones who never give up. It's the same with telephone sales. Those that make the high numbers of calls and persevere with perfecting their script will always be more successful than those who think ability and talent mean business will come to them easily.
3. Find the best person in your team and make it your business to be close to them. Most successful people do not mind sharing their expertise with others, particularly new people. Be polite, do not be a pest, but do soak up the story that person is telling themselves and their potential customers. It will work out very well indeed if you are a good listener.
4. A deal is never a deal until the money is in the bank. The old saying of not counting your chickens before they hatch is true in telesales. Keep doing your job, keep tying up loose ends right to the end. Never assume anything. Get order numbers, written confirmation, recordings of all transactions. Stay on the case until the job is completely nailed down.
5. Record your calls. Hopefully your company has a call recording system and you should listen to yourself, particularly on tricky calls. Work out where you should have paused and shut up. Work out where it went wrong and learn from this. It works better than most systems I know for best practice in telesales. Simple: Listen and learn from yourself.
6. (Your bonus tip for reading this far). Always, always, always be courteous to people. No matter how grumpy they are, be courteous in telesales and appointment making. You will stay in sales much longer and much more successfully if you just follow this one rule in every call you make. Be courteous, be honest and never try to sneak round people.
The best opening line is one created by you and about you...
Have you ever noticed how dogs respond to the way we talk to them more strongly than they respond to the words we use when talking to them? That's because they don't know many words, they know sounds and they know intonation and they know volume. They like nice sounds and gentle voices, and they like biscuits of course.
When you speak to your dog at fever pitch it doesn't actually matter what you are saying, it really does not. All you are doing is frightening your dog and anyone else that is around at the time.
Contrast that to when you are gentle and respectful of your dog. Again it really doesn't matter what you are saying as the words don't count. Your dog is responding to the style and intonation and gentleness of your voice. Or to the eagerness of your voice when you are trying to persuade him to do something. At no time does shouting or talking fast get the desired result.
Dogs are smart. Smarter than people much of the time. So learn something here. If you want anyone's attention try not to frighten them or upset them with your loud, booming voice. Keep a lid on the volume and talk steadily and gently raising your voice towards the end of the sentence if you are looking for agreement or simply trying to persuade someone to your way of thinking.
This method of communication works out well and it works out consistently. Your dog knows this.
The point of this post is to give you the best opening line and in case it's not already clear here is my summary of what that is : The best line you can use is your own words, short and precise, maybe two sentences ending with a question mark. The professionalism is in the delivery and tonal approach, which should be in such a gentle way that even your dog would smile, understand and respect you. Don't overwhelm your prospect (or your dog) with loudness, jargon, or a series of requests. Just one request couched in one sentence and a call to action from your prospect (or dog).
The detail of this tip is not so much in what you say, though that is vitally important, but in how you say it, how long it takes you to say it, your tone of voice and your intonation at the end of the second sentence which needs to rise up sweetly in expectation of a good response. Practice this daily in front of a mirror as an actor would. The results usually include far better communication with your potential client, every single time. A by-product of this method is that even if they don't feel they have a requirement from you it will be hard for them to be totally dismissive which is what none of us like.
This is one of the strongest innovative tips you will get in sales and do try and engage with me on this. I have made my living from employing this process for a very long time when speaking to new people. It works. It works even better if you throw your body and soul into being the guy or girl your prospect likes and wants to answer. Practice, practice, practice...
How to become more successful at achieving telesales appointments...
This is not a hard article for me to write because it's my strongly held view that company owners have to be the sales leader and that means training yourself up. Being a sales leader means having really done the job yourself so that's the basic training.
The rules that follow are not exclusive. There will be others more specific to what you are doing. But in general terms, if you follow the guidelines given below, you will almost instantly become more successful at making appointments over the phone for visits to potential customers. The rules are given in no particular order, since all of them are equally important.
1st rule: Don't try too hard! It's essential to relax into appointment making. There should be no hustling and generally no sense of urgency. In particular there should be no fear in your voice. If you are under pressure from your own boss when making these calls, fear in your voice will transmit to the client and they will back off. However, the bottom line is that you don't actually need every call to turn into an appointment. You are working on a percentage basis, so you only need a certain percentage of your calls to be successful for you yourself to be seen as successful. You need to come across as if you are offering something positive by merely suggesting an appointment. Never sound desperate. Instead remain cool and relaxed. In this way you will set meetings that stick.
2nd rule: ‘Others love it…’ - whatever 'it' may be. Make comparisons with those who have already tried your company's product or service; i.e. people who have agreed to an appointment and have really benefited from subsequently talking face-to-face to someone from your company. This is the most powerful, non-tangible way of convincing people to make a commitment. If they feel others have walked the same path, it makes them feel so much more secure about agreeing to such a course of action for themselves and to feeling comfortable and at ease about it.
3rd rule: Disqualify time-wasters. This is a tricky one, as it is sometimes hard to determine who is ultimately likely to waste your company's time. Listen for clues. These will reside in people who reveal a) that they have no money; b) that they are not the ultimate decision- maker; c) that they genuinely have no need for the product or service but just seem to like meeting people - and so on. Don't make unsubstantiated appointments. Make sure the meetings set rest on very solid foundations If you don’t, they are likely to lead to nothing, will earn you a bad reputation and will also end up wasting the time of another member of your company, which is unlikely to make you popular amongst your colleagues.
4th rule: If you have someone who seems a genuinely hot prospect, then the suggestion ‘why would you not want to see me’ tends to work very well, providing it’s delivered circumspectly. Without being too obvious, you can easily make the prospect feel that you and your company are actually doing them a favour by offering to come and see them. Whilst it takes plenty of determination and practice to make it work well, this can become a top technique in your repertoire.
5th rule: Your goal should be to help others rather than yourself. Whatever call you make, try to see the conversation from the potential client's point of view as opposed to a means of you personally hitting targets. The former works perfectly in every situation whilst the latter tends to be a failure in waiting. Put yourself in your client's shoes as quickly as you can as the conversation progresses. The emphasis in good appointment-making should be on conversation and dialogue, not simply a relentless pitch aimed at optimum results for yourself.
The above ideas may appear obvious in theory but are considerably harder to put into everyday practice. Start by making your primary aim not to convert every single call into an appointment. As I’ve said, you only ever need to achieve a certain percentage of success from a series of calls. So never focus on a single call being a boom-or-bust situation - because it rarely will be. And reacting as if it is - slamming the phone down after an unsuccessful attempt, for example - is the quickest way to burn yourself out in this line of work.
Following the above five rules will deliver tangible results. Do not allow yourself to be carried away, though. Stay calm and persuasive at all times. It's very easy for initial success to make one over-confident, so rein yourself in. Remain calm and quietly persuasive at all times. And keep my list close at hand for several months until the correct process is fully ingrained in your daily performance.
How your telephone sales coaching practices should be changing every year...
The needs for telephone sales training and coaching change every year. Standards tend to slip incrementally unless you are particularly watchful and organised – this is a universal fact of business life. Telesales departments are often run simply on KPI returns, with actions taken to announce those figures. Madness.
Technology such as CRM systems, plus all manner of other reporting devices and clever technical advances, are interesting and can often change things for the better. However, year after year the bottom line is that those operating and working in telephone sales, from small companies to large call centres, see standards decline as soon as coaching stops and training is left off the menu. Giving people all-singing-all-dancing computer dashboard screens never helps them sell better because it never helps them realise that it is time spent on the phone itself which counts. The phone miles help you to your destination, since this is what leads to quality sales and relationships with solid clients.
Most training and development can be summed as a few hours or days listening to others, then later being hammered with KPI results. Then it's the bells and whistles of dashboards and the micro-management of figures, which everyone seems to love these days but which rarely lead to an improvement in basic traits and performance.
So when I say that telephone sales’ training requirements change, what I really mean is that the telephone sales’ training itself needs to change. It should revert to what actually makes a difference in performance, rather than continuing to update and fine-tune the reporting process. This advice may be the most significant you get this year or next. Either go back to coaching your team effectively or start coaching your team in what it really takes to get the sales figures up.
KPI-led sales coaching is as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Simply telling staff to improve figures does not work. Telephone sales’ coaching is a real skill and can only be passed on effectively by those with a lifetime of professional experience in the front line of making cold calls, making appointments, opening accounts and closing big deals.
So ask yourself why it's important to work smartly as opposed to maintaining a dogged commitment to a sales KPI process which allows 60%+ plus of the working day of staff to be spent scrolling through screens, emailing and reading emails, researching leads or any other unproductive activities. Instead, to make 2017/2018 your team's year, try getting in touch with an authentic, time-serving coach and get your team truly up to speed in what's important in the life of a telephone sales team.
You may have typed that description into Google at some point...
Perhaps searching in Google is what led you to this article…? However, if you do you will find no single 'best'. Instead there will be a 'best' for a certain type of team and for individual situations. If you run a call centre, you might actually be looking for customer-service training, which is something entirely different. If you are a reactive company looking to improve your inbound response team, well, yes, you’re in the right place, particularly if you are looking to help an outbound team or a mix of both. If you have just one person making new business calls for you, contacting an acknowledged and accredited coach is in my opinion the best advice anyone can give.
For me, though, the big ‘but’ is, are you using the right description in the first place? Sales ‘training’ can be a misleading term. To get service skills to the highest levels, companies should aim to train staff themselves. In other words, the owners/bosses should be the trainers. This should be mandatory. All staff within a company need to be fully trained on what the company is offering. They should also be fully up-to-speed on the competition and on the current industry news – in other words they should know exactly what the company does within its sphere of operations. When it comes to improving individual performance and making staff more proficient on the telephone, though, the process very quickly morphs into sales ‘coaching’.
Sales coaching is about the people who are making the calls, together with all other aspects of their activity and behaviour whilst they are in your employ. My primary stipulation concerning a potential sales coach is that the person needs to have had pretty much a lifetime’s experience on the phone before they can hope to help others to the highest level. They need to have been truly ‘out there’, with a whole raft of experience, plus notable successes in real-life scenarios, which they can then pass on to the next generation. This is how I acquired the skills that helped me become a dynamo on the phone! Anyone who relies on theory - not to mention seminars which include demeaning and patronising role-play - should be given a wide berth, as should youngsters who don’t actually have the wherewithal to sell anything themselves but who are nonetheless promoting themselves as 'trainers'. You should also be wary of large, so-called training companies with a one-size-fits-all approach to business in both the private and public sectors. My first question in this instance would be, who are their trainers? In telephone sales, when it comes to coaching, people with university degrees and/or backgrounds in IT, including foundation courses in business consultancy, will not stand a chance against years of hands-on, personal experience in how to close a deal. Whilst I would agree that not every successful salesperson is cut out to help others, what I do know is that no telephone sales coach can be successful without having had a truly outstanding career on the phone themselves. This is the fine distinction you need to make. Always look for experience over bells and whistles.
During the course of my own career as a salesman, I made a sizeable income closing sales for a variety of high-profile businesses and I could have gone on to make more. However, at the age of 50 I decided I really needed a change - which brings me to another point. If you were a successful telephone closer, why on earth, in your 30s and 40s, would you give up that level of income to become a trainer or a coach? You wouldn't, would you? Consequently - and quite understandably - people in business tend to be skeptical about coaches and trainers who self-evidently have plenty of gas left in the tank but who have pulled over to the hard shoulder and stuck a coach or sales trainer sign on their windscreen. People reinvent, rewrite and repackage the subject of sales help all the time. However, have you ever seen the same done on persuasion techniques? Of course not. The art of persuasion is as old as time itself. The focus needs to be on the qualities of the person delivering the sales message as distinct from the message itself.
I would not be foolhardy enough to claim that I’m the best at what I do. I have, however, been described by some as the most authentic they have encountered. With every individual I work with, I certainly do try hard to get them to produce and project the very best version of themselves, every day, both in the office and on the phone. Others in my field may claim to do the same, of course, so the ultimate choice is yours. This is why I encourage prospective clients to speak to my existing clients if they need reassurance that their investment in me is the correct route towards increased performance for their company. I don’t think I have ever had negative feedback from former clients, which indicates I have fulfilled their expectations. Whomever you choose to help you, though, do keep in mind the axiom that not everyone can be coached to success. Some will wilfully resist help; others cannot be helped at all. But around 80% of the individuals in any one team will show significant improvement after receiving targeted, bespoke advice. So, on that basis alone, it's surely worth the investment.