"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field."

~ Physicist Niels Bohr, quoted in the Harvard Business Review ~

Leaving messages: Ten Personal Observations.

The following is pretty good advice on the thorny issue of leaving voicemail and sending email. It is all about attitude and persuasiveness. Here are ten observations. They are not rules. Your own company may give you rules, mine are simply experienced suggestions:

1. Number one is to never usually email when you could call first. Why would you email someone instead of a friendly, businesslike callback ? Sending email to inbound enquiries is lazy. A call sets the whole transaction on the right rails. Before email, it was the priority for everyone when they got written or faxed enquiries to call. Please don't even think of questioning this advice. Take the conversation onwards from their enquiry to a call. However, there is another tip in here. You may not be able to reach Mr Big when the email enquiry comes in so please acknowledge with an email and encourage a call back. Meanwhile keep trying. Don't rest on relying on your email reply. This is sound advice.

2. You may have to try several times over several days to get hold of the person you need. You should send an email to confirm receipt of the enquiry or order. Call backs are routinely needed for orders too. These call backs give the opportunity for cross-selling and up-selling. Both extremely important. No matter how well you think you know the buyer or how insignificant you feel the enquiry is you should call them to "open" or "confirm" the sale. Don't, avoid the callback is another suggestion. You are letting your company down when you do this. Top of the list for this is best practice and it's also very courteous.

3. The email you send has to have one key ingredient at the end. That ingredient is "a call to action" . However obvious the enquiry is you need to acknowledge it by phone and by email first sometimes. This is my personal rule and served me and still serves me extremely well on the phone. Sending the email is a fall back when you cannot immediately get through and must be done the same morning/afternoon of the enquiry. Email is not a substitute for the phone call. No "call back " is a missed opportunity that sometimes up to 80% of company sales staff fail to acknowledge. Mainly through a fear of flying or simply being lazy. It's different for customer service. For customer service you and your colleagues need to be selective on who gets a call and who gets an email.

4. Competition . There are always several people waiting to take your clients and your prospects away from you. Don't forget this and never take a client or a prospect for granted. Another big reason people change suppliers is that your opposition slips in with a very enticing phone call.

5. Your best competition will be trying to get an edge over you, trying to be more competitive and will take even your most seasoned clients given half the chance. A major reason for continuous dialogue. Dialogue is your insurance policy. Please try hard not confuse regular conversations with email. Do not call too often.

6. The opportunity to "up-sell" and "cross-sell "can only be fully exploited by a personal visit or a phone call. Thinking email will sell for you is the biggest single mistake being made by internal or "inside" sales agents. I run into it a lot . My suggestion is that phone calls sell and persuade people whereas as email confirms everything and is great for attachments. Don't swap these two around.

7. Instead of asking when someone is likely to be available (which is a rubbish question) ask what time they get in. That's the great question to ask. You allow people 10 minutes for Mr Big to settle in and you call. This may involve you making early calls. There is real value of having this as part of your routine.

8. The strength of calls following enquiries is very powerful. Now you can really motor past any barriers raised by gatekeepers and their colleagues. You have a passport to speak to the person who got in touch. Accept no pushing away tactics. The power is in your hands this time. My line is nearly always "This is Simon Kenna (K-E-N-N-A). I am returning Mr Bigs's call or email. It's all about how you say this with confidence and really does work.

9. Planning. Please don't pick up the phone like Dolly Daydream. Make sure it's a positive and persuasive sales call that you make and not a bored clerical call. Plan each call for several outcomes. You all know this to be true. Once you have your call plan it can be repeated again and again when you get a great workable template.

10. Finally, be the person that your clients want to deal with. Don't be haughty, dull or ineffectual. Be persuasive, go the "extra mile". Typically buyers jump out at you if you find their pain and help them. You really must sound as if you care. Unless you have any contrary advice from your own company I urge you to trust me on the above. There are many more things to know and put into practice but this list is an encouraging starting point if you are new to sales on the phone and a good reminder if you already "know it all". Thirty years later and I am still discovering new ways into conversations so keep your mind open and that is the trusted way of closing the sales.

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