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Stop those hang-ups!


The sound of being hung up on is the bane of every telephone prospector and sales person's efforts to sell. We try to be nice, interesting, even shocking, but to no avail. We're after just a few minutes of people's time. And yet . . .


What's wrong with people? Don't they know it's rude to hang up when someone's talking? Don't they realize we're trying to do our jobs here?

Here's the problem.

As telephone sales professionals we can occasionally lose sight of the idea that we are not trying to push ourselves on or sell to people, but trying to build the kind of trust and comfort that will result in greater business-to-business relationships.  And only when those relationships are in place can our solution to our contact's problem be considered.  Qualifying a sales opportunity is a two-way street, and when we forget that, then the inevitable hang-up occurs.  Here are some common actions that result in the dreaded hang-up:

Prospectors pretend there is a relationship when there isn't.

You've had this happen to you.  You're working away at your desk, or finishing a conversation with a colleague when the phone rings:

You: Good morning. This is John Smith.

Bad Prospector: Hello, Jack! How are you?

You're sitting on the other end of the line asking yourself who the heck is calling.  You're tense because you don't recognize the voice and think maybe you should. They seem to know you, as they've used your nickname or first name so comfortably. You only know that something is hitting you unexpectedly and the unexpected tends to be bad news.  When you finally figure out that the Bad Prospector is just that, you're already ready to hang up on him or her.  Maybe you do.

Prospectors "steal" their contact's time.

This one is killer:

You: Hello. This is John Smith.

Bad Prospector: John, good Morning. I'm Bad Prospector with the XYZ Company.

You: Good Morning, Bad. How can I help you?

Bad Prospector: John, XYZ Company specializes in blah, blah, blah.  We have been supporting companies like yours for over ten years. I have a track record of working with (drop big, famous company names here). Perhaps, you will consider listening to a live demonstration of my product/service.  You will see first hand that I have everything you need to make your business a success.

By the time Bad Prospector has made this "me, me, me" pitch, you've looked at your watch a couple of times, rolled your eyes at whomever may be in your office with you, or maybe even pulled up your emails to go through.  Bad Prospector has lost you entirely and you have no problem remembering your busy day is more important than the rudeness of hanging up on some telephone person. It's their job to be hung up on.

Prospectors get too aggressive and persistent.

We've all had those calls. You're in the middle of working on a report your boss wants tomorrow and the phone rings.  It's an annoying interruption, but you're a professional, so you'll answer any way.

And then the Prospector from Hell gets on the line.  He or she slams into you with little more than a confirmation that you are indeed John Smith.  This Bad Prospector is going to get your business by hook or by crook, and starts badgering with closing questions and demands. You hang up. 

An hour later, the same Bad Prospector calls again. Same script--different hour. Same result.

The next day . . .

And so on. You keep thinking that someone should really take this Bad Prospector in hand and teach them a thing or two about politeness and selling. Sheesh!

An Alternative Approach.

When you pick up the phone to start making your calls for the day, keep the above examples in mind and try to avoid them.  Your purpose in making calls is to build that all-important business-to-business relationship.  Here are some tips:

1. Establish your professional relationship with your prospect. Identify yourself and your company.
2. Respect your prospect's time and acknowledge to yourself that you're interrupting their day. You may want to say something like, "I recognize you're a busy person and won't keep you long."
3. Confirm you're talking to the right prospect. Say something like, "I understand you're in charge of purchasing widgets for your company?" Be sure to wait for the answer, and then respond appropriately.
4. Ask questions!  For goodness sakes, you can't sell to strangers.  Get to know your prospect.  But don't ask silly or personal questions. Ask about the widgets your prospect is currently using. Ask about their satisfaction with those widgets. Ask if others in the company are using the widgets too. And so on. The key here is to be genuinely interested in both the answers to your questions and the conversation of the person you're speaking with. Take notes and use them in future conversations.
5. Have only one purpose for each call you make. Either you're introducing yourself, or you're selling to someone you already know.  So many prospectors are given a list and told to close sales off it to total strangers.  Then they try to do the whole thing at once.  If this is you, stop. Be prepared to make two, three, or four calls. Build the relationship.
6. Disqualify. Again, this sales prospecting is a two-way street. If the person on the other end of the line doesn't meet the basic qualifications for a good sale, let them off the hook and get on to your next contact. Don't waste time chasing someone who doesn't fit your company's prospect profile.

When you remember that a conversation goes both ways, that selling is as much about finding information in your marketplace as it is about persuasion, you'll be off to a running start with your calls.  And you'll have fewer and fewer hang-up situations as a result.

Keep dialing!

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Sam Dobbins

Sam Dobbins is the founder and president of the Cold Call King, A Sales Development Consulting Firm, formed in 2004.  Learn more at www.coldcallking.com. And reach the Cold Call King at sam@coldcallking.com or (303) 954-8553.

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