Phone sales reboot 2015

There seems to be a dirty little secret in most businesses: We live or die by the telephone.  Whether your inside sales team is following up on existing customers or your outside sales force is trying to get a foot in the door, the telephone is an essential tool to your company’s success.

For the past year or two, we have had a lot of hoopla about social media, and getting clicks on your website, but I’m here to tell you that while this type of branding has its purpose and strengthens marketing campaigns, telephone calls are the essential elements toward starting the sales ball rolling.

As we wind down for 2014, let’s take a long, hard look at how you’re using the phone, and what you can do to implement its role in your sales program for the year ahead. Let’s reset your cold call vision in order to have more success in 2015.

First, Don’t Sell By Telephone

That’s right.  When you pick up the phone and contact someone for the first time, don’t try to close a sale.  Do have a specific goal for the call, but closing a deal shouldn’t be it.  Try instead for one of these other goals and I think you’ll be richly rewarded:

  • Qualify the lead. Confirm that whomever you’re dialing meets the qualifications to become your lead.  Is there interest?  Is there need? Are they in the purchase process already (in which case you may be too late to win the deal)? Is there budget for what you have to offer?
  • Get to the right contact. Determine that you’re talking to either the Decision Maker or the Advocate for what you have to offer.  I usually start by trying to contact the top two or three executives in a company who would have a natural interest.  This means I’m not targeting the receptionist or the geek in the warehouse. I’m asking to speak with Mr. or Ms. CEO, CFO or COO.  These people will best be able to direct me to the person responsible for making a decision and for presenting that decision internally.
  • Update your sales database.  Talent moves through companies these days with the speed of the Internet.  Your contact today may easily be working at another company tomorrow.  There is gold in knowing this and staying on top of industry “gossip.” You can follow your contact into an entirely new opportunity, meet a new contact at your existing prospect, and be in the position to know whether or not to jump into this opportunity or exercise the caution that high staff turnover instills in this kind of situation.  No matter what, you’re adding valuable information to your marketing database with the completion of each call you make.

Second, Don’t Just Dial Down Your List

For 2015 make it a resolution to team up your Internet research with your telephone skills.  Too often, sales people glance through a spreadsheet of names and reach for the phone.  I say, stop right there!  Go through the list—take a half hour up front to save hours of frustration and embarrassment later. Be on your A-Game. Here’s how:

  •  Read each name out loud.  If you stumble on a name, or aren’t sure of the pronunciation, use your research time to check it out.  You may even do a quick dial to reach a receptionist/gatekeeper and confirm pronunciations.  This research is only going to help you do your job better.
  •  Look up the company on-line.  Most companies have at least a brochure site where you can check out C-level names (About Us is usually the page), company mission (often right on the Home page), and get background on the products and services they offer.
  •  Look up prospective contacts on LinkedIn.  This is the salesperson’s best friend for understanding who’s who in several companies, most of which will be on your call list.

From the pre-call research you do, you can build a decent profile, and record points of interest right on your call sheet or spiral contact log before you begin dialing.

Third, Determine How You’ll Hand Off Prospects

Does your sales team work in tandem—phone person nurtures a prospect until they meet a set of specifications and then hand-off to sales closers?  This is a great work model, but only if you plan ahead.  Too often great leads go stale because the transition between lead generation and sales is not formalized.  Here are some things I suggest: 

  • Determine telephone-to-sales tag teams.  In this model, partners work together and over time naturally build the kind of relationship that improves the overall sales process.  The partnership should meet at least weekly, if only by phone, and all leads are discussed and goals are determined for the next week.
  • Divide work by geography.  Company sales teams have been designed to run this way since, well, companies began.  In this scenario, the lead generator may want to target specific areas for easier driving on the part of the sales person, and then move from area to area.  The telephone would be used to set appointments in this case.
  • Work by comfort level.  This applies to more complex sales processes where the prospect and the sales person “speak the same language,” but the telephone talent can only bring the prospect so far along in the sales process.  At some point the telephone pro will need to be able to say, “I’m not a product specialist, but I can certainly have one of our team give you a call to answer your questions more completely. Is Wednesday better for you or Friday?”  The challenge here is to make sure the phone call happens by the sales pro, and in a timely fashion.

Gee, every time I start thinking of all we can do in the year ahead, I get too excited to stand still.  Are you ready to charge into 2015 with a cold-call plan? I am.

Categories: Sales & Marketing