Very few business owners enjoy calling prospective customers, and some don’t like talking to their existing ones, but we do it because it’s a good way of promoting our business and engaging with customers. After all if we don’t do it someone else will. So how do we get past that feeling that we are somehow ‘making a nuisance of ourselves’ by calling them…?
Firstly not all telephone calls are sales calls – not that sales calls are a nuisance either, if done properly. Sometimes you just need to update your contact data and make a connection, or you might want to find out what they think about an issue that’s relevant to them as potential customers and your business. Not every call is about getting a purchase then and there.
Telesales and telemarketing, although blurred at the edges, are not the same thing. Telesales is largely about getting a purchase outcome. You are calling that customer because you want them to buy something now or to illicit an action that will lead directly to a purchase. Telemarketing is largely about gathering marketing information – updating data, engaging a potential audience, getting a message across… Ideally it’s about providing something that will be mutually beneficial to the recipient – information to make their lives easier/more interesting/more fun – the cost may be in their time not their pocket. Having said that, it’s worth bearing in mind that the person on the receiving end probably won’t make the distinction when they pick up the call so you need to get your point across as quickly, succinctly and clearly, as possible.
The main thing is to be well prepared before you start and to be sure that you have a good reason for calling.
Know exactly why you are calling
Be very clear about why you are calling and what you expect from the call before you start. Make sure that you know what you want to say – how you will introduce yourself and the reason for your call. If necessary have a set of bullet points to remind yourself of what you need to get across during the conversation. …And don’t forget that it is a conversation. It’s not about reading your list of points without drawing breath or letting the other person respond. Also, the bullets are for guidance only. Don’t try to write a script as every call is different. You need to give yourself the space, and confidence, to let your personality shine through and to react to the person on the other end of the phone.
Know who you are calling
Know who you are talking to and why they should be particularly interested in your call. These days there’s little excuse for not knowing about your prospect. Google can provide all kinds of information and, if it’s available, it helps to have a picture onscreen of the contact during the call. This is more practical for business-to-business rather than business-to-consumer calls but a mental picture of your target group can also help.)
Know what you want from the call
You might be calling to introduce yourself, your business, or a special offer, or you could be conducting research, updating your database, or helping to change behaviours. Whatever the case, what do you expect them to do about it by the end of the call? Will they need to act – maybe agree to a meeting, or sign up for a free newsletter or download? Always have in mind your objectives for the call so that you will have a better idea of how to run it and a better feel for how it’s going, when to sign off, and/or when to change tactics.
Know when to move on
If you don’t get the response you were hoping for (and we’ve all been there!) don’t take it personally – you may have called at a bad moment (anything could be happening). It’s always good to check at the beginning if they have a few moments for your call. People generally appreciate the consideration and if it’s not a good time you can always arrange a more suitable time to call back.
If the actual call doesn’t go well, for whatever reason, finish the call before it gets difficult or you lose confidence, assess what might have gone wrong, and move on to the next one. It may well be that you need to try again another time, or try a different approach with that prospect, but don’t let it put you off.
When things have gone well finish the call but be mindful that this could be the start of a meaningful relationship so remind them about the next stage if there is one.
These are just a few things to bear in mind when sitting down to those calls. There are many ways to make yourself more comfortable when making them including dressing the part and smiling broadly as you dial (it really does make you feel better). However the main thing is to be thoroughly prepared for the person on the other end. If you are calling the right people, at the right time, for the right reason, you won’t be wasting their time – and they might actually be glad you called.
About the author: Deborah Rowe, Consultant, Sheba Marketing
Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing.
Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations that want to achieve great things. www.shebamarketing.co.uk