We’ve all had it happen. We identified an excellent prospect for our product or service, did some background research, and even got a highly credible professional’s agreement to use her name as a referral. We were confident, sensed a solid match, and yet before we finished our opening paragraph, the prospect hung up on us. The resulting dial tone jarred us severely. What went wrong? How could we avoid having this happen again?
The solution: Be aware of the ten deadly openers that will practically guarantee a quick, abrupt end to your phone call:
ONE: “I’m not calling to sell you anything, I just want to take a survey.”
“Oh, sure,” the listener thinks, “I’ve heard that pitch before. The survey took up twenty minutes of my valuable time, and then I was given a selection of three next steps, all of which would cost me plenty.”
All right, probably that’s not your intent. You are legitimate in your offer. You merely want to take a survey, with no hidden agenda. Too bad, because other sales representatives have tainted this approach.
TWO: “May I speak to the person who. . . .?”
Could be the person who handles the budget, does the hiring, directs training, handles your insurance program, selects speakers for your association, or oversees purchasing. Regardless of what function you mention, the individual who hears your inquiry will slot you as a telemarketer making a standardized pitch to a mass market.
After all, with the Internet and with what we can learn through networking, most people you call will respond inwardly, “Why shouldn’t this guy know that already?”
THREE: “Hi, I am . . . . .”
So what. They don’t know you, have never heard of you.
Because you have established no credibility with the organization, your best move will be to mention that prestigious professional who agreed to be a door-opener. Start with: “Leon Willingham of Bank of America suggested I should call you.” Aha—you’re getting somewhere now. Maybe your recipient would hang up on unfamiliar you, but she will listen to someone Leon Willingham endorses.
FOUR: You make your call when other people around you are talking rather loudly.
Automatically, the immediate assumption is that you’re dialing from a call center, surrounded by other pitch people in cubicles. In reality, you’re just in a busy office setting. Even so, the call center stereotype prevails. You may not even get a word in before you hear a receiver slam.
FIVE: Surrounding sounds indicate a home based office.
Certainly there’s nothing wrong with home based businesses. Most of them are legitimate, respectable, and perform service equal to what you’d get from a storefront setting. We all know that telecommuting has become a vital part of our economy.
However, there’s no need to tip prospects off that you’re in a home setting, because some of them might consider you amateurish. So make sure when you call that the business staff member who answers won’t hear a crying baby, barking dog, lawnmower next door, or your favorite country music songs.
SIX: Pause three of four seconds before you reply to your recipient’s “hello.”
Yes, we do that to make sure we’re hearing a live person, not a recorded message. In our automated workplace, that may make sense. Still, if the prospect has said hello and doesn’t hear you immediately, he concludes that a telemarketer has called and he is next on the rotation list. Click—end of call.
SEVEN: Give your first name only. “Hi, this is Steve calling from Lakeside Resorts.”
Doesn’t Steve have a last name? Of course. Then why hasn’t he shared it? The first name only strategy will categorize you as a second rate—at best—sales caller.
EIGHT: Speak in a bland, lifeless monotone.
The worst scenario would be if you sound like you’re reading a script. Next worst is when you sound listless, uninspired. Really, if you’re not excited about what you’re promoting, why should anybody else get hyped?
Record your standard opening. Listen to it, then record it again. Keep doing that until you sound zestful, animated, and energetic--like someone you'd want to talk with yourself.
NINE: Use a name other than the person’s preferred name.
You say Charles while everyone knows him as Chuck, or Elizabeth while her colleagues call her Betty. Here again, you reflect spotty preparation.
TEN: Call from a toll free number
A growing percentage of us use Caller ID to help screen out telemarketers. We have formed the habit of not taking calls that start with 800 or 866 or other toll free prefixes in our country.
A personal confession: for too many years I thought my 800 number made my company look like a larger concern. Eventually, I learned otherwise. Perceptions have changed. So get rid of your toll free number.
YOUR OPPORTUNITY: Eliminate these ten credibility killers, and enjoy greater success with your marketing calls. You’ll be more likely to hear cash register rings replacing those awful hang-up dial tones.