This degree could cost you in excess of a million dollars. Think about it. If the difference between a top shelf performer and an average performer is $25,000 per year or more, how much does that amount to during your career? People in telephone-dependent job titles know they should pick up the telephone more often. They know good things happen when they dial. They know their earnings rise with their telephone expertise. And yet, most of us seriously procrastinate when it comes to making outbound calls.
Have you earned your PhD?
In the past two weeks have you used any of the excuses below to avoid making outbound calls? Check all that apply.
__ Open mail
__ Clean your desk
__ Read e-mail
__ Run an errand
__ Listen to voice mail
__ Snooze buttoned a call reminder
__ Read newspaper
__ Training cassettes or videos
__ Have a meeting
__ Go to the bathroom
__ Go to lunch
__ Return voice mails
__ Take a break
__ Fill-out an expense report
__ Call a friend
__ Drink coffee
__ Call spouse/significant other
My unofficial survey has 12-15 as being average. The “average” people perhaps spend as much time avoiding making the calls as they do actually dialing the telephone. And we wonder why business is bad.
And what is it that we fear?
Being labeled a telemarketer
We hate them. They interrupt our business days, evenings and weekends. No matter what we say, they have an answer. They never take no for an answer. They always call back. They are energizer bunnies with marketing light-sabers. We do not want to be one of “them”.
A telephone-dependent job title does not make you a telemarketer. Not one of your prospects works in a business where salespersons are not making telephone calls. When the next person labels you a telemarketer, ask them if their own sales force has stopped dialing and wait for the interesting response.
I might be one of the few people on planet earth that respects telemarketers. Learn from these people. Telemarketing is a big and very profitable business. Some of the best business and marketing minds occupy their days by distilling their sales message into a 30-second conversation. I know that if I had the capacity, diligence, marketing knowledge and technology of the average dialing facility, I would retire rich sometime in the next six months.
Can’t say it well in 30-seconds
You have one sentence after introducing yourself to compel the listener to continue the call. A well-designed 30-second telephone call requires a lot more skill than an in-person sales presentation. The telephone call has no eye contact, no body language and no sales props just verbal images. Call design is hard work and most people try to wing it and it shows. We humiliate ourselves. We retreat to the safety of inbound calls generated by advertising or web sites.
We were never taught how to professionally telephone
Our education system treats sales and sales-related professions as second-class citizens. Selling is considered manipulative and slightly evil or greedy. How many high schools and colleges have mandatory classes for business telephone skills? How many high schools teach voice mail 101? How many sales trainers prefer to teach closing techniques instead of the telephone techniques that generate the business closing opportunities?
We think advertising and web sites substitute for telephone skills
Passive works well only in a really good economy. Unless patterns dating back to the Lincoln Presidency change, expect one or two more years of “soft” and three to five years of “average”. The next great economy could be 2010. The economy is like a huge ship in the ocean, it takes a long time to change direction. Telephone expertise will take you a lot farther than hope.
We work without a call flow outline
A telemarketer reads a script. A professional uses a call outline. A professional leaves an effective voice mail. A telemarketer hangs up and dials the next number. A professional can consistently break six digits. A telemarketer earns maybe $10 an hour. A telephone call is the equivalent to a radio commercial with the good ones being a compelling call to action. A call outline ensures that your unique message is communicated. A call flow outline is money in the bank.
Wrong line of work
Most people hate rejection and fear failure. The 1 in 200 odds of completing a transaction on any given call is just not in the soul of some people. The thrill of the hunt and the eventual win is vastly overshadowed by 99 ½ losing percentage. Be honest with yourself. Life is too short to hate your job. Another line of work might be appropriate.
Two ugly words
“Cold Call”, the two worst four letter words in the English language. The psychology is awesome and negative. Grown men tremble and women cry and that’s before they even pick up the handset. So we change the name to outbound, presentations, attempts, dials or some other sugar coated label. A cold call by any name is still a cold call. A telephone call to another person not expecting a conversation for the purpose of starting or completing a business transaction is a tough way to make a living. QTIP: quit taking it personally.
My product or service isn’t good enough
A person truly believing that their product or service enhances the lives of those they call sees dialing as service not an intrusion. A lack of product knowledge also may contribute to the problem.
Fixing your telephone skills
People want to hear that one killer phrase, a book or tape will solve the problems they are experiencing. The answer is that no magic formula exists. Fear dies hard and slow. Learning, practice and success is the path. Some suggestions on where to start:
- Watch and listen to the best telephone person you can find for several hours with a notepad in hand.
- Learn to leave an effective voice mail. (Read Getting a 40% Voice Mail Response Rate)
- Measure the activities with a cause and result mindset.
- Set daily activity goals.
- Find and utilize a telephone coach.
- Use a call flow outline
- Place an index card next to your telephone with “$$ = Cold Calls”
- Do your calls in groups of 10 and take a break.
The final comment, most people find getting started is the hardest part. The last task of the day should be to list the first ten calls for the following day. First thing the next morning, before coffee, before socializing, before meetings, before turning on your computer, before anything else, make those first ten calls and the wins will happen.
Thomas N. Hand is the CEO on Infrastructure Support Services Inc. a software vendor and consulting practice focusing upon raising individual, sales team and corporate productivity and profitability using behavior modification, performance monitoring and quality metrics. One client said it nicely, "Your products are like a good diet, and I hate admitting the truth about the current situation, bad habits change slowly, but with diligence the results are worth it".