Preparing to make a sales call begins with learning about your client — specifically, what your client needs, and how you can meet those needs.
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Before you even pick up the phone you need to have a clear impression of how not only you’re opening, but the following few stages of the conversation are going to go.
In preparing this way you will be able to anticipate various reactions from the potential customer – enthusiasm, caution, reluctance etc. – and tailor your responses to their questions or expressions of reluctance. This will ensure that you can mold your selling tactics to get the best results time and again.
As a professional salesperson, you will be required to make many phone calls to potential customers, whether they are “cold calls” or “warm”. The object of the calls will be to try and get a sales agreement in place as soon as possible, so you need to get as many facts nailed down as possible.
Having a pen and paper nearby is obviously handy, and you should then decide on a strategy for going forward with the call. The more you know about the person to whom you are speaking, the nature of their business, and what you can do for them, the better for any eventual sales pitch.
A Basic Opening for Warm Calls
The first impression people form of you is based on both verbal and nonverbal factors. The nonverbal factors may actually be more important when selling in person. These include such things as:
- Your general appearance: how you dress, personal grooming etc.
- Your facial expression and bearing.
- Your posture.
- Your tone of voice
- Your nonverbal communications: eye contact, nodding, etc.
None of this means that you should pay any less attention to the verbal factors. Pay attention to the language that you use, and ensure that it is appropriate for the circumstances.
As a rule of thumb it is advisable to be as polite and formal as you can be on the first meeting. As a business relationship is established you may find that a natural rapport emerges, but taking an informal approach into a first meeting can make a bad impression and end the potential relationship there and then.
When on the phone, too, pay attention to your “verbal nods”. These are short responses like “Yes”, “Of Course”, “I understand exactly what you mean” and so on. At certain points it is beneficial to use these rather than pitching, as they will show the customer that you are interested in finding out where they are coming from.
Warming up Cold Calls
An opening statement should include:
- A greeting and an introduction
- A statement about the prospect
- A statement about the benefits of your product
- A question or a statement that will lead (you hope) to a dialogue
Here is an example:
“Hello, this is Jane Smith from Planet Software. I saw on your website that you’re planning to implement a new CRM solution. Our company has a product used by a number of Fortune 500 companies to manage their clients with some proven results I can share with you. Could we set a time to meet and review our solution and these results?”
From this opening you have introduced yourself and what you do, as well as showing that you know something about them. By finishing with a question you invite a response which can then lead to further discussion.
The example above is a basic one which can be tweaked to suit personal style and situations, but serves as a demonstration of a strong, complete opening.
Using the Referral Opening
When using a referral, tell the client what their friend found most appealing or beneficial about your product. If you do some research, you can focus on features that the client should also find appealing.
Be prepared to respond if the client says something like, “Well, Joe’s business is a little different from mine. He operates in a different space.” If you have done some research, you can respond by saying, “I totally understand that your business is not in the same niche, but this is what our product can do for you.”
This allows you to show that your product is versatile but, more importantly, it also shows that you have considered their business needs and how you can meet them. You are not just trying to push them into a sale; rather you are showing understanding about their business.
By preparing in this way, you demonstrate your business’s strength and credibility and give the person to whom you are speaking reason to consider you as a potential business partner.
You also encourage them to think of you as someone that is worth speaking to on a business level and give yourself more time to build a coherent pitch. You may even find that no pitch is necessary, but it is nevertheless useful to have it in your reach and be able to deploy it.