Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Business Conversion or just making appointments?- The Voicemail + Email follow up issue.

The challenge to salespeople of getting in front of the right people at the right time becomes greater and greater as competition increases.

Similarly clients and prospects are becoming busier and busier. They don't want 'time wasters' calling them, nor to receive junk mail , spam nor those pesky unfocused email shots.

To the question
“A potential supplier with whom you have had NO previous contact wishes to contact you to make an appointment. Which methods of communication are acceptable to you?”

The survey of respondents from the Buyers’ Views of salespeople survey 2010 were :-

Letter ............................................. 58%
Face to Face cold call................15%
Linked In .......................................28%

You also need to discern what is persistence and what is being an annoyance and put-off to prospects.

So you must become more skilled and more professional at making ( actually selling) appointments and obtaining interviews with both new prospects and existing clients. You must decide:-

  • What is real success with regard to obtaining appointments to you?

  • What are to be your success metrics? How will you record and measure them?

  • What will your balance of quantity to quality

    If your aim is to increase your conversion rate -specify conversions to what?!.

    The practical principles are basically the same for both phone and face to face. But the application of those principles will differ according to whether you are making a first contact or a repeat call.

    There are three main methods available to you:

    1.Telephone + email confirmation / follow up is probably the most popular approach. There are advantages of combining these methods as you increase response rates, you will also have made an impression e.g. a verbal and written footprint, and you would have appealed to the prospect through Word choice, Tone Organisation & Pace.

    2. Cold calling is less common nowadays but there has been a slight increase in acceptability from 2010 research. Don't discount it out of hand. Remember 15% of Buyers still consider it acceptable. The fiigure has increased from the 2007 study.

    Click for free summary of the TACK Buyers' Views Research 2010 research.

    Indeed one of the workshops at this year's ISMM conference Successful Selling 2010 was Andy Preston's on " Win more Business from Cold Calling".

    3. Networking whose usual objective is to set up an opening conversation in an informal setting. Andy Bones’ chapter on Networking in his book “The Jelly Effect” is well worth reading. (If link below does not work to Book Review section, please go to home page and then click Book Reviews on Menu on right hand side.)

    Click for REVIEW OF The Jelly Effect by Andy Bones.

  • Other methods like email campaigns, advertisement returns and direct mail can be used either to obtain leads or to prepare the ground for you, but any of these has to be supplemented by one of the two main methods.

    The basic sequence

    This is the same whichever method you are using and is very similar to the sequence of a face to face meeting, sales presentation or web conferencing meeting:

    Clarify your objective(s): the chief one must be to get to meet the person, but secondary ones could be to obtain information or referrals. So prepare a list of advantages to the prospect of why meeting you is an advantage to them. Sell the appointment don’t merely make the appointment.

    Prepare: Research the client , their company and market.

    Google them as they will have probably ‘Googled’ you and your company! It is certainly worth checking out their Linked In profile if they have one.

    Remind yourself of the questions/facts/benefits you will use according to how the situation develops, and how you will answer the most likely put-off’s or objections; review the information you already have about the person/organisation; ensure you have your diary/outlook and other materials to hand.

    • Be polite and respectful but sound confident: use your prospect’s name immediately; be sure to get it right; give your first name and surname; never appear apologetic for interrupting but thank the prospect for speaking to you if he/she has done so at an inconvenient time.

    Obtain attention quickly: use a question, a referral, a previous request to “contact me again”, a factual statement or some other ‘attention getter’ as soon as possible; don’t waste time. See the post on this site for ideas.

    Click for five methods of gaining client attention.

    Explain the benefits of a meeting: motivate the prospect to want to meet you by giving a beneficial reason for doing so; but remember that at this stage you are selling the interview and not the product/service.

    Answer objections and avoid put-offs politely but firmly: always appreciate the client’s point of view; never argue; emphasise that the meeting can be brief; explain why a personal meeting is necessary in the client’s interests; don’t be led into making your actual presentation by phone (unless this is appropriate).

    Close on your objective: ask for the appointment directly, with or without one of the back-up closing techniques (e.g. offer alternative times/dates); be as flexible as necessary in terms of when/where; resort to a secondary objective only if you completely fail in your primary one.

    Some special considerations

    • Personal Assistants and telephone receptionists: they must be your friends and allies not your adversaries; be polite and never ‘talk down’ to them; always introduce yourself with first name and surname and be careful about the use of their first names (if in doubt, don’t); ask for their help; smile (even when on the phone); be friendly but don’t waste their time; ask them for information; if they ask for further details before they will put you through, keep it short and simple and politely repeat your request.

    • Receptionists: exactly as for secretaries and telephonists but when cold calling be patient and do not rush them; offer to speak directly to your prospect on the receptionist’s phone if preferred; be confident but not aggressive.

    Sales and Technical Literature: sending a pdf attachment, posting literature or leaving literature is very rarely any good by itself; they can even be counterproductive because it gives a prospect a reason for not seeing you personally; always be prepared to explain why it is not a substitute; have ‘mini literature’ , case study overviews, executive summaries of white papers which you can send if necessary which will simply whet the client’s appetite; if you have to send full literature then use it as a reason for calling back for a personal appointment.

    White papers: Research white papers and case studies have become increasingly popular. They should be offered selectively and be relevant to the prospect.

    Business cards: try to avoid giving them to receptionists, as a snap (negative) judgement may be made by a prospect if your card is read over the phone or presented ‘cold’. Photographs on business cards are making a comeback. This is a question of fashion and personal taste and probably governed by corporate image rules of your organisation. But like photos on your ‘Linked In’ profile it leaves a visual impression on the client’s memory

    Voicemail: People debate about whether to leave a message on a voicemail. As voicemail is increasingly popular it is best to have prepared an articulate and interesting voicemail message. Some find it hat if you prepare the prospect that you will be send them an email nominating the subject heading so they can pick it out from the list of unopened emails that increases the likelihood they will read your email than delete it from the subject heading.

    So rehearse that message. Read it through and maybe even test it out first by recording it yourself and then listening to it as a receiver and ask yourself whether you would want to respond to it.

    Finally never cut off the call on first hearing a voicemail. Listen to the whole length because often it will have a mobile phone number given on it or details of when the messages will be picked up.

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