Building Telephone Rapport To Increase Benefactions

Advanced fundraising communication techniques to empower all your fundraising efforts...
By: Mary-Jane Hilton

Building Telephone Rapport There is an area within the fundraising programme that can literally be transformed overnight by introducing NLP techniques. That area is telemarketing. Let me give you an example. A local charity was in the public phase of a major capital campaign when I was called in to help. The organisation had recently sent out a direct mail shot to 5,000 low-level benefactors and was following up with a telephone call. A team of undergraduates from a nearby university had been recruited to handle the calls. When I asked for details of the telephone training they had received, there was a stunned silence. Finally, the Development Director could not contain herself any longer and spluttered, “Why would we need to train them?” She went on to say, “They’re intelligent people who’ve been bought up using the telephone. I’ve briefed them on the projects we’re raising money for. Surely that’s enough. It’s what we’ve always done in our telephone campaigns.” When I looked at the rates of return for the present campaign and the previous one, the poor results told me a different story. They said the members of the benefactor solicitation team desperately needed some NLP telephone magic. After convincing the Development Director that telephone training was necessary, I was able to address the undergraduate team. The lack of enthusiasm in the room was almost palpable. I could tell they would have rather been anywhere else than in that training room with me. To assess their level of expertise with the phone, I asked them to perform a brief role-play with the telephone. One student played a benefactor and another took the role of student. It was a pretty dismal performance and I wasn’t surprised that returns had been so low. The first step was to remind the students that the telephone is one of the most remarkable tools that has ever been invented. It is mind-blowing to think that we can punch a few buttons and within seconds talk to someone on the other side of the world. When we pick up the receiver we are allowing a person who we might never have met to enter into our Intimate Space Zone. We are allowing them to speak to us a few inches from our ear and mouth, which is the area usually reserved for the people who are closest to us. What a wonderful way to start a conversation. Once the students had been reintroduced to the magic of the telephone, I shared with them the well-known fact that how one says something is far more important than what one says. Research indicates that voice tone is five times

more influential than words in conveying a trustworthy message. Therefore we have to make the tone of our voice really work for us. I gave the students the example of a regional telephone selling team who worked for a multi-national company in America. The team consistently achieved the highest sales figures month after month. The general sales manager travelled interstate to find out what the team was doing differently from all the other regional telephone sales teams. What he found was that each member of the team made a picture in their minds of the person they were talking to. They did this by listening carefully to the tone, timbre, speed, rhythm, volume, breathing and pitch of their voices. As they pictured the person, cleared their minds of everything except the image of the customer and smiled into the telephone receiver. Despite questioning them further, the manager could not find anything else that the team members did that was any different from any other team across the country. He decided to sit and listen to them as they talked to callers. What he discovered was that the team members had a different voice for each caller. Unconsciously, they were using the NLP techniques of building rapport by matching the qualities of the voices of the callers. As a keen musician, he likened the team to members of an orchestra. They were in complete rhythm and harmony with their customers. They also gave their name and company slowly and distinctly, which subconsciously suggested to the customer that the caller had nothing to hide. They also used the customer’s name twice in the first 10 seconds of the opening statement. These small gestures built immediate trust. The general sales manager also discovered that the first thing the team matched was the speed at which the customer spoke and the volume they used, as these were the first and obvious things to start with. I introduced my students to the idea of mirroring the language that people think in: visual, auditory or kinesthetic. I explained that when a person is constructing images in their minds they speak in a high, fast voice. When a person is constructing sounds in their minds, their voice is rhythmic resonant and melodious. When a person is constructing feelings, their voice is deep, slow and often accompanied with sighs. I also pointed out that people use all three representational systems, although everyone has a preferred one. If you are unsure of which state your caller is in it is a good idea to use all three. The students were then taught the value of matching the potential benefactor’s key words and phrases, which involves feeding back to the caller the precise key words or phases that the caller has used. The caller will always emphasize key words with his voice. Repeating them back to him without change will re-enforce that you are listening carefully to what he is saying. Key words also tell you what is important to the potential benefactor, and offers a chance to ask questions.

If the potential benefactor has said he wants to give to causes that make a real difference, the question could be asked, “What differences would our project need to achieve in order for you to financially support it?” This gives an opportunity for the student to find out what motivates the potential benefactor to give, and the chance to offer a greater understanding of the various projects within the organisation that would satisfy a desire to give. Once the potential benefactor has made a decision about a benefaction, the conversation can be elegantly bought to an end by mis-matching the tone, speed, and volume or timbre of the benefactor’s voice. In his book, ‘Can You Put It On A T-Shirt’ , advertising mogul Godfrey Howard gives some excellent advice for improving telephone skills. He suggests that you should use the right ear to listen when the conversation is dealing with complex information and the left ear when you need to be intuitive and sympathetic. He also suggests that standing up when talking on the telephone increases concentration and personal power while clenching your fist two or three times and then letting go build assertiveness and determination. Sympathy can be heightened in the voice by offering an open palm. Smiling while you talk releases energy. As for my telephone training, I’m pleased to say that the results surpassed everyone’s expectations with a 40 % increase on any previous telephone campaign that the organisation had run.

Reference: ‘Can You Put It On A T-Shirt’ by Godfrey Howard. Published by Godfrey Howard 1991. ISBN 07153-9377-4.

About the Author: With over 20 years invested in professional fundraising, Mary-Jane Hilton is perfectly positioned to advise, coach and consult on your fundraising challenge. She has conducted capital campaigns and set up direct development offices for professional orchestras, schools, universities and charities on 3 continents -helping to raise millions and millions of dollars along the way.

Copyright 2005-2007 Mary-Jane Hilton