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Learn the vital telephone skills every salesperson needs to avoid rejection.
By Tom Hopkins | July 04, 2005 ARTICLE TOOLS
Too may people in business look at the telephone as an anchor--that's how they feel about lifting it when they have to make outgoing calls to potential clients. For some, you'd think it was covered with spiders or that it might electrocute them if they touch it. That reaction revolves around the fear of rejection. Granted, not too many people are brave enough to willingly put themselves in a position to be rejected. However, those who do will find all sorts of long-term rewards for the temporary pain they'll experience. With the right attitude and by paying close attention to what happens, each rejection you deal with will be a learning experience. You'll learn what not to say and when not to call. The key here is to turn that around so you can master what to say and when to call. With every rejection, you'll want to take a quick moment to analyze the situation in order to benefit from it. Rather than letting it ruin your attitude for the next call, you should find yourself saying, "Well, that didn't work. What's a better way to say it?" With proper fine-tuning, you'll soon find your calls being well received and you'll experience fewer rejections. To save you some time on this learning curve, here are eight points you need to consider before making any 1. Develop a professional greeting. Don't just say hello and jump into your telephone presentation without taking a breath or allowing the other party to participate. Your greeting should err on the side of formality. Begin with Mr., Mrs. or Ms, as in "Good morning, Mr. Smith." Or "Good evening, Mrs. Jones." Everyone else says, "Hello." Be different. Be professional. 2. Introduce yourself and your company."My name is Sally Smith with ABC Company. We're a local firm that specializes in helping businesses like yours save money." Don't get too specific yet. Don't mention your product. If you do, that allows the other party to say, "Oh, we're happy with what we've got. Thanks anyway," and hang up. By keeping your introduction general, yet mentioning a benefit, you'll peak your prospect's curiosity and keep them on the line longer. 3. Express gratitude. Always thank the potential client for allowing you a few moments in his busy day. Tell him that you won't waste a second of his time. "I want to thank you for taking my call. This will only involve a moment of your time so you can get back to your busy schedule." Don't say that you'll "just take a moment." The feeling evoked by them hearing that you'll take anything from them will put them off. 4. State the purpose of your call. It's best if you can provide the purpose within a question. "If we can show you a way to improve the quality of your product at a lower cost, would you be interested to know more?" This is very likely to get a yes response. At this point, you're ready to start selling an opportunity to meet this person or to get their permission to provide them with more information. You're not selling your product yet--you're selling what your product will do for him. 5. Schedule a meeting. Get a confirmation to meet, either in person or to teleconference to get the information you need in order to give a solid presentation. If he's so interested that he wants to do it right then and there, that's OK. 6. If a face-to-face meeting is the most appropriate next step, use the alternate-of-choice questioning strategy. Offer him two times, "Mr. Johnson, I can pop by your office at 2:15 p.m. today to discuss this further. Or would 9:45 a.m. tomorrow better suit your schedule?" You didn't say, "When can we meet?" When
you use the alternate of choice, you take control of getting the appointment. And note: Asking for an off-hour gets you noticed. There's something about setting a meeting at an off-hour that says you're a salesperson who'll be punctual and respect your prospect's time. Try it. 7. Thank them for their time today and for the upcoming appointment. Reconfirm the date, time and location of the appointment. Ask for directions if you need them. Tell him how much preparation you'll do in order to make the best use of the time you'll share. Give him your contact information this way: "If anything else comes to mind that I should be aware of prior to our meeting, please contact me at (212) 555-1212." 8. Follow up. If your meeting is more than a few days in the future, send a letter of confirmation immediately. If the meeting is tomorrow, send an e-mail confirmation. Keep it short and upbeat.
Crafting an Opening Sales Statement
You've got just eight short seconds to grab your prospect's attention and land an executive sales appointment. This sales expert shows you how.
By Tony Parinello ARTICLE TOOLS
Before you pick up the phone to make a sales call to an executive, I'd like to suggest you remember the following true story: A few months ago, one of my salespeople, Daniel, had some car problems, so I offered to give him a ride to work. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to do a little one-on-one role-playing, I suggested we go over some appointment-setting phone skills. I've had a long-standing, well-proven statistic that you have just eight seconds to grab an executive's attention whenever they pick up their phone. Daniel was a bit skeptical about my eight-second standard. He looked at me and said, "Boss, eight seconds is too short a period of time! That's hardly enough time to take a deep breath, let alone make a meaningful opening statement." We happened to be waiting at a red light when he said this. As the light turned green, I kept my foot on the brake and started counting: "One thousand one, one thousand two...." People started honking. By the time I got to "one thousand four," Daniel was begging me to get moving. By the time we hit the sixth second, the guy behind us was starting to get out of his car, and Daniel was looking for a place under the floorboards to hide. When I finally hit eight, the intersection was a symphony of honking horns, "pointing fingers" and shouting mouths. I hit the gas. Daniel's never questioned me again on how long eight seconds really is or whether you can make an impact in that length of time. If you've been reading my columns, you understand what motivates people to buy; you know the relevant specifics about your product, service or solution; and you have a good idea about the strategies at your disposal for contacting people who may give you new business. When you find yourself getting ready to pick up the phone to call an executive, what do you say? I'm going to assume that your goal for picking up the phone is to develop new business. I'm also going to assume that: 1. You've decided to use the phone to do this, either by means of a follow-up call on a written communication (see my prior article on this topic), or as your first contact with the target business.
2. Your aim is to get an appointment or create the next step with a top executive who is the person who can actually buy whatever it is you're selling.
You have three big goals when it comes to developing an opening statement that works. You want to: 1. Make it sound conversational. 2. Deliver it with confidence. 3. Get a favorable interruption--one that will put your prospect in control as soon as possible.
Five Key Opening Statement Components
You're picking up the phone to call your prospect. For right now, let's assume you actually do get through to the executive. (You should read last month's columnto learn exactly how to get past the gatekeepers.) Here are the five key ingredients your opening statement needs to contain: 1. An Introduction. Usually, when an executive (or anyone else) picks up a direct line, they say their name: "This is Jane Smith," or "Jane Smith speaking." Your first step will be to repeat this person's name. Keep things formal for now--use Mr. or Ms., then the contact's last name. Prospect: This is Jane Smith. You: Ms. Smith? Prospect: Yes. This first step will earn you Ms. Smith's undivided attention. Whatever she was doing prior to you saying her name, she's now stopped doing. She's paying attention to you, and that's a good thing! What most salespeople do now--despite ample and endlessly repeated evidence that they shouldn't--is say something like this: "Hi, Ms. Smith. This is Will Perish, with the ABC Insurance Company." Unless your name is, say, James Bond, or your company affiliation is, say, the Prize Disbursement Division of Publishers Clearing House, I can tell you exactly what's going to happen next in the vast majority of such calls: The prospect will respond to this self-defeating "verbal handshake" by tuning out, asking you to send written information, pretending the building just caught fire, or otherwise disengaging from the call. In other words, you'll have only been on the line about a second and a half, and you'll be done. 2. The Pleasantry. Here's an alternative plan. What I'm about to tell you will contradict what you've been taught. Do it anyway. When Jane Smith says "Yes," you're going to respond with something positive and enthusiastic, something that doesn't directly identify you, your company or the product or service you eventually want to discuss. It's too early in the relationship for you to pass along that kind of information. Instead, you're going to use a pleasantry, such as one of these: 1. "It's an honor to finally speak with you!" 2. "Thanks for picking up the phone!" 3. "Thanks for taking my call."
4. "Your time is important. Let me cut to the chase." Get the idea? Each and every one of these pleasantries will do a far better job for you than simply volunteering your name and company affiliation at the outset of the conversation. Or saying something totally lame like "How are you today?" or "Do you have a minute?" 3. The Hook. Immediately after your pleasantry, you're going to catch the person's attention by using a hook that's keyed directly to something likely to be of interest to this prospect. "We've helped (three of the top five widget corporations reduce overhead costs by twelve percent this quarter-and they did it without laying off staff or sacrificing product quality)." Now there's a tangible benefit if ever there was one! Keep your hook focused and just one or two sentences long, and you can't go wrong. The Interruption. More often than not, here's where you'll get interrupted if your hook is doing its job. Your prospect is likely to cut in and say something along the lines of one of these statements: 1. "This sounds interesting--tell me all about it." 2. "I haven't heard of this before, but I must admit it sounds vaguely interesting." 3. "I have absolutely no interest." (Don't worry. You'll be learning how to deal with any not-so-favorable interruptions in next month's column.) As I said, you'll almost certainly get interrupted by this point. For the sake of completeness, though, you need to finish developing your opening statement, so you know what to say in those cases where you don't get interrupted at this point. 4. Naming Names. Once you've shared your hook, the other person knows the reason for your call--the cat's out of the bag. This is the perfect time to identify yourself and, if you like, your organization. If you choose to identify the name of your business, give it a brief "commercial." What you say will fit in one sentence. It should sound like this: "This is Will, Will Prosper, with ABC Insurance Company--the hardest-working company in the insurance industry today." 5. Your Ending Question. If you don't get interrupted by this point, you're going to conclude your opening statement with an ending question that incorporates some element of time. Try one of these: 1. "Ms. Smith, does this touch on issues that are of concern to you this (month/year/quarter)?"
2. "Are you wanting to accomplish something like this by the end of this (quarter/year)?"
3. "Is this something you'd like to explore further?"
4. "Who on your team would you like for me to continue this conversation with between now and the end of this business (day/week)?"
Putting It All Together
Here's an example of an opening statement that works. Yours shouldn't sound exactly like this one, but it should be about this long, and it should, like what follows, hit all the bases you've been reading about. Prospect: "This is Jane Smith." You: "Ms. Smith?" Prospect: "Yes...." You: "(Pleasantry) It was a pleasure to read that your company has successfully expanded into the European marketplace. By the way...(Hook) after studying another client's operation, we suggested an idea that provided revenue gains of more than $25,000 per year. The real surprise is that we did this without taking one bit of Acme's hard-earned capital. (Your Name) This is Will Prosper at Zenith. (Ending Question) Acme's impressive results may be tough to duplicate. But would you be open to taking the next step between now and the first of the year?" Again, you shouldn't try simply to insert your company specifics into the script you see above. You should use all the ideas in this article to craft an opening statement that is uniquely yours and that best fits the business you're pitching.
Closing the Sale
Learn how to ask the right questions that will help you complete each sale like a star.
By Tom Hopkins | March 07, 2005 ARTICLE TOOLS
Typically, when I talk with my students on a one-to-one basis, they ask me a lot of questions about how to close sales. That's to be expected because it's the positive end result all salespeople seek in any contact with potential clients. In most situations where sales aren't closed, it's usually because the salesperson didn't ask the right question. In all my training, you'll hear it repeated over and over that every answer you need to get in order to meet someone, qualify them as to their needs, get permission to give a presentation or close a sale will come to you if you only ask the right questions. Sometimes, it's not just the question that matters, but how it's presented. You may have to set the stage or tell a story leading up to the question that helps the client rationalize the buying decision. No matter how good your lead in or story is, however, you won't get the sale if you don't ask for it. Let me give you a few closes that have proven successful for my students the world over. Don't be concerned if they seem a bit wordy--you're painting pictures and involving the emotions of your potential clients. Say the words with warmth and sincerity, and they'll work for you. When your clients hesitate because they aren't sure it's the right decision, try what we call "The Best Things in Life Close." This is a great close to use with a personal sale, especially when you're trying to sell something to a husband and wife. Compare the decision they're considering right now to other decisions they've made and have been happy with. It's especially helpful when they've admitted they want the product but are just struggling with saying yes. It goes like this:
"Isn't it true, John and Mary, that the only time you've ever really benefited from anything in your life has been when you said yes instead of no? You said yes to your marriage. . ." [And this next part's optional: ". . .and I can see how happy you are." But don't add this phrase unless you've seen signs that they truly are a happy couple!] "You said yes to your job, your home, your car--all the things I'm sure you truly enjoy. "You see, when you say yes to me, it's not really me you are saying yes to but all the benefits this product offers... [and then list a few of the benefits they were most excited about.] Those are the things you really want for your family, aren't they?" With these words, you're helping them focus on the benefits they want from the product rather than their hesitation to make the investment to own it. The little agreements you ask for during the close get the "yes" momentum started. If they do truly believe your product is good for them, these words will help them get over their hesitation to give you the final yes and close the sale. Another situation might be during a business sale where the decision-maker uses "the budget" as a reason not to go ahead. This purchase might not have been in their plans, so the money isn't in the budget. If you truly believe your product would provide excellent benefits to their company, your goal in this situation is to get them to admit and agree to that point. Ask this: "John, if the money for this investment was in your budget, would you proceed?" If he says yes, agree with him by saying "That's wonderful, John. I'm glad you see the benefits our XYZ product can bring to your business." At this point, you can either move on to a discussion of their return on investment or try these words: "I can understand your concern with your budget, John. That's why I contacted you in the first place. I'm fully aware of the fact that every well-managed business controls the flow of its money with a carefully planned budget. The budget is a necessary tool for every company to give direction to its goals. However, the tool itself doesn't dictate how the company is run, does it? "It must be flexible to allow the company to manage crises or take advantage of unplanned opportunities. As the controller of that budget, you retain for yourself the right to flex it in the best interest of the company's financial present and competitive future, don't you? "What we've been examining here today is a system which will allow your company an immediate and continuing competitive edge. Tell me, under these conditions, will your budget flex or will it dictate your actions?" Hopefully, you see the difference between just asking for the sale and helping people make decisions that are good for them. That's the difference between an average salesperson and a great one!
How to Sell in 60 Seconds
When selling, you have one minute to pique your prospect's interest. Here are some tips to make the most of your time.
By Tony Parinello
Q: I've always equated selling with telling, and lately I've noticed that my prospects cut me off when I am
giving them my pitch. What's the best way to get my point across and win the sale?
A: I would imagine that this month's question has value to all of us in sales and marketing. Let's face it:
Buyers are more educated than ever before. What we sales and marketing types need to focus more on is understanding our prospect's world--and the best way I know of to do just that is to ask intelligent questions. Here's a rundown of the best questions to use and when to use them. My strong suggestion is that each and every one of us should ask a whole lot more questions and speak a whole lot less. When interacting with a prospect, you must first seek to understand what's going on in the other person's world. Then and only then will your ideas be accepted and understood by the prospect. The best way to do this is to set strict limits on your own "talk time." Keep it under 60 seconds. Yes, you read right: You must never, ever speak for more than 60 seconds without asking for approval to continue. This approval comes when you ask open-ended "prompting" questions. Generally speaking, these questions: • • • • • • • Cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Do not lead, control or try to manipulate the other person. Enable dialoging. Begin with the words "when," "what," "how," "why" or "where." Require thought to be answered. Encourage the other person to reveal feelings. Build rapport.
The opposite of an open-ended question is a closed-ended question. Closed-ended questions, unlike the kind we've just examined, put an end to effective dialoging and will not get you any closer to a second appointment. Therefore, you should totally avoid this type of questioning as a means of getting approval to win another 60 seconds. One example of a closed-ended question might be, "You're interested in attracting new customers, right?" The best place to use the closed-ended question is in a situation where you need to validate or confirm what you think is going on in your prospect's world. Generally speaking, closed-ended questions: • • Are useful to give feedback during a dialog. Can be used to obtain specific information and/or confirm facts.
During a dialogue, if you need to make sure that you've heard the prospect correctly, you can use what's called a clarifying question. These questions, too, can win you a fresh 60 seconds. A good clarifying question might begin with the words, "So, if I understand you correctly, you're saying that...". Warning: you should always preface your clarifying question with a statement such as this and then creatively paraphrase what you think your contact's main point is. It's a really bad idea to parrot back what you've just heard your prospect say. That
approach may be perceived as condescending, sarcastic and disrespectful. Generally speaking, clarifying questions: • Secure the other person's approval and prove to a greater degree that you've got a good understanding of what he or she said. Express in your own words what you just heard. Clear up differences in the definition of words and phrases being used. Clarify the meaning of "global" words (like "always" and "never").
Typically, once you clarify with your prospect, you can then use a developmental question to move the dialog in a desired direction to further understand the prospect's purpose and/or result he or she wants to achieve. These questions, too, can win you another 60 seconds of time to talk--once the contact has responded to your question, of course. Generally speaking, developmental questions: • • • Encourage the other person to elaborate on what he or she just said. Begin to make it possible for the other person to show his or her true feelings about the topic at hand. Obtain further definition of what's under discussion.
Optionally, you can also use a directional question to win another 60 seconds. These questions steer the dialog to a certain direction that a developmental question just uncovered. Directional questions are like a roadmap of your conversation and allow the dialog to take another path, one that's beneficial to uncovering the prospect's purpose and needs. Generally speaking, directional questions: • • • Move the dialog from one logical topic to another. Invite the other person to participate in an informational exchange. Can be used to replace a closed-ended question you were tempted to ask.
Important: Don't fall into the trap of using directional questions to control or manipulate the prospect in any way. This will destroy any business rapport you've built and reduce your chances of getting a second appointment. Another question type you can use to earn another 60 seconds of talk time is called an opinion question. This kind of question is extremely helpful in revealing where a prospect stands on any particular issue, and it can be used to give you more insight into someone's unique needs. Opinion questions are also a nonthreatening way to ensure that the other person is actually engaged in the dialog. As a general rule, opinion questions:
Ask a direct question in a nonconfrontational way. Get the other person to speak frankly and openly. Allow the opportunity to share feelings.
Show esteem and respect for the other person. Help to extend and prolong dialogues.
Finally, you can use what I call a social proof question to justify another 60 seconds of talk time. This is an indirect way of getting the other person to realize that his situation is similar to that of other people you've worked with. As with any other reference to a third party, there is the chance that your contact will respond favorably to what you cite within the question. On the other hand, there is a chance that the social proof you introduce will be looked upon as competitive or irrelevant to what's being discussed. So these questions can be tricky. Generally speaking, social proof questions: • • • • Introduce a third party that is relevant to the discussion. May increase confidence that you can address the purpose and needs of the other person. Validate the other person's reasoning. Can be used to address concerns or problems before they arise.
Intelligent use of each of these question types will encourage your prospect to begin to show his or her true feelings about whatever subject is under discussion. Build business rapport with prospects, and they'll be less likely to tune out while you're delivering your pitch.
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