Sales Question and Answer #24 – How do I get to see new prospects who won’t return voice mail?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

100106582 Smiling Business Executive by stockimagesQ.   How do I get to see new prospects who won’t return voice mail?

A.  Since this continues to be one of the most asked-questions I receive, I’ve decided to spend several months on this question.  In an earlier article, I talked about creating a powerful, persuasive opening statement.  Recently, I discussed the concept of an effective “pre-call touch.”  In this piece, I’m going to discuss some effective tactics for making the call.

First, a reminder of the perspective from which we should view this problem.  It’s this – there is not a simple, easy solution.  I wish I could provide you with a magic phrase or set of “secret” words that are guaranteed to get the prospect to return your call and grant you an audience.  But it is just not that easy.  Influencing new prospects to return your call and to invest their time in the speculative venture of seeing another sales person is not a simple thing.  And, clearly, it is growing more difficult.

There is a principle that we need to grasp if we’re going to be more effective at this most difficult task.  The principle is this:  There is no short cut, no simple, easy, magic answer.  There are, however, some principles and strategies that will increase the likelihood of you getting an appointment with the elusive prospect.  That means that you are going to have to invest serious planning time and serious creative thought in improving your results.

OK.  You’ve prepared an effective opening statement, and you’ve sent a creative pre-call touch.  Now you are going to make the call, using the opening statement that you have prepared, and making reference to the pre-call touch that you delivered.  What are some ways to make the actual phone call more effective?

1.  Time it right.  You may have greater success in getting to your prospect by calling at an odd time.  Try a few minutes before 8 AM, ditto for lunch, and a few minutes after 5:00 PM.  These are all times when the normal switchboard may not be operating, yet the person you want may be at his/her desk.

2.  Practice a conversational voice.  Don’t sound too smooth or rehearsed.  That makes the person listening to your voice mail think that you are just another sales person.

I’ve always found it more effective to sound a bit “real.”  It is OK to stutter a bit, to hesitate, to use an occasional “ah.”  All these make you sound like a real person, not an automaton repeating a memorized pitch.

3.  Always leave a message.  Imagine that you could buy a 15 second radio commercial that you could beam directly to your prospect.  Wouldn’t that be a good thing to do?  That’s what voice mail allows you to do.  So, every time you encounter voice mail, deliver your radio commercial.

4.  Show that you understand them.  In your voice mail message, leave the name of a company similar to theirs that you have dealt with, or mention a very specific problem that you believe they have, or some individual that you have worked with who they may know.

Another approach is to ask a penetrating question.  That’s a question that indicates your knowledge of the prospect’s business or situation, and points to the need for what you have.  Let’s say that you’re selling food packaging equipment.  Your penetrating question could be something like this:  “John, in light of the new federal regulations on particulate matter, to what degree does your packaging equipment keep you out of trouble with the government?”

Notice that the question conveyed the impression that you understand his business, and then prompts the prospect to think about the need your product is designed to meet.

All of these things say to the prospect that you are someone apart from the ordinary sales person — that you understand them.  There is little that is more attractive to a person than being understood.

5.  Instead of asking to be called back, leave a message indicating that you will call him/her back at a specific time.  So, instead of saying, “Please return my call,”  you say, “I understand you are not available at the moment.  I’ll call you at 4:15 this afternoon to pursue this discussion with you.”

6.  If you do leave a request for them to call you, make sure that someone is available to take the call and schedule the appointment.

Saying “please return my call,” and then going off with your cell phone busy all day is not very smart.  When they call, they wind up leaving a voice mail for you.  Instead, leave a number where a customer service person is at (or your spouse, etc.), with times and dates when you are available to make the appointment.  Don’t frustrate them by having to leave a voice mail for you!

Good luck!

Copyright MMVI by Dave Kahle

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Image Credit: stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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