I picked up a book last month by Tom Freese that has some good ideas to help sales people be more effective. One of his suggestions that I like has to do with getting calls returned. The book is called “Secrets of Question Based Selling” and if you sell or if you manage salespeople I suggest you read it.
Tom says the key is to give people a good reason to call you back. He goes on to explain that too many salespeople leave such bad messages it’s no wonder people don’t call them back. A typical voice mail might be like this:
“Hi Mr. Smith, this is John from ABC Company. I’m just checking in to see if you need anything. Blah, blah, blah. Please call me if I can help you with anything.” (Okay, maybe they’re not all that bad but you get the idea.)
As Tom points out most of these messages get deleted before they get to the end of the message. Voice mails like this offer nothing to the prospect and give them no reason to call. They generate zero interest for the prospect in what you can do for them.
One of the structural problems in the typical sales call voice mail is they are focused on the salesperson’s needs. Even though the salesperson may say “I’m calling to help you” they really mean (and what the prospect hears) is “I’m calling to see if you want to BUY anything from me right now.”
This new method is honest, different and stimulates interest on the part of the prospect. It engages their curiosity so they are more likely to call back.
Tom suggests that when you call and leave a message (whether it’s voice mail or taken by a real person) you ask a question. It might be something like”
“I have a question.”
“I need your help.”
“I ran across something this morning that I think will interest you.”
“I need your advice about something.”
“I’m hoping you can help me with something.”
“I have a referral for you.”
“I was talking with someone yesterday and your name came up.”
“I was thinking about you the other day.”
“There’s someone I want you to meet.”
This is NOT a sneaky tactic to trick people into calling you. When you use this strategy you must be honest and sincere. Your reason has to be legitimate. This is not about playing games just to get a phone call returned.
If you sell advertising (for example) you could say “I have a question for you.” When they call back your question could be about an ad they are currently running elsewhere. How is it working for them? Have they thought about ways they might get better results from it? This gets them thinking and talking about improving their advertising results. If you sell advertising then this would be a good conversation to have with a business owner. And it shows them you are focused on helping them.
Maybe your company provides delivery services. Your question could be to get information about their industry as it relates to your service. You’re asking for their input, their advice.
Perhaps you sell training services. Your call to your prospect could be to get information about what’s causing problems for them, as it relates to your specific service. Ask in the right way and they might tell you plenty.
At first glance this may seem indirect and therefore insincere. It’s not. It’s all in your approach and your attitude. If you’re direct about wanting to sell them something, you’ll likely get nowhere (unless they just happen to be ready to buy what you’re selling at that moment) . If you call them cold and say you want to help them, they won’t believe you.
However, if your approach is to show interest in their business by asking relevant and appropriate questions, you will get better results. This is because you’ll get better information from your prospects. And you’ll get more respect from them. They’re more likely to see you as someone who is willing and able to help them. By asking questions to get them interested you’re more likely to open doors that develop into relationships that turn into business for your company.
I have used this approach more and more since reading Tom’s book and I like it. It makes certain calls (especially cold or lukewarm calls) easier. These calls feel less like sales calls and more like business conversations.
My question for you is this: Do you or your salespeople use a technique like this? What do you think of this approach?