In my first blog post, “10 rules to follow when making outbound connect calls” I focused primarily on the approaches to take prior to reaching your prospect. In this post, I will review strategies/techniques I use once I have navigated past the gatekeeper and have reached our proper point of contact -- when it is time to play ball.
The first conversation I have with a prospect is pivotal when attempting to earn a company’s business. Everyone has heard the expression “you only have one chance to make a good first impression.” This could not be truer than when it comes to connecting with a target. This initial conversation lays the foundation for our ongoing relationship with the prospect and goes a long way in determining our credibility as sales professionals.
Going about that primary conversation in a way that is comfortable, professional and informative without being too overbearing or “salesy” is no easy task. Here are the five rules I go by once I have finally reached the proper point of contact:
1. Put the prospect at ease
By the time you have reached your contact, plenty of work has already gone into the call. You have completed your pre-call prep and should have a strong idea of how your company’s value proposition aligns with your prospect. None of this matters if you immediately scare off your contact with an overbearing sales pitch.
While you may feel a certain right to your prospects time as a result of the work you have put in, the prospect undoubtedly would disagree. I have found there is one simple question that helps put the prospect at ease and gets the conversation going: “Did I happen to catch you at a good time?” This unassuming question lets the prospect know you understand your call is out of the blue and that their time is important.
2. Talk about your prospect first
Once you have asked your prospect if now is a good time and they’ve said yes, it will be tempting to hop directly into an elevator pitch – but that would be a mistake. Instead, talk about their business. You did your homework prior to the call, so make sure the prospect realizes it. Refer back to information you noted from their website and their industry as a whole. Just like that, you have . Now you have earned the right to talk about your business.
3. Ask questions you know the answer to
Asking questions you already know the answer to gets the conversation flowing in the direction you want it to – which keeps you in control. More importantly, ask questions you know the answer to that tie back to your company’s value proposition. It leads to more of a back conversation and will help the prospect realize why they should continue on the phone with you.
4. Know when to shut up!
Knowing when to stop talking can be easier said than done. There were many instances early in my career where I would talk myself off the phone. I had information at hand so I felt the need to use it all at once. I eventually realized that sometimes the best way to gauge your prospects interest and to keep the conversation going is to simply be quiet. It is impossible to get their thoughts if they don’t have a chance to speak, so make sure you let them!
5. Get feedback
Lastly, whether a prospect turns out to be a match or not, I have always found it is helpful to get their feedback. If a prospect does not work out, make sure you understand what about your product/service did not resonate with them and why not. Is there anything you could have done differently? The information you receive could lead to a more positive outcome on your next call.
On the contrary, if a prospect IS interested in your product/service, it’s even more important to make sure you understand why. Where did they see the most value with our company? Was there anything that made them hesitant or feel that maybe it wasn’t a fit – if so, what changed their mind? This information will help you be more concise with your pitch moving forward and helps in understanding the prospect’s industry as a whole.
Follow these five rules once you reach your point of contact, and I promise you will recognize stronger conversations and better results. Like I said earlier, everyone has heard the expression “you only have one chance to make a good first impression,” -- implement these five strategies, and your first impression will lead to a second conversation.