As a modern salesperson, it’s easy to fantasize about how that latest whizbang social selling or sales intelligence tool can help you connect with more buyers more easily. (I know I do.) But even with all the new technology available today, nothing replaces the telephone for having a constructive conversation with a prospect.
That doesn’t mean every single buyer you call will be ready or willing to talk with you -- far from it. Whether you’re calling a good fit prospect you proactively sourced, following up on an inbound lead who didn’t exactly ask for a phone call, or dialing your newest Twitter follower, you have to be ready to break through resistance when you hear a “Hello?” at the other end of the line.
While many social selling gurus might lead you to believe that phone prospecting is dead, the telephone still remains the best prospecting tool out there -- when done right, that is. And doing it right requires preparation and practice.
One of the companies I advise recently asked me to help them create a script for that initial unscheduled phone call. Being a bit rusty myself, I turned to one of my favorite sales experts, Marc Wayshak, author of Game Plan Selling. Wayshak responded with a few videos to help me out.
Here is Wayshak’s five-step process for breaking through your prospect’s resistance in the very beginning of that initial call.
1) Make sure you’re calling early or late.
The key to connecting with a prospect is to catch them when they’re not busy with someone else or when gatekeepers aren’t screening for them, according to Wayshak That’s unlikely to be during the day, so, Wayshak specifically suggests making calls before or after the typical 9-to-5 workday. “Try your prospects before 8:30 in the morning or after 5:30 in the evening,” he recommends.
2) Drop the fake enthusiasm.
Ever get a call from a sales rep who sounds like a game show host inviting you up to a stage? Does it immediately turn you off? I know it puts a bad taste in my mouth. When I hear a salesperson who has the enthusiasm dial cranked up to 11 on the other end of the line, they get quickly hung up on.
Think about it. Does your best friend, closest co-worker, or top customer ever greet you like that? Nope -- and they’re people who have a pre-existing relationship with you.
Wayshak advises salespeople to be real: "Avoid sounding overly excited, and pleasantly surprise your prospects by doing the exact opposite of what they expect from a salesperson on the phone.”
That means taking your voice tone down a few octaves, and speaking in sentences -- not exclamations.
3) Sound like a normal person making a call.
When your prospect answers the call, open with a tone and a line that breaks from the traditional approach most salespeople take. And since most reps go way over-the-top, this means speaking like a normal person will set you apart.
“Instead of greeting the prospect with false enthusiasm, say: ‘Hi, Brian. George calling. Did I catch you in the middle of something?’” Wayshak suggests.
This calm, friend-like approach is completely different from the overly salesy language that prospects are accustomed to hearing (and hanging up on).
4) Have a contingency plan.
If your prospect is busy when you call and wants to get off the phone as soon as possible (read: most buyers), have a plan in place to address that resistance. For example, if a prospect tries to get off the phone right away, don’t freak out -- simply ask for permission to pose a quick question.
Wayshak recommends saying something along the lines of, “Would it be alright if I just took 30 seconds to tell you why I called -- and if it doesn’t make sense, you can feel free to hang up? Does that sound okay?”
5) Focus on challenges.
Just like so many bad email prospecting messages I get, most salespeople start their calls and voicemails by talking about how great their products and services are. Instead, “switch it up by describing common challenges that your clients face -- and find out if your prospect is dealing with those same challenges,” Wayshak says.
As a bonus, this final step will help you initiate a challenge-focused conversation so that you and your prospect can decide whether it makes sense to schedule a call to talk about how you can really help them.
Practice Makes Perfect When it Comes to Prospecting
While it’s a pipe dream to think that you’ll never get hung up on again, don’t be one of those reps who is either too afraid to pick up the phone or overly reliant on social and email for their prospecting efforts. And most importantly, don’t spend too much time looking for that holy grail sales prospecting tool that makes it all unnecessary. It doesn’t exist (and we’ll tell you if it ever gets created, we promise).
Instead, follow and practice these guidelines and calling tips to reduce the number of times you get a premature “no” or hear an unexpected dial tone. If you put in the work refining your approach and customizing them for your own selling situation, they will work for you.
For a bit of extra inspiration, here’s a five-minute video of a live sales call where Wayshak demonstrates how to have a conversation following this framework.