For most sales reps, phoning for appointments is Maalox time at the heartburn corral. Because 95 percent
of radio and TV sales reps don't do any research before they pick up the phone, they're behind the 8 ball to start with. In both radio and TV sales, telephone cold calls have a success rate of about 15 percent in actually procuring appointments with the decision-maker at a prospect's business. For some industries, that's pretty good; for radio and TV, it's not going to earn you any awards. I don't think you should have to call 20 prospects per day, either. If you've done your homework, your closing ratio should be 70-80 percent on the phone.
Here are some telephone techniques that can help raise your closing ratio on the phone.
Get to the point Ramble
Ask questions Assume the answer
Accept the target?s point of view Argue
Compliment the competition Knock the competition
(no matter which media)
Talk with them Talk at them
Talk about them Talk about yourself
(other than a credibility statement)
Visualize the listener Daydream
Stand up and move around Slouch in your seat with feet
up on the desk
Control your emotions React to their negative emotions
Get the appointment Sell product
Say thank you Hang up first
A few thoughts on the above:
- Don't knock the competition. This is dangerous ground to tread on. You might not know how deeply the prospect is involved with your competition, or what their relationship is like. Your sole objective on the phone, unless you're selling a one-day-only sale to current clients, is to get the appointment.
- Visualize the listener on the other end of the phone. Smile to yourself until your mouth hurts. If you ever feel you are having a bad day and can't change your attitude, don't get on the phone. The phone lines are transparent, and the prospect can feel your positive - or negative - emotions through the phone.
- Stand up! It's a rare occasion, except in investment banking or Fortune 100 firms, that I see reps
standing up in the sales bullpen. Most of the time, the reps are sitting down, and they are about as exciting as watching paint dry. When you meet people for the first time, are you sitting down? Of course not, you are standing up, moving, offering to shake their hand.Your blood is circulating, and you're excited about meeting them. Do the same thing on the phone. Stand up! Get a headset so your hands are free.
Dealing with the gatekeeper:
- Level with them honestly. Explain that you "have done your research and this could involve increasing profit and productivity." Hopefully, you have already met this important person during your walk through the business.
- Have the gatekeeper suggest a time to call back. This puts the onus on that person's shoulders.
- Send an assumed consent letter. (See Part II of this column in a subsequent issue.)
- Be kind to the gatekeeper/screener. You may have to deal with this person in the future.
- If all else fails, send gifts!
Keep the momentum going:
1. Always send a confirmation letter and thank-you note referencing the appointment. Believe it or not, some people will give you an appointment even though they know they can't be there. The confirmation note lets them know you are serious about what you do, and reminds them of the time and date.
2. Figure out your call-to-closing ratios. Don't stop after one call that ends up in a no.
3. Establish quotas for yourself. Each week, make 10 "warm calls" on the phone to set up appointments - and be sure to have completed a walk through or other research before you pick up the phone.
Despite the confirmation letter, some people still forget. Set your appointments on the :10, :20, :40, or :50 of the hour. It lets them know you are busy. Part II of this column will break down each step of the appointment process, and cover objections you may encounter.