Prospecting can be a nerve racking experience for many in sales, especially outbound telephone prospecting, which explains why so few are good at the practice. The rejection, the unknown, the boos looking at you output and shaking his head, and clock on the wall ticking louder and louder. This triggers series of primal responses from nesting and protection to fight-or-flight. Let’s be clear we’re not talking about fighting the customer, but fighting the urge to give up and go back to inbound prospecting, or perhaps flight to a better strategy and approach to telephone prospecting.
When the nerves kick in, we try to compensate for it and comfort ourselves in the hope that things will get better. But hope is really not a path to successful prospecting, and the best comfort comes from having a pipeline full of real opportunities. Most of the other comforts are really there to make the prospector feel better, not necessarily to improve the scenario and results. To do that you have to actually go the other way. While being counter intuitive may not be immediately comfortable, it will lead to more opportunities, which will in turn will allow you to indulge in some real comfort, no matter what that is for you.
So here are somethings you should stop doing specifically on a first call, things that may make you feel better and more comfortable, but has the opposite effect on the buyer, and thereby detrimental to your success. Your litmus test should be: “Is this for me or for the buyer?” If the answer is for the buyer, great; if the answer is you don’t know or for you, then cut it out, full stop. There is no grey, it truly is black and white, and any time you waste debating it is time you are not selling.
First off, stop asking the buyer how they are two seconds in to the call. Yes, I know we were brought up that way, Mom always told you to be polite. While I may agree with Mom that you should be courteous and respectful of the prospect, she probably wasn’t thinking that raising an outbound sales person. Asking that question consumes valuable seconds at the start of the call, and keeps the conversation from the focus, which is what is in in for the buyer, and how it helps them achieve their objectives. How they are, is not germane, and you know, there will be times when it they are jammed, feeling harassed, and all the question does is accentuates that. Whereas getting to the point of what’s in it for them, allows them to focus on that, which is what you want. If you want to feel how useless asking how they are, just think of the last time a duct cleaner asked you how you were.
Next pacifier that needs to go, asking them “is this a good time?” or “Do you have a couple of minutes?”. That’s like asking for the bullet to the head, might as well save the prospect the time and do it yourself. When we do outbound calling, to people who did not have us on their calendar, people who are trying to pack 16 hours into a ten-hour day, people who only see their kids awake on the weekend, time is a premium, and we are a disruption. So by definition they do not have time for the unknown, and at the time of the question in the call we are an unknown. Now if you started with what is in in for the buyer, and how it helps them achieve their objectives, they will make time. But again, you want to be polite and hope that they like you, instead of helping them like what you represent, you know a “solution”.
I know going cold turkey on these bad habits is hard, so here is something that will help you let off some social steam, make you feel better but not risk the call. Right where you would blurt out either of the above questions, and normally stop to wait for the answer, instead say “Thanks for taking my call.” Statement not a question, so you don’t have to stop, and you can get to what really counts, the real upside for the buyer.