Making The Telephone Your Weapon of Choice
One of the most important weapons you have to implement The System is your telephone. But as with any weapon, you need to be trained in its proper use. Most people do not enjoy “putting themselves on the firing line” so they avoid (without realizing it) using the telephone. They fuss with prospect lists, enter endless information on their computer database, analyze and study their product or service — all the while subtly avoiding the thing they have to do to succeed — make the call!
This next statement you can take to the bank. The more you pick up the telephone, the more money you are going to make. It’s a direct relationship. Let me repeat that in a strict mathematical formulation:
Picking up the telephone + dialing = $
What outcomes can occur as a result of your picking up the phone? Let’s list the negative outcomes. The person on the other end of the phone may not want to speak with you; may not be interested in what you’re talking about; may hang up on you; or may be nasty or rude.
Chances are that you have exhibited all of these behaviors at one time or another when some unsolicited caller dialed your number. This does not make you a bad person, just a disinterested one. In all of my selling days on the telephone only two people have ever been nasty to me. Many people have not been interested. That’s okay.
The good things that can happen on the telephone far outweigh the bad. Here’s a list: You may have a very pleasant conversation; find somebody who is interested in what you do; schedule an appointment that leads to new business; learn something that will lead you to an entirely different strategy; get a tip on a hot internet stock that sends you into immediate retirement on a beach in Hawaii. (I put that last one in to be sure you are paying attention. Obviously, I haven’t experienced that positive outcome yet. But, believe me, the good things far outweigh the bad things.)
Re-Orient Your Reason For The Call
Let me give you an attitude that will make it easier for you to use the telephone as a marketing tool. Most people don’t enjoy calling strangers because of the anxiety associated with “selling” on the telephone. We all naturally fear (or at least dislike) rejection. And when you try to “sell” on a first phone call you are bound to get a lot of what feels like rejection. So don’t try to sell on the telephone. You can’t sell on the telephone. Re-orient yourself to a new objective — a new goal of calling:
You are not calling to sell. You are calling to schedule an appointment.
If I told you to sell me a toaster on the telephone, or sell me a car, or a trip to Tahiti, picking up the telephone would become a very painful experience and hard on your stomach. You might even stumble on your words. But if I said call me and simply ask if I can meet you for lunch, that would be very easy.
Here is how it might sound,
MM: “Hi. My name’s Mike Marchev, from Corporate Travel Systems. I’d like to take you to lunch to outline a very attractive service that we offer corporate clients.”
This is a no brainer. You don’t have to rehearse a formal sales script or worry about handling some bizarre objection. You are simply calling to schedule an appointment. You are not a crook. There are only two types of people in the world — those you can help and those you can’t help. Your single purpose is to find out which category this particular prospect falls into. And the cleanest way to accomplish this in short order is via a personal meeting. That’s it. Start using the telephone for the purpose it was designed — to make appointments.
Here are a few telephone techniques which will help you land that appointment.
When you call a prospect, you are initiating the call — it’s your dime and your idea. Therefore, you should be in control of the call. Many people initiate the call and then pass control to the other person. Don’t let this happen to you. When you call, I want you to immediately identify yourself, your organization, and who you want to speak with.
In the majority of cases, the gatekeeper will say, “What’s this in regard to?” (I know that’s what they are going to say because that is what Alexander Graham Bell was told on his first call.)
I want you to answer the gatekeeper’s interrogation in a clear, polite fashion. (Remember, you do not have a hidden agenda or any intentions of manipulating anybody, so don’t feel defensive.
Instead, you want to come across with an air of confidence — an expectation that, of course, Mr. Big would want you put right through to him. People will respond to you on the phone the way they decode your confidence level. If you appear unsure of who you want to speak with or what you are calling about, the gatekeeper will cross you off as another cold call, put your name on that little pink piece of message paper, and use it to dispose of her gum. Be confident and you will maintain control and take the script away from the gatekeepers. They will interpret your call as a professional call and will pass you along to the person you would like to speak with. (I realize that it doesn’t always work this way. More on tough calls in a minute.)
The Best Time To Call
My message in this chapter should be clear. Get on the phone and call people. You may think of a million reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t, but all of them are bogus. Examples:
• “It’s only eight-thirty in the morning. Let me give Mr. Caffeine an opportunity to have his first cup of coffee.”
• “It’s almost lunch time. I’ll call right after lunch. I don’t want to bother Mr. Pritikin at lunchtime.”
• “It’s December 12th and I don’t want to call Mr. Claus this close to Christmas.”
- “It’s Monday — it’s too early in the week.”
- “ It’s Friday — too late in the week. “
There are a million reasons to avoid the telephone. But there is a best time to call somebody. NOW! Whenever you think of it. When the idea hits you. When that person enters your mind. When what you are reading triggers a prospecting idea.
I call most prospects before eight o’clock in the morning and after five because I know that decision-makers usually come to work early and stay late while gatekeepers often leave pretty close to schedule. I also call people during lunch. Many executives eat lunch at their desk while the gatekeepers are away from the phone. When the phone rings you’ll often find yourself talking directly with Mr. or Mrs. Big.
Create What-If Scenarios
Once you make the call, you know that only a few replies are likely after you ask for an appointment. You know what all the options are. So prepare by spending a few moments playing “what if.”
Here is a useful analogy. What do professional firefighters do when they’re not putting out fires? Do you think they play pool, wash the engines, or play cards? How about throw a frisbee in front of the firehouse or watch a brawl on the Jerry Springer show?
You would be wrong. What firemen do between fires is have “what-if- scenario” meetings. They ask themselves what would they do if the grocery store downtown caught fire during rush hour, or the only high-rise in town broke out in flames on the eighth floor? They assign specific tasks well in advance so when the fire alarm sounds, each and every person on the force knows exactly how to respond.
You and I are not in the business of fighting fires but we can learn a great deal from these people. Professionals, regardless of the industry, go through the same type of preparation. What if. . .? When you prepare in advance for at least the most probable outcomes, you will be more successful.
Let’s try a sales example using the travel agency analogy. You make a call:
MM: “This is Mike Marchev from Mike’s Do It Right Travel Service. I’m calling Mr. Smith to schedule an appointment.”
Gatekeeper: “Mike, are you a travel agency?” MM: “Why yes I am.”
Gatekeeper: “Mike, let me save you some time. We are totally pleased with who we are using to make our company’s travel arrangements.”
Is this a stretch, or do prospects actually say that? (The foregoing is called a “rhetorical question.”) The gatekeeper/prospect can also say:
• “Mike, the president’s wife is a travel agent.” • “We don’t use travel agencies.” • “We just changed travel agencies recently.” • “Mr. Smith is not in at the moment.”
• “Mr. Smith is in a meeting which is probably going to last until the Supremes reunite.” (If you hear this one or something like it, you may want to re-charge your self-confidence unit for a while.)
- “Mr. Smith’s on vacation.”
- “Mike, we don’t travel that much.” • “What could you do that our present agency is not already doing?”
As you make more and more calls, you will adapt this list to ten or fifteen responses that typically come at you over the phone when you ask for an appointment.
We will look at some of these responses and suggest how you can get past each one in a moment. But first . . .
Avoiding The Death Pause
What you want to prevent at all costs is what I call the “Death Pause.” The “Death Pause” goes something like this:
Ron Rookie: “I’m Ron Rookie from the A.B.C. Travel Agency. I’d like to speak to Mr. Smith to schedule an introductory meeting with him one day next week.”
Gatekeeper: “Ron,why should Mr. Smith do business with you?”
Ron Rookie: (Silence — not prepared for this question.)
Silence is all that can be heard over the telephone line — a sickly, loud lack of sound . . . the Death Pause. If you are a live, breathing human being, your stomach will be the first thing to go. Your nervous system will kick in full blast, and you will start to sweat. Next your hands start shaking and you wish you had never called in the first place. You become totally humiliated as you don’t have a clue what to say. The silence is getting louder and you can feel your heart beating through your shirt. You know you have to say something fast. But what? You hear yourself making a noise. You are speaking. You say,
Ron Rookie: “Well, in case you change your mind, I’ll be happy to help you.”
You then offer to send some literature, which the savvy gatekeeper agrees to, knowing that this is the sign that you will soon be hanging up. You hang up the
phone and don’t know whether to start crying or reach for the want ads to find a new job in accounting.
This entire negative scene can be avoided with a little work up front. Do your homework and recognize the fifteen logical responses that might surface during your call. Consider it “insurance” against the Death Pause.
Handling The Most Common Responses
Remember you are not a crook, and all you want to do is ask for an opportunity to meet with somebody. If the prospect doesn’t want to meet with you, you don’t
particularly want to meet with the prospect. You are looking for people who want to speak with you about the product or service you are offering.
Because my personality and your personality are probably different, I can’t put the words I might say in your mouth. You have to write your own script for your own “what-if” scenarios. Ask yourself, “If my prospect says this, what would I say back?” Then literally create the script. Try it, and over time keep refining it.
For example, how would you handle the “We don’t travel that much” scenario? A lot of salespeople might respond with, “Well, how much do you travel?” Or “How many people travel?” Or “How big is your travel budget?” In other words, they start firing questions in response to avoid the Death Pause.
Here’s the way I would handle it. Gatekeeper/Prospect: “Mike, thanks for calling. We don’t travel that MM: “This may sound funny to you but that’s exactly why I called you. My company specializes in firms like yours which don’t travel that much. It’s been our experience that most of our competitors are chasing the IBM’s and the G.E.’s and the companies with large travel budgets. We have found that there are a lot of companies like yours whose travelers really need the services we provide. We purposely target local businesses that don’t travel as much as the big corporations. It’ll take me about fifteen minutes to outline our program to you. You really don’t have very much to lose.”
Do you want companies who don’t travel that much at the top of your list? Probably not. But you have to read through the smoke. The gatekeeper/prospect wasn’t awaiting your call and probably didn’t initially focus on what it was you were saying. The immediate knee-jerk response was to get rid of you and get back to whatever he or she was doing. The reason you were told “We don’t travel that much” was to get you to hang up first.
Having done your homework, you know that this was a possible scenario and you are ready. When you answer your prospects with an intelligent, polite, “Yes, however”, you will find yourself getting more appointments.
I mentioned that a lot of salespeople start firing questions over the telephone to avoid the Death Pause. Here are my thoughts concerning this practice. The person you just called doesn’t owe you a thing — including answers to your questions. If you are going to ask a question, I recommend you ask permission before going to Q&A. It really irks me when I make a call and the person answering the phone simply states, “That line is busy, please hold.” Boom! All of a sudden I’m listening to “If I Say You Have A Beautiful Body Will You Hold It Against Me?” on country music station KCOW. If they simply took three seconds and asked, “May Imuch.”
put you on hold?” I’d be happy to listen to Willie Nelson sing “You Shouldn’t Mess with the IRS.”
The same principle holds true when you want to ask a prospect some questions.
Compare these dialogues.
Rookie: “Mr. Enchilada, where do you plan to travel next month? Where have you been? How much do you spend on travel each month? Do you go first class or coach?”
Prospect (thinking to self): “Who is this bozo? I don’t owe him any answers and I don’t know why he wants to know.”
Now try it my way.
MM: “Mr. Banana, may I ask you three questions concerning your travel habits?”
Then you can fire away because the prospect gave you permission to ask. Remember: Before asking the questions, ask permission to ask questions.
Back to asking for an appointment. Once you realize that you are not going to get the appointment, you should shift gears and try to learn something that will help you the next time you decide to try again with this prospect. You might say,
MM: “I understand. Personally, I wouldn’t change either if I was totally happy with who I was doing business with. Before hanging up, may I ask you three questions? Is your annual travel budget closer to ten thousand or one- hundred thousand dollars? Do you ever travel internationally? Do you have a central travel coordinator or does each individual secretary book your travel?”
Ask two or three questions that will help you position the prospect as an A, B, or C candidate.
Penetrating The “Ditchboard”
A constant hurdle in telephone marketing is circumventing the infamous switchboard — or as I sometimes call it, the Ditchboard, because the job description requires the operator to “ditch” all salespeople. Let me give you some ideas on this.
First, if you find yourself being screened at the switchboard, don’t get annoyed with the operators. For every call they handle from a squared away individual like yourself, they get two hundred from a bunch of clowns dressed like professional salespeople. Understand that the people trying to “ditch you” is doing nothing more than their job. Be nice because you’ll only get into the castle if they open the gate.
When a switchboard operator screens you, thank her (or him) politely, get off the phone, wait a day or two, and then call again. But, before hanging up the first time get the gatekeeper’s name so the next time you call you can address her personally.
MM: “Hi Mary, this is Mike Marchev. I spoke with you last week. You told me that you thought your boss was totally satisfied with the agency you are doing business with. May I ask you a question? This is very important, because I think we have a service that Mr. Smith is going to find very interesting. How would you suggest I go about getting an appointment with him?”
In other words,
To get the Gatekeeper to play on your team, ask for help.
Do this and you will position yourself as someone who means business because very few salespeople return a second time as quickly as you did. You weren’t arrogant. You had no tricks up your sleeve. Your job is to schedule an appointment with Mr. Smith, and you are politely persistent and tenacious. What’s more, you respectfully asked the Gatekeeper to share her expertise as to how to navigate the obstacle course. This won’t always work, but the odds are pretty good.
Another way I have gotten past switchboards is by saying,
MM: “Could you please connect me with the sales department.”
Most switchboards consider this a good thing. Sales is something that helps everybody at the company eat regularly. If you ask to speak to somebody in sales, very few operators will ask you “why.” Once you are connected to the sales department you then say,
MM: “I’m not sure if I’m in the right place. I’m trying to find the person responsible for making your travel decisions.”
Correct directions are usually forthcoming.
The important mindset to keep is that you’re not trying to sell while using the telephone (in most cases). All you’re trying to do is schedule an appointment to introduce yourself and your program.
When you do succeed in scheduling an appointment, don’t quit on this “upper.” Many salespeople decide that it’s Miller Time and stop calling. Don’t. When you get an appointment, your energies are up. Your voice is up. Your program worked. You become charged and excited. Make another call right away. You will find yourself on a roll. You will be more confident. As professional golfers say, “You are in the Zone.” Don’t take yourself out of the game now! Continue to place at least ten more calls after you managed to schedule an appointment. Everything will be working for you.
When you decide to start your telemarketing program, block out a specific time each day to make your calls. Know that there will be a sense of rejection in this exercise by definition (unless you follow the mindset I gave you in Chapter 3), but don’t stop calling. You may have to make a hundred phone calls to talk to fifteen people to get six presentations scheduled to get one piece of business. Those numbers are not high or low. Your numbers will be what they will be.
The more people you call, the more money you’re going to make.
That is how it works. Make those calls.