Proper telephone technique enhances a salesperson’s image and preconditions the prospect to receive you favorably. Phoning for an appointment implies that you are courteous and considerate of the prospect’s time. It also suggests that your time is valuable and that you are a successful professional with whom the prospect would be happy to deal. Your phone call helps create a selling situation because, just by agreeing to see you, the prospect tacitly indicates interest in your product or service.
Using the telephone to set up appointments is a true sales activity and not just a necessary evil. Remember what you are selling: The mini sale is selling the prospect on the idea of giving you an appointment; your purpose is not to sell your product or service on the telephone.
Telephoning customers or prospects requires a carefully thought out plan of action. You must convince prospects that seeing you is in their own best interest. Prepare yourself for this task by doing your homework. Most sales relationships depend heavily on initial impressions. When you call on the telephone, the prospect will have made a judgment about you before your first fifteen words are said.
An organized, professional salesperson knows what to say in advance of placing a call. Use the following four questions to help you stay on track:
1. Why am I calling? To make an appointment, check on a reorder, or follow up an inquiry?
2. What is my proposal? Jot down some notes: lunch next Monday, information about the company, an appointment for a sales presentation. Be specific.
3. What would make this person want to grant my request? Before calling, determine the best reason why the person you are calling will do what you request. Recognize the buyer’s reason for acting rather than yours.
4. What is the best action plan I can offer? Your plan should have two parts: (a) what commitment you want from the person you call, and (b) what commitment you will make.
Inadequate preparation reduces the effectiveness of your delivery. The telephone is an interruption of your prospect’s work. It can be a source of real frustration or nuisance. To sell people on the idea of granting you an appointment, you must detach their attention from what they were doing when the phone rang and attract it to what you propose. It helps if you think and talk about your call as a service you are offering rather than as an interruption for which you must apologize.
Before you ever pick up the telephone, go through a mental checklist to ensure that you are fully prepared. Here are 10 strategic checkpoints for you to implement:
1. Arrange a definite time each day to telephone. Make sure you will not be interrupted. Make as many calls as you can in the allotted time. A positive mental attitude is critical.
2. Because you are more proficient in using the telephone immediately after making an appointment, make another call immediately after successfully setting up an appointment.
3. Know exactly what to say before you call. Develop a well-thought out, structured script. However, be flexible, never make your call sound like a canned spiel.
4. Tell the prospect just enough to get the appointment. Avoid giving interview information over the phone. You know a lot more than you are willing to tell at this time.
5. Sell your own name. Ask the person to write it down to be sure you are remembered when you arrive for the appointment.
6. Verify that you are actually talking to the person you intended to call. Be sure you have the correct pronunciation of the name. Use the name several times during the call.
7. Show excitement and enthusiasm in your voice. Give your voice the emotional feeling of shaking hands over the telephone. Put a smile in your voice.
8. Never argue; be courteous. Say thank you and begin sentences with phrases like, “May I ask…” and “If I may…”
9. Watch your language. Select words carefully for impact. Control distracting speech habits. Repetition of expressions like “I see,” “Uh huh,” and “You know” are irritating and unprofessional.
10. Be sure to ask for the appointment confidently and directly. Offer a choice of times so prospects can choose a time that is convenient.
The attempt to set up a face-to-face meeting with a prospect should be regarded as a mini sale in which the product is a personal sales interview and the purpose of the telephone call is to sell the prospect on granting you this interview. You must keep the discussion focused on that purpose and that purpose only.
Use the checkpoints discussed above and follow the KISS approach to selling the appointment: Keep It Simple, Salesperson.