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This is the first in a series of posts about telephone selling. Starting with the incoming enquiries. Which are in theory ‘easier’ but still require some careful thought.

I’ve really found it helpful when training people in this vital skill to consider how you would like someone to respond to an enquiry from you. This will increase your empathy when it’s your time to handle the enquiry. Getting an inbound sales enquiry means all your marketing has paid off and the lead is genuinely interested! So to inadvertently waste this opportunity is a crying shame. You need to thrill the caller. Meet all of their expectations and then some. Sometimes considering our own past experiences of enquiring about something is a good starting point.

Perhaps you remember the ones that did not infuse you with confidence in their ability to deliver? Or perhaps they put you off in some way? I’ve asked this question many times and the same things crop up, so hopefully some of them resonate with your experiences.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s the calls where you’re not made to feel valued that are almost as bad as those where you feel pushed into making an early decision.

The reality is that it’s quite common for a small business to have an answer phone or perhaps a relative taking a message. Obviously this is quite an anticlimax for the prospective customer, once they have galvanised themselves to make the call. But even worse than that, if the call is not returned in what they consider to be a timely manner, the follow up call (if it happens at all of course) is often laced with a bit of irritation. Not the easiest way to start a business relationship.

So perhaps make sure that whoever is likely to take any calls is briefed on what you need them to ask and the manner you need them to convey. As well as an idea of what needs to be covered as a bare minimum on that initial call. Otherwise the next person they call might be able to trump you before you’ve even had a chance to get back to them.

  1. Enthusiasm is one of the core requirements. It’s evident in your voice and in the questions you ask. You need to be pleased to hear from them and enthusiastic about what you do. If you seem bored or off hand they will draw their own conclusions.

  2. You need to find out as much as possible about the prospect. So be prepared to listen. Thank them for calling. Ask if they mind saying how they heard about you (vital for fine tuning your marketing spend and effort)

  3. Ask what they were hoping would happen/be resolved/be gained from using your services

  4. Find out where they live (initially, roughly)

  5. Find out what their desired timescales are

  6. Continue to ‘qualify’ the lead - determine what sort of priority they require and whether it is likely to be a good use of your time. If they are uncomfortable answering they might be spies from another business (but they will be impressed/intimidated with your customer service skills, so all is not lost!)

  7. It’s a good idea to get their full name, phone number and contact email – most people who are serious would not have a problem with that. Address might be important if it involves a visit!

  8. Then you might want to ask them how long they’ve been thinking of having this job done/changing supplier and what has prompted them to ring today. This is really important as you are getting to the crux of the matter, the ‘pain point’ and are getting to understand more about their needs. Which they NEED you to be curious about. It builds a bond once they’ve opened up. It’s far better than a quick call and a hastily arranged visit with sparse conversation. The connection is the most important factor. The feeling of being respected. Of being ‘heard’.

  9. If you are getting on famously, it’s sometimes helpful to ask if they’ve used similar services in the past, and if so, what happened. It can reveal really useful information about what’s important to the prospect and can help you emphasise the right things when you are face to face, or in the email if you are sending one – which would be tailored of course.

  10. Arrange the next step – whether that’s a visit, a follow up phone call or sending information. A visit is always preferable if it’s a service as you can demonstrate your attention to detail and it shows them that you will listen to exactly what they need. If you do this, you’ll be providing them with reassurance and helping them feel confident in you as a person. People buy from people (they think) like them. And if you think someone likes you, you will think they are a great judge of character and most likely, like them back!

So there you go, a reminder of some of the salient points to bear in mind when dealing with telephone enquiries. They are gold dust, the prospect is hot! Do yourself a favour and give them the necessary time and energy and watch your profits grow!

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