How to Get Appointments Via Phone Calls: Five Tips for Sales Success

Most sales people dread making the number of calls necessary for sales success. Is it because the sales representatives do not know their product or service well enough? Do they have a fear of the unknown? It may very well be one of those reasons. However, the fear typically comes down to a lack of preparation before making the first sales call.

Here are five easy tips that will help in planning a sales call strategy in advance of dialing the phone. Using these can assure success in getting to the next step in the sales process, which is an appointment.

1. Practice what will be said to a prospect before calling. Do not let it sound like there is a lack of organization or that standard script is being read to them. It is okay to have reference notes as long as the sales representative does not sound like they are reading a script word-for-word. If done well, practicing will generate great conversations or voice mails that get call backs.

2. Be interesting! How? Quickly and efficiently, state the purpose of the call. This can be as simple as two or three benefits or a few statements of value for the product or service offering. The best way to communicate is by giving the prospect just enough information to compel them to ask for more information. If sales representatives randomly talk and just throw information at the prospect then they are more likely to reject the idea of a meeting.

3. Be easy to listen to. Use polite words such as “may I”, “please” and “thank you.” Use the name the prospect likes to be called by. Speak louder as it conveys authority. It is okay to talk a little faster as there is no body language interference. Be sure the words come out very clear. Also use “hello” instead of “hi.” If leaving a phone number on a voicemail, be sure to repeat it two times and slow down so the listener has time to write the number down without missing digits.

4. Use an alternate choice close when setting appointments by phone. Give the prospect an alternate choice when setting a meeting. For example, a good message might be “I know you are busy, so in your line of work are mornings or afternoons better for you?” The prospect will respond with a timeframe rather than saying “I don’t have time.” Use the alternate choice method again before hanging up by offering a choice between two dates and times for the meeting.

5. Make the gatekeeper an ally. If the initial contact is the gatekeeper and not the decision maker, it is vital to make them an ally. Gatekeepers are more inclined to make certain that the decision maker receives a phone message if they are treated with respect and not as a stepping stone. With a little imagination, create a compelling approach so that the gatekeeper will not only find interest, but that they will want to pass along the message. Obtain the gatekeeper’s name and when calling back again, ask for them. Build that relationship and watch how sales can soar.

Using the above tips, should produce more qualified appointments. An additional benefit is sales representatives may have more fun prospecting than they could ever imagine.

Overall, successful calls are made by seeking out the right prospect, expressing a sales advantage through the purpose of the call, and by creating a need for the prospect. If sales representatives can manage to accomplish this in a short phone call, then they can prepare for the next step in sealing the deal with an appointment.

5 Proven Ways to Set the Stage for Successful Sales Calls

Selling and acting are similar. Perhaps that’s why I have always enjoyed acting and the theatre as well as my sales and training career. In both professions, setting the stage is critical to the success of the performance. The stage provides the proper environment for the players to perform or tell the story. The top producing reps devote time to setting the stage and the strategy before jumping in to make a recommendation or a request.

You can use persuasion techniques to change or prime your prospect’s perception of the “stage” or environment. Perception is a lens through which we interpret reality. If you alter the lens, you can change how people view and interpret reality and ensure the prospect is ready and open to receive your message. Here are your five tips to successfully set the stage:

1. Similarity – The more similar you appear to the person you are trying to persuade, the more you increase likeability and the more likely you can persuade them. We are psychologically compelled to gravitate toward similar stimuli because people who are more similar to us appear less threatening. This mindset stems from the caveman desire to survive.

Dress similar to your prospect but always be well-groomed as the more well-groomed and pleasant appearing the more persuasive you will be. Of course, discussing shared backgrounds or similar interest generates less threatening conversation. But take care not to fall into the trap of comments on photos in the prospect’s office that may have been placed there to catch smooth talking sales people.

2. Ideomotor response (chameleon effect) – Our tendency is to perform a physical behavior simply by thinking of the behavior. You can gain rapport by mimicking your target’s behavior. When another person imitates our non-verbal behavior it activates the medial orbital cortex and that brain region is associated with reward processing so it’s biologically pleasing. This is not a “monkey see, monkey do” but rather relaxed arms and hands, posture, head nodding, and a sincere smile.

3. Behavioral consistency – When the behavior is not consistent with their attitude, they are motivated to resolve it. Robert Cialdini, noted influence speaker, suggests the “foot in the door” technique to motivate the prospect. First, ask the prospect to comply with a small request such as permission to sit down or to ask a question. You can continue sprinkling small requests in your conversation. Odds will then be in your favor for later larger requests as the prospect seeks consistency with previous behavior. However, do not use the old tricks such as asking questions that obviously require a yes answer. Use true questions of interest that further the sales process.

4. Storytelling – Stories, particularly self-disclosure stories (Who You Are Story) build trust, clarify, enliven, and make relationships more interesting and exciting. A good story follows the hero’s journey outlined by Joseph Campbell. It’s more than cold facts. It includes a conflict or challenge that you overcame and the resulting change or transformation that occurred. This often leads to a discussion of shared values or the prospect’s desired outcome.

5. BYAF (But you are free) – People do not like being pressured into a decision. They fear the loss of freedom. Because their motivational state is perceived as a reduction in freedom of action, it is considered a counterforce and is known as “psychological reactance”.

Research shows the best way to get someone to do something is to tell them they don’t have to do it. This technique doubles your chances of a yes. Suggest action but say “You are free to choose”. I saw an interesting implementation of this technique. A stop sign near my home displays the following: “Rolling stops $125 fine, full stop free. Your choice.”

Tell the prospect up front that there is no obligation. One of the major purposes of the call is to determine if there is a fit to work together. If there isn’t a fit, they’re free to end the current relationship and perhaps re-engage at another time when there is a fit.

Implement these techniques and you will increase your chances for a “yes” in your next customer interaction.