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 Tips for Improving Performance in Small Sales Teams

In my years of experience in sales and sales management, I have observed many small and medium sized sales teams. Often, they struggle to perform at capacity and hit their goals and it’s frequently a sales management issue. Sometimes it’s because the CEO or business owner is the de facto sales manager and is wearing many hats. They are often just too busy running their business or spread too thin. Sometimes they’re the technical experts in their field and their expertise and time is being used to improve products, systems or services. It’s sometimes because a top performing sales person was promoted into a sales management role and their strength lies in salesmanship and delivering revenue to the business personally rather than in a broad sense. Below are five things you can do to improve sales management in your company now.

1. Planning

Many business owners have at best a rudimentary sales plan. If they do have one, often times it consists of higher and higher sales goals, without accounting for what will drive that new business. Will a new product line be added, a new market be opened or new additions made to the sales team? Will the company be able to support the added expense while markets are opened and new sales people trained? How much risk will the company bear? A good but simple sales plan takes this into consideration. Takeaway: Make a better sales plan with concrete steps to get to the desired goal.

2. Modernize

There are many new technologies that make it easier to interact with prospects. Among them are CRM systems, collaboration tools, the cloud, dialers, email tracking, prospect and customer information systems. Existing systems are being upgraded all the time with the newest capabilities. All are designed to more efficiently and effectively reach more buyers, disseminate information, warm them up and help make sales. Social media platforms allow a business to extend its reach inexpensively and makes your business more visible to search engines such as Takeaway: Evaluate new technologies on a regular basis to make sure you are keeping up and modernize as needed.

3. Training

Training sales people serves three purposes. The first is that it provides them an opportunity to hone and refresh their skills. The second is that it reminds them that performance is important and that expectations for them performing well are high. The third is that it shows a willingness to invest in them and that they are part of the long term plan for the organization. Takeaway: Make sure you offer training to your sales people every year (a sharp axe cuts better than a dull one).

4. Lead Generation

All businesses need sales and most small and medium sized businesses are subject to the feast/famine paradigm. When they’re busy, the first thing that gets pushed aside is prospecting for new business. Until business slows down. Then there’s a flurry of sales activity and soon business is back where it should be. For a while. Most small businesses don’t have bandwidth to prospect effectively in a consistent way.

Lists should be highly targeted and refreshed regularly. Technology should be used and a proven process followed. The technology should reinforce the process rather than detract from it. Top management should enforce the use of the technology and following of the process. Utilize social media and blogging to widen your reach inexpensively. Finally, no one can be an expert on everything so get help from the professionals when needed. Takeaway: Make prospecting part of the company routine and culture and call in the experts when needed!

5. Measurement

You get what you measure is the old adage and it’s mostly true. The challenge is top management often has a hard time pinning down the exact actions, activities and behaviors they are trying to encourage and measure. Here’s a practical example. Maybe top management believes that offering free webinars will increase sales since it worked well in the past. So the goal is to run well attended webinars.

How will these webinars be promoted to prospects and clients? Will a set of emails be sent, starting a few weeks before the first webinar? Then a prospect list with email addresses will need to be purchased and loaded and a compelling email invitation created.

Will prospects be called and told about the webinars? Then phone numbers will be necessary, a script will need to be created and a person designated to make the calls. To track call results, an activity report should be created and run on a regular basis to test the messaging, to make sure the calls are being made and to analyze the prospect responses. Will the report be grouped by prospect type (or industry or state or city or source)? Then that data will need to be captured or imported for each prospect.

Finally, reports should measure the success of each webinar, so that results can be tabulated. How many people registered and attended are important to measure, as well as what happened to the prospect once the webinar was complete to determine the ROI. Takeaway: Create reports that measure actions, activities and behaviors that drive sales success, run them regularly and share the results.

Five Proven Sales Tips to Manage Objections

Many sales have been lost because a sales representative did not know how respond to a prospect’s first objection. The sales representative may either: allow the objection to stand with a “thank you” and a sincere statement of follow-up, or put the potential customer on the defensive with a statement that could seem argumentative. Both choices are bad for business because they do not result in a sale. Often, the objection the prospect gives is not even their true reason for not buying. To get to the real reason, consider the following five sales tips for managing objections.

  1. Recognize all objections are questions in disguise. Try turning the objection into a question by stating, “That brings up a question. The question is <paraphrase their objection statement as a question>? Is that the question?” This will result in a simple yes or no or they will rephrase the question so the sales representative can answer it. If they say no, proceed with asking them what the question is in their words. As an example, the prospect says, “This sounds great; I just need to think it over.” Sales representative responds “That brings up a question, the question is there are a few key points you may be unsure of. Is that the question?” If they say yes, then now the sales representative has opened a dialogue. If they say no, respond with “What specific questions are on your mind that you need to think about?”
  2. Keep the dialogue alive with the “obviously you” technique to stay on track. This technique works especially well with emotional objections. Listen for emotional cues which include always, never, every time. Then respond with “Obviously you have a reason for saying that. Do you mind if I ask what that is?”
  3. Always ask questions that will get the prospect talkingrather than giving short “Yes/No” answers. The more the prospect talks the more is learned about their business problems. Even the best sales representative cannot sell a solution if the problem or pain is not known in advance. Knowing the customer needs makes it easier to customize the sales message.
  4. Stay on track using the “just suppose” technique. Do not let an objection derail the sales process. Instead create a scenario that takes the current objection out of the picture. For example if the customer considers the price too high rather than cut the price, say something like “Just suppose that price was not a consideration, are the benefits I have shown you of value?”. This is designed to smoke out the real objection and keep the sales discussion on track as it encourages dialogue. Amateurs often use this to close the sale with phrases like “If I could meet your price, would you buy today?” This pushes a prospect who may be only using the price objection as a smokescreen or who cannot clearly see the benefits.
  5. Never “but” the customer. Use of the words “but” or “however” often sounds like rationalization for a poor solution or the beginning of another side to an argument. Instead of telling the customer why they are wrong, use an “and” question such as “And why do you say that (or feel that way)?” The word “and” conveys a partnership message rather than a pending argument.

In summary, prepare for objections in advance of meetings. Think of all the potential objections the prospect may come up with and determine the best way to handle each. Then practice managing those objections in role plays with others before meeting with the potential customer.

Use the five sales tips for managing objections to find the true reason the prospect is hesitant to buy. Do not just leave a sale on the table by accepting the first objection. Instead, learn to manage objections and ask the right questions to increase sales rather than lose them.