Tom Messier

Training the best to succeed

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For any telemarketing/inside sales program to be successful, a number of ingredients are needed. The most successful programs are those that mesh a number of marketing tools together.

Direct Mail. Newspaper. Selected magazines. Possibly broadcast. Certainly sales support materials. Phone sales works best when it works with other media.

And, then you need inside sales representatives (ISRs) trained and ready to go. This list of 33 ideas combines these two thoughts - integrated marketing and sales rep education.

Your aim in using the telephone is to gain a commitment from your prospect or customer.

ONE

The backbone of successful telephone sales technique is precision. You can be warm and precise. You can be persuasive and precise. You can be convincing and precise.

It is most important not to meander, as improvisation will take over and lead you astray.

Since the telephone allows no eye contact, your technique must be precisely on the mark from the opening sentence ... to make certain you gain and retain your prospect's attention.

TWO

Use the telephone to reinforce your direct mail, print advertising, or broadcast campaign.

Telephone marketing has been known to double, triple, or even more, total response of a promotional program.

A call before the program to your customers can generate anticipation and get prospect's to open the mail immediately upon receipt.

A follow-up, after the program is in the marketplace, can answer questions and clarify any unclear points.

The call has the added advantage of making the prospect feel YOU are genuinely interested in their welfare, and that you want a better relationship.

You, as the voice of your company, will be the key to the prospect's confidence, and you'll be a major force in the success of the program. Support media - direct mail, television or radio, or print advertising - cannot replace you and your selling ability.

THREE

Before you make the call ...

Stop for a moment and think just what you want the call to accomplish. In a very few minutes over the telephone, you're trying to gain agreement from one of your most valued customers.

Or, from someone you may have never seen and perhaps will never see. Yet, this person could be one of your most highly qualified prospects. This person could become one of your most valued customers.

Plan your opening with great care. Be clear about the purpose of your call. Know exactly what you want from this customer or prospect. And exactly the steps you need to take to get it.

FOUR

Know your objectives ...

A call before the message is received must be designed to alert the prospect. To get the mail opened and read. Or, to draw attention to a space or broadcast announcement.

You're establishing rapport and making the prospect feel like a special customer. You're introducing yourself as the one to answer questions and give the prospect personalized service.

A follow-up telephone call must persuade the prospect to accept the offer - to sign up. To make a buying decision. The prospect will have received the necessary information to do this. Your job is to get it done, and right away!

FIVE

Calling before the mailing to your customers ...

A schedule must be set so you can time your telephone calls 2 or 3 days before the message goes out. Then they will recognize the name of your company when they receive your mailing, and the information you'll be giving them will be well received.

SIX

Calling after the mailing ...

Follow-up outbound calls to recipients should be made anywhere from 3 to 10 days after the mailing is in the marketplace. In most cases, the follow-up call about 7 to 10 days after a mailing is good timing. Experiment with your calling list and adjust accordingly.

Direct-mail as a door opener can pre-screen your prospects, but you still must sell yourself and what you can do for the customer.

Remember, your goal is to get the prospect to act immediately and sign up for your program, product, or service.

SEVEN

When you place that call ...

Be considerate about the time of day you call - not too early or late. Make sure your prospect is free to talk to you. After you have identified yourself, ask whether he or she can spend a few minutes talking with you.

If you happen to catch the prospect at a bad time, acknowledge this, apologize and offer to call at a better time. And find out when is the best time to return the call. When the prospect is not too busy to consider the offer. The prospect will appreciate this consideration and be more apt to spend the time on the second call, and to accept the offer.

Then, make sure you do call back at the appointed time. Be courteous and helpful. And you're a long way toward making the sale.

EIGHT

Greet the customer or prospect pleasantly. Talk to each person as an individual. Identify yourself and your company. Don't let your prospect or customer guess who they are talking to.

Also, be sure you are talking to the right person. It's easy for the wrong person to say "no" before they understand who you are and what you are offering.

NINE

It's your voice that sells ...

Remember, your voice is YOU in telephone sales. It must do the entire job of getting the sale. It must work FOR you, not against you. Be pleasant. Be interesting.

Your voice on the telephone can give an added boost to customer interest in your product.

TEN

Use the customer's name. It encourages friendliness. And makes the prospect more agreeable to buying from you. We are all vain enough to like to hear our own names.

Be friendly, but be direct. Remember, people don't mind talking on the phone, but they do mind wasting time.

ELEVEN

Come straight to the point. Get your prospect involved with your presentation. Speak the customer's language and make sure the customer is comfortable with the exchange. Don't assume the prospect understands all you say. Repeat important phrases and major points.

TWELVE

Clearly state the reason for your call. Make sure the reason is understood by the prospect. Early! Talk in block statements. Short statements, with open-ended questions designed to gain a response. You want the prospect to get involved quickly and positively.

THIRTEEN

Use descriptive word pictures and examples. Since the customer cannot "see" what you're selling, you must help him or her visualize the benefits. Use colorful adjectives.

FOURTEEN

Avoid technical terms. Take your cue from the customer's answers as to what level of terminology he or she is most comfortable with. In most cases, "techy" terms don't sell.

Even the best-written script will not sell unless the voice on the phone presents it well.

From the opening exchange of words, you must control the conversation. You'll need all the help you can get, and your voice is the key. Your prospect will evaluate instantly and may decide then and there whether or not you are to be taken seriously.

The next nine points are tips to help your telephone voice do the best selling job possible.

FIFTEEN

Hold the telephone correctly. This may appear to be elementary, but telephones are extremely sensitive to sounds, which also means background noise. Hold the mouthpiece approximately one-half inch from your lips.

SIXTEEN

Get comfortable before you dial. You don't want to be fidgeting or sending "nervous" messages to the prospect.

SEVENTEEN

Speak from the diaphragm. Breathe deeply. Most people's voices sound higher on the phone don they really are. Unless you're a natural bass, you nay pay the penalty for failing to speak from the diaphragm.

EIGHTEEN

Pace your speech. Come to natural stops. If there aren't natural stops, create some or you'll sound out of breath. Or your voice may trail off. Don't talk too loud or harsh. Neither should you talk too softly.

NINETEEN

Check your volume. A voice doesn't need to bellow to be heard. People feel comfortable listening to a calm, low, and pleasant voice. With musical inflections and proper emotion as necessary.

TWENTY

Develop an interesting delivery. A flat, monotonous voice is uninteresting and will be tuned out - sometimes in a matter of seconds. To work on this, tape your voice and play it back.

TWENTY-ONE

What kind of image are you projecting? Does it have a smile?

Keep at this until you have a tone that YOU would buy from.

To make sure you're smiling (it shows over the phone) put a small cosmetic mirror close by. Keep an eye on yourself.

TWENTY-TWO

Speak at a comfortable rate for listening. Specialists have estimated this to be approximately 150 to 175 words per minute.

If you talk faster, you risk having part of your message missed. Talking too slowly, though, will lose the listener's interest.

In either case, you can't see the listener to assess their reactions. Only by practicing can you be assured this part of your presentation technique is perfect.

You should also practice a change of pace. A variation in pitch, rate, and volume will help retain the prospect's interest.

Certifications

 

TWENTY-THREE

Above all, make your voice say to the prospect "this is the most important call you have today." Use common courtesy phrases like, "please", "may I ask", "thank you" and "you're welcome".

The remainder of the 33 secrets relate specifically to sales techniques that will work on or off the phone. Learn them well and prosper. Disregard them at your peril.

TWENTY-FOUR

Know all the features of your product or service and the OFFER before you make the call.

Keep the information package in front of you at all times and refer to it as you talk your prospect through the presentation.

Mention the package or advertisement at the beginning of the conversation. Call the prospect's attention to features that were maybe missed on first reading. Establish your credibility early with your product knowledge and expertise.

TWENTY-FIVE

Anticipate objections. Very few sales calls we made without some objections, and most of them are raised because of misunderstanding or poor experiences with competitive products. Know your product thoroughly and how it compares with others in the market.

TWENTY-SIX

Be Prepared to ASK questions that will gain a positive response from the prospect regarding the features of your product. And lead the prospect to the close.

Ask Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How questions.

TWENTY-SEVEN

Present the benefits of your product or service and your OFFER.

All marketable products have been designed with specific benefits to make them stand out and sell in the marketplace. Use a benefit as the opening hook.

The strongest benefit should lead, should give the prospect a reason for listening to your presentation. Then, follow-up with more and more benefits, getting the prospect to agree with you along the way. Go through all of the benefits until you sense the one that's the clincher, and then close the sale.

TWENTY-EIGHT

Attempt to close the sale early on. Try to get a commitment after the features and benefits have been thoroughly explained. And understood.

Begin to lead the prospect through filling out the form or coupons. Make sure he or she understands the option and get a commitment from the prospect to bring the form to your branch or store, or mail it. Or whatever must happen to close the sale.

If you cannot get this early commitment, then you must begin to overcome any objections, answer questions, re-explain the product. Make sure the prospect understands the options of the offer.

You need to be aware of all options open to the customer -to cross-sell or upgrade. The specials The year-ends. The close-outs. All opportunities!

TWENTY-NINE

Be ready to make a complete presentation:

WIN the prospect's attention HOLD the prospect's interest. CONVINCE the prospect of the value of yaw presentation and proposition. PROVE the next logical step is to make a buying decision.

You don't have as much time on the telephone as you would in a face-to-face selling situation, so you can't list and demonstrate all the features and all the benefits of all the products and services you may offer.

Stick to the key benefits and a back up or two. And present them. Remember, always AFTO - ask for the order!

THIRTY

Listen to your prospect.

Learn to listen. It's not what you have to sell -it's what the customer wants to buy. Your prospect may have needs other than what you've discussed. You know only if you listen.

Remember, the telephone is a two-way medium. Only by giving your full attention to what the prospect's saying will you know what you must say to complete the sale.

Do not hesitate to have the prospect repeat something so that you understand it better. Asking questions is the best way to get your prospect involved with you and the product.

Feedback the prospect's key words and phrases. This indicates you're paying attention and that that you understand - that you heard what the prospect said and that you can respond to the prospect's needs.

This kind of paraphrasing leads a prospect closer and closer to a sale. It encourages involvement.

And while doing this, you can listen for buying signals, feed them back, and close the sale.

THIRTY-ONE

The end of the call.

Above all, know when to end the call. Take the time to give the conversation a good ending. Thank the person for their time, regardless of the outcome. Do your best to close the conversation in a way that leaves the party feeling satisfied. End it once you have achieved your objectives, whether or not the prospect has bought.

If it becomes clear there is no interest at this time, politely get off the line. This will leave a favorable impression, allowing you to call back again some time in the future.

After saying goodbye, let the customer hang up first. This avoids the impression of rudeness or abruptness from you.

As soon as you've hung up, write down all the pertinent information about the call. Make note of everything that came up in the conversation that will help you when you make a follow-up call. Keeping up to date information is critical to building better relationships with your customers.

THIRTY-TWO

Now that you've got the guidelines for success, you're ready to organize your presentation and make your calls. As with any one-to-one contact, you should also follow these five key points throughout your presentation:

Exhibit enthusiasm Express confidence Be sincere Be courteous LISTEN

THIRTY-THREE

It's your presentation - control it! Be prepared for a prospect who may lead you away from your main target, which is a sale. Be alert to ways to keep them on track. Stick to your plan, your organized script.

 

accompaniment visit/accompaniment report - when a manager or supervisor or trainer accompanies a sales person while working on the sales territory, usually while meeting prospects or customers. Typically the manager would complete an accompaniment visit report on the performance of the sales person, which would be discussed, and suitable follow-up actions or training agreed.

account - a customer, usually a business-to-business organization; a major account is a large organization; a national account is a customer with branches or sites that constitute a nationwide coverage, which typically requires special pricing and senior sales attention.

active listening - term used to describe high level of listening capability and method, in which the sales person actively seeks to understand how the speaker feels, and what their issues are, in which the type of listening extends far beyond common inattentive listening. Related to empathy and Stephen Covey's principles of seeking to understand before attempting to be understood.

added value - the element(s) of service or product that a sales person or selling organization provides, that a customer is prepared to pay for because of the benefit(s) obtained. Added values are real and perceived; tangible and intangible. A good, reliable, honest, expert, informed sales person becomes a very significant part of the selling organization's added value, as perceived by the customer, if not by the selling organization.

advantage - the aspect of a product or service that makes it better than another, especially the one in-situ or that of a competitor.

advertising/advertising and promotion/A&P - the methods used by a company to publicise and position its products and services to its chosen market sectors, including product launches, image and brand building, press and public relations activities, merchandising (supporting and promoting the product in retail and wholesale outlets), special offers, generating leads and enquiries, and incentivising distributors, and agents, and arguably sales people. A&P methods are sometimes described as above-the-line (media advertising such as radio, TV, cinema, newspapers, magazines) or below-the-line (non-'media' methods or materials such as brochures, direct-mail, exhibitions, telemarketing, and PR); advertising agencies generally receive a commission (discount 'kick-back') from above-the-line media services, but not from below the line services, in which case if asked to arrange any will seek to add a mark-up. See the marketing page.

appointment - a personal sales visit to a prospect, usually arranged by phone. See the appointment-making process.

benefit - the gain (usually a tangible cost, but can be intangible) that accrues to the customer from the product or service.

buyer - most commonly means a professional purchasing person in a business; can also mean a private consumer. Buyers are not usually major decision-makers, that is to say, what they buy, when and how they buy it, and how much they pay are prescribed for them by the business they work for. If you are selling a routine repeating predictable product, especially a consumable, then you may well be able to restrict your dealings to buyers; if you are selling a new product or service of any significance, buyers will tend to act as influencers at most. See decision-makers, and the buying techniques page.

buying facilitation® - also known as facilitative buying, generally attributed (and registered) to sales guru Sharon Drew Morgen. Extremely advanced form of personal selling, in which the central ethos is one of 'helping organizations and buyers to buy', not selling to them. See collaboration and partnership selling at the end of the section.

buying signal - a buying signal is a comment from a prospect which indicates that he is visualising to whatever extent buying your product or service. The most common buying signal is the question: "How much is it?" Others are questions or comments like: "What colours does it come in?", "What's the lead-time?", "Who else do you supply?", "Is delivery free?" "Do you use it yourself?", and surprisingly, "It's too expensive."

buying warmth - behavioural, non-verbal and other signs that a prospect likes what he sees; very positive from the sales person's perspective, but not an invitation to jump straight to the close.

call/calling - a personal face-to-face visit or telephone call by a sales person to a prospect or customer. Also referred to a sales call (for any sales visit or phone contact), or cold call (in the case of a first contact without introduction or notice in writing).

call centre - also called a contact centre (US = center) - a department for outgoing and/or incoming (outbound/inbound) telephone calls to/from customers, commonly now extending to email communications also if useful for customer service, but not extending to email marketing. Call centres can be primarily reactive (inbound) or proactive (outbound - covering telemarketing, telesales, and research), or both. Call centres can be in-house, part of the employed organization, or external, effectively a contractor or an agency. Most modern in-house or long-term out-sourced call centres are effectively customer service centres or departments, containing staff dedicated to telesales and customer services activities. Other types of call centre activities and operations can be concerned more with short-term telesales, telemarketing or market research campaigns. Run well a call/contact centre is a wonderful function. Run poorly call centres are a nightmare for staff and customers alike. Since the 1990s when the call centre function became de-humanised and obsessively cost-driven by many large corporations the nightmare scenario largely applies. Some call/contact centres are now such vast business units that they warrant being 'off-shored' (outsourced to countries with lower costs), which generally equates to corporate own-foot-shooting on a truly huge scale. A call centre which is inherently liable to upset customers due to inadequate levels of customer empathy and service is quite obviously utterly self-defeating. Staff turnover is unsurprisingly a major challenge in call centres.

canvass/canvassing - cold-calling personally at the prospect's office or more commonly now by telephone, in an attempt to arrange an appointment or present a product, or to gather information.

close/closing - the penultimate step of the 'Seven Steps of the Sale' selling process, when essentially the sales-person encourages the prospect to say yes and sign the order. In days gone by a Sales person's expertise was measured almost exclusively by how many closes he knew. Thank God for evolution. See the many examples of closes and closing techniques in the Seven Steps section, but don't expect to kid any buyer worth his salt today, and using one might even get you thrown out of his office. Use with great care.

closed question - a question which generally prompts a yes or no answer, or a different short answer of just two possible options, compared to open questions, which typically begin with who, what, where, when, etc., and which tend to invite much longer answers.

cold calling - typically refers to the first telephone call made to a prospective customer. More unusually these days, cold calling can also refer to calling face-to-face for the first time without an appointment at commercial promises or households. Cold calling is also known as canvassing, telephone canvassing, prospecting, telephone prospecting, and more traditionally in the case of consumer door-to-door selling as 'door-knocking'. See the cold calling page.

collaboration selling - also known as collaborative selling and facilitation selling - very modern and sophisticated, in which seller truly collaborates with buyer and buying organization to help the buyer buy. A logical extension to 'strategic' or 'open plan' selling. See collaboration and partnership selling at the end of the section.

commodities/commoditised (products and services) - typically a term applied to describe products which are mature in development, produced and sold in vast scale, involving little or no uniqueness between variations of different suppliers; high volume, low price, low profit margin, de-skilled ('ease of use' in consumption, application, installation, etc). Traditionally the 'commodities' term applies to the 'commodities markets' which trade and set prices for fundamental commodities such as coffee, grain, oil, etc., however in a more generic sales and selling sense the term 'commoditised' refers to a product (and arguably a service) which has become mass-produced, widely available, easy to make, de-mystified, and simplified; all of which is almost invariably associated with a reduction in costs, prices and profit margins, and which also has massive implications for the sales distribution model and methods for taking the product or service to market. Commoditised products are amenable to mass-market and large-scale sales distribution methods and models, as opposed to specialised or high-complexity products, which tend to require closer customer support and greater expertise and advice at the point of selling and installation, and commissioning and application, if appropriate. An electric battery torch is a commoditised product that is freely available, at competitively low price, 'off-the-shelf' at any supermarket (or via the internet); whereas a holographic projector is only available via a specialised supplier, at relatively high cost and profit margin, potentially without a similar competing product, and requires a significant degree of technical advice and support, and possibly user-training. Similarly, a microwave oven is a commoditised product, widely available, inexpensively, off-the-self from a retail store (or via the internet); whereas an integrated commercial kitchen is a specialised system, requiring a high level of sales and selling expertise, support and installation. Commoditised products sell by the millions; specialised products might only sell in hundreds or less. All consumer products and services become commoditised over time. Virtually all B2B products and services become commoditised over time. Colour TV's are cheaper than they were thirty years ago because they've become commoditised. Same can be said for mobile phones, home security systems, computers; even motor cars are becoming genuinely commoditised. In our lifetimes perhaps so too will houses and buildings.

concession - used in the context of negotiating, when it refers to an aspect of the sale which has a real or perceived value, that is given away or conceded by seller (more usually) or the buyer. One of the fundamental principles of sales negotiating is never giving away a concession without getting something in return - even a small increase in commitment is better than nothing. See the negotiation section.

consultative selling (consultation selling) - developed by various sales gurus through the 1980s by David Sandler among others, and practiced widely today, consultative selling was a move towards more collaboration with, and involvement from, the buyer in the selling process. Strongly based on questioning aimed at gaining useful information.

consumer - in the context of selling a consumer typically refers to a private or personal customer or user, as distinct from a business or organizational, or trade customer. Notably we see this term in the acronym B2C, which means 'business-to-consumer', which describes the type of business in which the transaction and relationship is between a business and a private 'domestic' customer. A household insurer, or an estate agent, are examples of B2C sales organizations. Retail is by its nature consumer business. A holiday company is a B2C business. B2B describes 'business-to-business' - which is trade and selling between businesses.

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