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Opportunity Calling

Reprinted from News-To-Use, Vol.6, No.2.
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I was in the telemarketer's purgatory -on hold -and waiting to see if Mr. Lofty Prospect would "take my call." I expected he wouldn't, and pondered my options.

The secretary came back on the line, "Mr. Prospect a meeting right now. May I take a message?"

For a moment I toyed with saying, "Yes. Have him call me back in the Prize Distribution Department at Publisher's Clearing House; we'd like to know where to send his check," but I chickened out. "Uh, no thanks," I stammered. "I'll try again later."

As I hung up the phone I was thinking, "There must be a better way to do this."

Telemarketing is taking on increasing importance as part of the whole marketing communications mix. Enlightened companies are using it not as a substitute for sales calls, but as a way to qualify prospects, offer assistance and information, and maintain contact during the sales cycle. Lastly, they're using telemarketing to set up a productive, interactive, face-to-face meeting. And it had better be productive.

According to Sales & Marketing Management,
• On average, it takes 3.7 sales calls to close a sale;
• You'll have to talk to 2.3 people in an organization to get the order;
• The average in-person sales call nowadays costs about $300.

You and the rest of your sales force can be more effective on the phone, however, if you'll just consider a small change in perspective. Instead of thinking of yourself as selling a product or service, imagine yourself as an industry consultant, helping your prospect identify the best solution to his or her problem.

We find it useful to start the dialog with a prospect by sending something to introduce ourselves and establish our credibility- this newsletter is an example, although articles clipped from trade magazines or a well-written letter accompanying your company brochure may serve the same purpose. In your letter, suggest a day when you'll be calling, and then make sure you follow up faithfully. When you call, it's a good idea to get to know your prospect's secretary or administrative assistant. Treat this person with respect and you may not only gain an ally in your efforts, you could develop a valuable source of information. With communications already established by mail, you'll find your prospects are generally more receptive to your call. But before you place it, imagine yourself on the receiving end of your own telephone call. Wouldn't you rather talk to someone who was saying, "I'd like to meet with you to learn more about your business," instead of, "I'd like to tell you how my line of custom doohickies can save you money!"?

Customer-oriented phrasing will consistently use "you" statements to let prospects know that their business comes before your sale. Use words like "learn about" and "explore" and "consider" instead of expressions like "tell you," "decide," and "determine" which might leave your prospect feeling threatened and defensive. If you approach prospects as an advisor, you'll be less likely to find an adversary when you finally meet.

Finally, unless you are literally selling something over the phone, don't forget that the ultimate purpose of your call is to establish a face-to-face meeting. Many an over-eager salesman (myself included) has ruined a promising business relationship by blurting out a sales spiel over the telephone instead of listening and trying to establish the more effective personal appointment. Use expressions like, "I'd like to hear more of what you have to say," and concentrate on agreeing to a meeting date and time.

I'll be honest. Calling prospects I've never met is still not the favorite part of my job, but I've come to trust the telephone as a powerful tool for building trust and planting the seeds that grow into relationships.

Ripley-Woodbury Marketing Communications
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