by Cory Koch

Today, nobody seems to be around to answer the phone. You spend time cold-calling, and all you get are voice-mail messages. You know people don’t bother calling back if they think it’s a sales call.

Because I kept running into this situation, I decided I had to leave a voice-mail message that would encourage prospects to call back. I obtained my best results by leaving a message that shows interest in their company by asking a question about their future corporate goals. My message goes something like this:

“Good day. My name is Cory Koch and I am calling you from Whittaker Associates, an economic development partner of the city of Holland , Michigan. We are extremely interested in your company and wondered whether we could have a moment of your time. Can you tell me more about your company?”

Most prospects can’t resist the opportunity to talk about their favorite thing, their company, so they call me back. Now I’ve made contact. My next task is to build rapport. I ask several questions about their company: what they do and how they do it. I never start talking about our company unless they ask. I keep the focus on the prospects. By the end of the conversation, one of three things has happened:

  • I’ve established enough rapport that I can call these prospects back and be reasonably certain they will take my call.
  • The prospects have expressed interest in our company, and I may be able to talk to them about our services right away.
  • The prospects give me permission to contact them again in the future.

Turning Your Promotional Pieces into an Appointment

When you initiate a telephone sales call, it is important to remember that your prospect is not as prepared for this conversation as you are. Before you called, the decision-maker was doing something: working, conducting a meeting, reading, or meeting with a client. His or her mind is still involved in that activity. Thus, your call is an interruption.

In the first 60 seconds of the call, you need to get the prospect’s mind away from whatever he or she was doing before you called and generate enough interest in your call so the prospect will want to stay on the line.

Below are some techniques you can use to turn many of your literature follow-up calls into appointments:

  • Identify yourself and the name of your organization. Never say, “How are you today?” to a stranger. Only sales people address people they don’t know this intimately, so it alerts your prospect that your sole purpose is to sell.
  • Go slowly with your introduction, breaking it into separate sentences. Remember, suspects are still concentrating on something else. Give them a chance to hear you and understand what you are saying.
  • Tell prospects why you are calling: to follow up on the mailing you sent.
  • Inject pauses. Give prospects an opportunity to speak if they want to.
  • Don’t ask your suspect whether they have read the information or have any questions about it. They may not have read it, or they have read it but don’t remember much. You will only embarrass them with such questions.
  • Refresh your prospect’s memory by presenting a brief overview of your organization and community. Personalize this as much as possible by mentioning information you have about your prospect’s company.
  • As soon as your prospect expresses interest by starting to ask detailed questions, begin to sell the appointment–in order to answer their questions, you need to know more about their businesses.
  • Ask for the appointment by giving your suspect a choice between two days. They will likely pick one or come up with a date and time of their own. Do not ask: “When is a good time for you?” Most business people are too busy to have a “good” time.
  • Throughout the conversation, always listen to your prospects without interruption. The more they say to you, the more they become involved in considering the purchase.