Here are five secrets to creating a more effective and more successful tele-prospecting opening statement.
Secret #1: Make the opener about the prospect- not YOU
Your prospects don’t give a hoot about you, your products, processes, services or company. So don’t bother telling them. They only give a fig about themselves and what your call can possibly do for them. Amazingly, many telephone reps don’t get this.
What this really means is that you must incorporate a benefit statement into your opener that gets the prospect to listen and engage. Start by thinking long and hard about your product or service, and then clearly determine the problem it solves or the opportunity it provides for the prospect. This is precisely what your prospect wants (and needs) to hear if you have any hope of continuing further. Incorporate this benefit into your opener.
Here’s a small tip that pays big dividends. Use the prospect’s name twice in your opener. Using their name not only personalizes the call but it also gets them to listen more closely. And of course, it makes the call about them! For the most part, use their first name. It makes reduces the sense of formality about your call.
Secret #2: Sound slightly uncertain
Yes, you read the correctly. By sounding slightly uncertain you build credibility. In B2B prospecting no one wants to listen to benefits delivered in a bombastic manner. Coming on too strong and being overly confident in your claims can create a sense of immediate distrust. Prospects are skeptical to begin with. Don’t augment the situation by going overboard.
The secret to tempering your approach is to be more humble and uncertain. You do this by employing a simple trigger phrase that acknowledges that the prospect ‘might not’ benefit from the product or service. For instance,
“Jan, at this stage I am not certain if _____ might be of benefit to you…”
“Kerri, I don’t really know if this would apply to your situation…”
“Pat, depending on your circumstances, there is a chance that we might be able to…”
By acknowledging that you may not have a solution or that the benefits might not apply creates instant credibility. In a flash you become more believable if only because you sound honest, reasonable and sincere. And by acknowledging your uncertainty you open the door to questioning and close the door to pitching. (See Secret #3)
Secret #3: Don’t throw up on your client
Don’t throw up your offer all over the prospect. I know: it’s a graphic and gross image. I did that on purpose so that it is memorable and that you won’t forget. Successful telephone prospectors know that vomiting an offer simply doesn’t cut it. Prospects don’t have the time or the inclination to listen to a droning sales rep. Do you? Instead, explain to the prospect that you’d like to ask questions to determine if there is an opportunity. This creates a dialogue, gets them engaged and helps open them and respond.
Here’s an important tip: avoid asking, “is this a good time?” Doing so provides the prospect with a ready-made excuse to get you off the line. Instead, use this phrase, “if I’ve caught you at a good time I’d like to ask you a few questions…” Prospects feel like they’ve been asked if it is a good time and are more apt to let you proceed. Of course, you are not really asking about time. You are inquiring if you can ask questions but the prospect perceives that you are being polite and tend to let you continue.
Secret #4: Script the opening lines – word for word
WAIT! Before you flip out and stop reading because you don’t like the idea of a script, hear me out for a couple of sentences. If you’re planning to make a number of prospecting calls to the same target market, it makes sense to script the opener, word-for-word. Not the entire call, just the opener.
I mean, think about it: why would you change it up every time? You’re saying the same thing every single time when you open the call, right. Trying to ad lib the words is a recipe for disaster because while sometimes you’ll be eloquent, most of the time- you’ll be stiff and awkward.
Look: scripting allows you to master the content of your opener. It also controls a variable. You can test a specific opener on twenty or thirty prospects and gauge the results. Then try another opener, word-for-word with twenty or thirty prospects and compare differences. You might discover one works better than another. Et voila! (See examples of openers below). We’re talking three or four lines. Get over it. Master it like a Hollywood star. Pretend you’re Brad or Angeline.
Secret #5: Drill, practice and rehearse
Sales reps worry that they will sound ‘scripted’ if they have a word-for-word opener. Indeed, they might if they don’t drill, practice and rehearse. Successful telephone prospectors practice the delivery and flow of their opener. They work on where to pause, what words to emphasize, when to speed up and when to slow down etc. And speaking of Hollywood, this is the type of thing a top ranked actor would do. If they can do it, so can you.
Prospects evaluate what you say and how you say it. Studies reveal that over 85% of your message is communicated by the tone of your voice. This means you need to get the delivery of these words down pat! This is the most important part of your entire call. If don’t nail the opener, you don’t have to worry about the rest of the call, do you? Master your opener.
Putting it All Together
So what might a good opener look/sound like? Here are some examples:
If you were a financial adviser you might say,
“________ my name is ________ and I’m with ABC Financial. We specialize in helping small business owners develop and maintain viable retirement plans.
_________, at this stage I’m not certain if you’ve established a retirement program through your company but if I’ve caught you at a good time I’d like to ask you a few quick questions to determine if there might be a way to maximize your investments and develop a sound strategy for your future.
Let me ask…”
If you were a recruiting specialist you might say,
“_________ ? This is _________ calling from XYZ Recruiters. We help high tech companies find and keep IT professionals.
“_______I’m not sure of your current situation regarding your IT staffing but if I’ve caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you just a few quick question to see if we can make the process a little faster and a lot more hassle free.
Let me ask you…”
Suppose you are a medical rep, you could say,
“Dr. ______? I’m ___________ with MNO Medical and we specialize in working with children who suffer for ADHD.
Obviously, Dr._____ at this stage, I’m not familiar with your approach to managing ADHD but if I have caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you a few quick questions and, if it makes sense, provide you with some information on a new delivery system that gives your patient greater flexibility in their daily dosing.
Let me ask you…”
The ultimate objective of an opening statement is not to sell or qualify the prospect. The primary goal is to get the prospect to listen a little be longer; to hook them, so to speak. Apply these five and half secrets and your listen rate WILL improve. And when listen rates increase, so do opportunities to sell.