Tag Archives: opening statement

The Best Way to Open a Sales Call

by  Kelley Robertson, www.fearless-selling.ca

I was recently asked, “What the best first sentence to say in a sales call?”

I found the question intriguing because I’m not sure there is a single BEST sentence in a sales call simply because it depends on the type of call you’re making. Here’s what I mean.

There are several types of sales calls you can make including; cold calls, face-to-face meetings, follow-up calls, drop-by, product demonstration, etc.

Let’s explore a few of these and see what would work.

Cold Call

The best way to open any cold call is to use an attention-grabbing statement or question that demonstrates your knowledge or expertise. This must be delivered quickly (20 seconds or less) and contain compelling information.

“Mrs. Smith, employee sick days during corporate mergers can increase by 32 percent.” Pause. “What are you experiencing as you merge with Big Conglomerate?”

Face-to-Face Calls

I don’t think the first sentence in a F2F meeting is a deal buster. However, once you begin your actual sales presentation, you need to capture the other person’s attention quickly so always start by talking about your prospect’s situation.

Personally, I prefer to lead with an overview of their situation and then validate this assumption or understanding.

Follow-up Calls

I like to open my follow-up calls with, “Mr. Prospect, as promised, I’m calling to discuss the details of my proposal.”

In most cases, I only need to use this line when I get the other person’s voice mail because we have pre-scheduled the call and my prospect or customer knows why I’m calling.

Drop-By Calls

The most common statement sales people use in these situations is, “Is was just in the area and thought I’d drop by to see if you needed anything.”

Fuggedaboutit!

A more effective opening is to say something like, “I recently came across some interesting research and wanted to drop it off personally rather than send it by email.”

Product Demonstration Call

“Today, I’m going to show you how the Astro-Deluxe 3100Z works.”

Snore…

It is far more effective to open with a question or a statement that outlines how the demonstration is going to benefit the people attending.

“I understand that you have been experiencing problems with…Let’s look at how you can prevent those situations from arising.”

Every sales call has a slightly different objective which means you need to open each one differently. Ultimately, the more you focus that opening on your prospect or customer, the faster you will capture their attention.

Kelley Robertson is president of the Robertson Training Group. Kelley is the author of two sales books, Stop, Ask & Listen-Proven Sales Techniques to Turn Browsers into Buyers and The Secrets of Power Selling. Both sales training books provide practical insights to improving your sales results. Visit his website at www.fearless-selling.ca or call him 905 633 7750

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10 Easy Ways to Instantly Improve Your Cold Call Opening Statement

Without a doubt the opening statement is the most critical part of a cold call. If you don’t grab the prospect’s interest at this point, you  really don’t have to worry about the rest of the call, do you?

Here are 10 ways to make your opening statement better, more effective and more successful at getting your prospect to listen and to engage.

1. Script your opening statement. Yes, SCRIPT it.  Word for word.  Not the whole call. Just the opener  Most people don’t like scripts because they sound ‘canned.’  Instead, they wing it. They think that an off-the-cuff approach is more natural. It may be more natural but it is less effective.  You absolutely, positively need to have a well scripted opener to ensure you maximize the few seconds you’ve got. Remember, if you don’t get them here, you won’t get them at all.

2. Know the primary objective.  The primary objective of your opener is NOT to establish rapport. It is NOT to be their best buddy. It is NOT to pitch the product.  And it is NOT to set up the appointment. The primary objective is to get the client to LISTEN another twenty or thirty seconds. It’s to hook them. It’s to get them curious…skeptical, maybe … but curious enough to give you a little more rope. (See Point #7 to learn how).

3. Do NOT ask “How are you today?” Survey after survey reveals that prospects think this is a trite and insincere question. And they are right.  This question labels you as a ‘salesperson’ right off the bat and it puts your prospect on the defensive. Eliminate it.

4. Never ask, “Did I catch you at a good time?” or words to that effect. When you do, you give your prospect a ready-made excuse to get rid of you.  Instead, use this handy little trigger phrase, “Brian, if I have caught you at a good time, what I would like to do is ask you some questions…” The prospect senses that you’re asking if it’s a good time but what you are really saying is that you’d like to ask some questions. This is a VERY good technique.

5. Don’t say “We are a leading supplier (provider) of …” Boring!  Everyone says that. It’s a lame claim.  Who cares? Who believes it? What the heck does it mean anyway? If you want a prospect to sit up and take notice, use adverbs that describe the problems that you solve.  For example, an investment adviser might say,  “I work with single moms who are worried about  financing their children’s education.” A recruiter might say, “I work with HR departments who are frustrated with the quality of candidates.”

6. Tell the client precisely why you are calling. Remember: your prospect is not expecting your call. You are catching him off guard. Their focus is random. Therefore your message has to be succinct and to the point.  Tell them precisely what you want.  In the above example, the reason is clear:  “… what I would like to do is ask you some questions…”

7. Provide a benefit. Please.  Sadly, this  is the most ignored component of an opening statement.  This is how you get the prospect to LISTEN longer (see Point #2).  When you script your opener put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask “Why should I care?”  You must be able to answer that inevitable question, ‘what’s in it for me?’ The more specific, the better.  What will working with you (or buying from you) do for that prospect?

8. Bridge to a question and get the prospect involved. Once you’ve identified yourself, your company, the reason for the call and the benefit, ask a question. This will not only get the prospect involved and engaged but it will also stop you from pitching further. It creates a dialogue. It eliminates a monologue.

9. Practice until you are blue in the face.  Every word, every nuance, every syllable must be practiced until it is delivered with conviction. If you don’t practice, your opener will sound read.  And that’ll be the end of the call. If you don’t practice, you’ll start to wing it and that will dilute the quality of the call. And that too, will be the end of the call.  You’re on stage. Deliver your lines like a Hollywood star.

10. Stay disciplined. Stick to the script you’ve developed for the first twenty five live calls.  Don’t change a word. You’ll be tempted to edit after every call. Note your thoughts but do NOT change it. It will take that long for you to feel comfortable with the words and it will take that long to evaluate the prospect’s response.  Only then should you go back and edit your opener.  But only change one component of the opener. In doing so, you are controlling the ‘variables.’ If you revamp the entire thing, you won’t know what was working and what was not. Change your benefits. Or change the reason for you call. But do so, one at time and make another twenty five calls.

Give your opening statement a tune up by following these tips. They will help set you apart from all the other vendors, advisers, coaches, consultants, telephone selling reps etc. who call those same prospects.

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8 Tips on How to Make A Perfect Follow Up Call

In many ways, a follow up call to a prospect is more challenging than a cold call.

Typically, it’s the follow up call that really gets the sales cycling rolling. It’s here where value truly begins to manifest itself. It’s here where substantive information is gathered; and it’s here where the relationship begins to establish itself.

So that’s why it is absolutely vital to have a superb follow up strategies and tactics so that you can make the most of the moment. Here are eight tips to making a perfect follow up call.

Tip #1: Get commitment for the follow up.

Perhaps the single biggest mistake reps make is not establishing a specific date and time for the follow up call at the end of their initial call. Vague commitments from the prospects (“call me next week”) or the sales rep (“I’ll send the proposal and follow up in a couple of days”) result in missed calls, voice mail messages and ultimately a longer sales cycle. All you need to do is simply ask for a follow up date and time. For instance:

“I’ll be glad to write up the proposal (quote, whatever) and e-mail it to you. And what I would like to recommend is that we set up Tuesday, the 16th, at say, 8:45 to review it in detail and determine the next steps if any. How does that sound?”

If this is not a good time, recommend another time. If that doesn’t work, get them to establish a time and date.  Creating a deadline is a simple but extremely powerful tactic. Use it.

Tip #2: Build equity and be remembered

Here’s another huge tip. After every call to a first time prospect, send a thank you card. Handwrite a message on small thank you card that simply says, “John, thank you for taking the time speaking with me today. I look forward to chatting with you further on the 16th! Kind regards. . .”   No more, no less.

In today’s fast paced world, a hand written card tells the client that you took the time and the effort to do something a little different. At some level this registers in the client’s mind and creates a degree of “equity” in you. It differentiates you and it gets remembered. And it gives the client a reason to be there when you make you follow up call.

If you don’t think a card will get there in time, send an e-mail with the same note. Just be aware that an e-mail does not have nearly the same impact as a handwritten note.

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How Mr. Spock Would Plan and Prepare for a Follow Up Call

Mr. Spock, the venerable Vulcan from Star Trek would make a heck of a B2B telephone rep especially when it comes to making a follow up call to a prospect.

In many ways, a follow up call is more significant and critical than the initial cold call.  While the cold call may have initiated the sales cycle, the follow up call (or calls) completes it. It is here that the prospect turns into a customer … or at least takes another step down the path to becoming a customer.    Whether you are following up on a proposal or quote or webinar or whatever, making the most of the moment is the key to success.

Enter Spock.

Just in case you have never followed Star Trek,  Vulcans are a humanoid species that value and cherish logic above emotion.  They are trained from birth to think, analyze, and prepare for virtually every situation and event.  And that’s precisely why Spock would be magnificent with his follow up calls. His dedication to logic and planning would ensure a highly effective call and increase his chances for a sale.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be from another planet to be successful with your follow up. All you need to do is apply Spock-like principles to the planning and preparation of your call.  To help you with the process here is a downloadable call guide to get you thinking like a Vulcan.

Mr. Spock’s Tele-Prospecting Follow Up Call Guide

Spock’s tele-prospecting follow up guide is really nothing more than a job aid that you can use with each and every follow up call. It provides you with a 7-step process for organizing and planning your call.

1. Background Information and Assessment

The first step to a Spock-like call begins with a review of your last call to the prospect.  What was the key motivator that you uncovered? What were the hot buttons? Was there any personal information you can use to build rapport?  Note these items in the space provided on your guide.

Of course, all this really does is force you to pause and ponder.  It gets you to think before you dial. It takes only seconds but it will give you insights on how to proceed.

2. Objectives of the Call

It would not be logical for Spock to pick up the phone without having clearly defined objectives. Objectives force you to precisely determine what you want to achieve on the call.  Spock’s call guide forces you to prepare at least three objectives.

The prime objective (#1)  is the ultimate goal for that particular call. In a perfect world, this is THE NUMBER ONE thing you want to achieve.  In many cases, that objective is a sale but depending on the nature of the transaction, it might be something that moves the sale further through the cycle. Either way, it is definitively established.

But Spock’s approach  goes two steps further by getting you to establish at least two additional back up objectives. These are goals you would like to achieve in addition to the primary objective. Or they might goals you’d like to achieve if the primary goal is NOT met.  In other words, it is a means of salvaging the call should a sale or an advance not occur.

3. Opening Statement

Spock would never speak to the prospect without having prepared his opening statement because he would know that this is the most critical component toa follow up call. It is here, at this precise moment, that the prospect’s interest must be re-kindled and nurtured. Prospects are busy. They either forget what prompted them to agree to your follow up or, over  time, the sense of urgency has diminished.

Whatever the case may be, it is vital that you quickly bring the prospect up to speed to capture and keep their interest. Prepare your opener word for word and don’t wing it.

After introducing yourself and your company, take the prospect back to the prime motivator that was uncovered in the initial cold call AND the benefit that you could provide.  This gets the client engaged and actively listening! Secondly, provide an agenda of what you’d like to accomplish in the call. This primes the client for the remainder of the call. It creates focus and efficiency. For example,

“Hi Carson, It’s Mr. Spock calling from Trek Training.

Carson ,when we  last spoke on Monday you indicated that the average value of your sales were down and this was impacting your bottom line.  At that time I promised to send you some ideas on how add on selling training could help improve the average value of a sale by as much as 25%. I sent that on Tuesday.

What I’d like to do is explore your situation a little further,  review the proposal I sent and, if it makes sense, determine the next steps, if any, relative to training…”

4. Key Question, Key Points, Potential Objections

Bearing in mind your objectives, prepare three other elements to your follow up call.

First,  prepare a few ‘killer’ questions to gather more information and ‘build your case’ for a sale. Killer questions are those that get the prospect to THINK.  For instance, questions that get the prospect to quantify the ‘pain’ they’re experiencing . In turn, this magnifies the need for your solution.

Second, prepare a  list of 1-3 key selling points that support the solution that you’re offering.  Jotting these points down will  act as a prompt when you present.. It ensures you don’t forget!

Finally, Vulcans know all about contingency planning. Objections can derail your call in a New York minute.  Listing the typical objections that the prospect might toss helps ensure you’re not caught off guard.  It takes only seconds but it gets your mind oiled and greased.

5. Notes

Spock probably doesn’t need to take notes because he has a mind like a steel trap. But unless you have that Vulcan-like quality taking notes is a heck of a way to stay focused and to remember key points, objections or issues. Don’t argue. Just do it.

6. Actions Plans

Spock’s guide also provides space for you to list any actions that might ensue as a result of your call. Of course, a sale would be great but sometimes you need to take a few additional steps to move the cycle forward.  Whatever the case, note it.

7. Voice Mail Strategy

If Spock called and the prospect was not there at the appointed time,  he’d have his voice mail prepared and ready to go. He would not stutter and stumble and ramble about.  Do the same thing.

Summary

Spock’s call guide is not complex.  In fact, it is common sense.  Vulcans have common sense in abundance. Humans sales reps often don’t. Ultimately, the call guide creates a discipline process that trains your mind to thinking in a logical, step-by-step process. All it takes is a couple of minutes to complete. Peanuts.  Use this guide to provide structure, direction and focus. When you do, you’ll get better results.

Sell well and prosper!

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“I am Not Interested” Dealing with the Ultimate Brush Off Objection

Nothing, absolutely nothing, cuts a conversation shorter with a prospect than a brusque, “I am not interested.”

The selling arena across North America lies littered with “dead and wounded” sales reps that were slashed by these four words.  Knowing how to how to respond to this objection can make your sales life a whole lot easier.

Why Are They Not Interested

When a prospect says, “I am not interested” (IANI) do they really mean it?  Perhaps in some cases this is true but what prospects really might be saying is:

“I might be interested …but I have been inundated with sales reps who have wasted my time and I suspect you are yet another …so, I am not interested now!” or,

“I might be interested… but I have something more pressing on my plate and I don’t want to be bothered right now… so I am not interested now.” or

“I might be interested … but I am getting ready for vacation and I want to be out of here by 2:00 …so I am not interested now.” Or

“I might be interested … but on my own terms…so I am not interested now.”

The IANI objection is not so much that they are not interested but rather that you caught them off guard and they are not prepared for your unsolicited call. Their objection is not grounded in anything real or rational. Their objection is a “knee jerk” reaction which means it is automatic or spontaneous; an automatic reflex brought on by your unsolicited call.

By way of comparison, think of the times you have been to a retail store and a sales clerk comes up to you and asks “May I help you today?” The vast majority of us automatically respond by saying, “No thanks, just looking.”

Why? Because we don’t want our space invaded; we are not ready for a pitch; we don’t want to be sold. The same holds true for the unsolicited calls you make.

And the trouble is: we as sales reps tend to reward our prospects by murmuring an apology and hanging up. Prospects have learned that the IANI objection is a fast, easy and highly effective way to brush you off and if you continue to reward them, your days in sales will be agonizing.

What Not Say

Of course, not every sales rep gives up so easily. A few manage rebuttals like:

“How can you say you are not interested when you haven’t heard what I have to say?” or

“What are you not interested in?” or

“Fine. If you don’t want to save money it’s up to you!”

While these remarks may make YOU feel good for a moment or two, they won’t do a thing for the prospect. Let’s face it, they are confrontational.  You might win the verbal battle but you lose all opportunity to sell. These statements do nothing for you except annoy the prospect. They will either give you an earful or hang up; probably both. They don’t work. Don’t use them.

What to Say

Assuming you have a decent opening statement and it is delivered well, here is an extremely effective template that you can use with some minor tinkering. There are several examples to illustrate the point. Suppose you sell to IT directors, your reply to the objection might look like this:

“Oh, I am sorry. I was given to understand that you were the person in charge of reducing IT costs and ensuring software compliance. Can you tell me who I should speak to?”

Suppose you sell safety or health programs to manufacturers and distributors:

“Oh, I am very sorry Mr. Jones.  I was given to understand that you were the person in charge of reducing death and injury on the job site. Can you please tell me who I should speak to?”

Suppose you are speaking with an office manager in a professional office:

“Oh, I am sorry to bother you. I was given to understand that you were the person in charge of reducing operating costs and improving efficiencies. Could you tell me who I should be speaking to?”

Why it Works

This reply is absolutely and positively brilliant and ingenious because it is rich in psychology. The reply works extremely well because it subtly and politely shames the prospect. It indirectly reminds the prospect that one of their key responsibilities is to reduce costs, or eliminate injuries or improve efficiencies or minimize risk or whatever the benefit might be. The reply suggests and hints and alludes to the fact that they are shirking their responsibilities. It’s a wake up call and you delivered it. Powerful stuff, here!

Because your reply implies that you are talking to the wrong person, it doesn’t look or sound like you are chastising the prospect. It sounds like you made a genuine mistake and that you are sorry for interrupting but you would like to find the person who IS responsible for these major benefits. In effect, it looks as though you blew it … rather than the prospect.

Dozens of sales reps who have used this technique have reported to me that the prospect typically murmurs something like, “Ah…er…what’s this about?” When that happens, you have won. It doesn’t mean you will get a sale but it does mean you can move further into the sales call.

Delivery

NOTE: The words are clever and compelling but what really will make this response work for you is your delivery and the tone of your voice.  When you apologize, your tone must be sincere. You must sound like you too were caught off guard.  Butter must melt in your mouth when you ask for the “correct” decision maker. In effect, you are in the spotlight and you must deliver your lines well. If you don’t, you can sound sarcastic and flippant. Needless to say, the response will then back fire.

What this really means is that you must practice your lines. Practice being sincere and contrite. Have some fun, practice a little quiver in your voice. Practice pausing and sounding like you were caught unaware. Practice. Practice is what makes this work.

Summary

Of course, there will always be prospects who will simply hang up after uttering IANI objection. There will be others who listen to your reply and hang up regardless. So it goes. The point is this technique will salvage some prospects. It will temper their knee jerk objection and give you another opportunity to sell. Finally, ask yourself this: what is the worst that can happen?  The prospect can hang up on you but he or she was going to do that anyway. So give it a try and let me know how it goes.

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7 Cold Call Opening Statements From Hell

When cold calling, the opening statement is THE most critical element to your success. If you don’t nail the opener and get the prospect’s attention, you needn’t worry about the rest of the call. In short, you can’t afford to make a mistake.

Regrettably, mistakes are made but the troubling fact is that the SAME mistakes are made repeatedly, every day, by thousands of sales reps.  Here are seven cold call opening statements that illustrate the typical blunders tele-prospectors make.  Are you guilty?

Example #1: “Hey Pete, How are you today?  This is Jane Seamore calling for H8 Enterprises. Have you heard of us?”

Two points here. First, “how are you today” is insipid, trite and wastes precious time. Prospects don’t like it so don’t use it. Secondly, the hope is the prospect will say, “Why no, tell me more about your company because I have loads of time on my hand.” Of course, they don’t. They don’t have time for idle chit chat and irrelevant questions. Cut to the quick. Get to the point.

Example #2: “Katie? Henry Eighthly calling from Tower Transport Logistics in London.  Katie, the reason for my call is to follow up on an e-mail I sent you on how we can reduce your long halls shipping costs.  Did you get it?”

In this example, Henry just handed the prospect a bona fide objection on a silver platter. About 95% of the time the prospect will say “no” and ask you to send it again. They get rid of you in a New York minute and then  they’ll avoid your call like the plague when you follow up. Never ask if they got something or read something.

Example #3: “Oh hi. Is this the safety manager? Good. I’m Justin Kovalev calling from Senator Safety products. We specialize in safety communications programs. Did I catch you at a good time?”

Notice, the rep did not use the prospect’s name. Using the name helps get the prospects attention. Not using a name screams that you haven’t done your homework. Next, nothing will stop a cold call faster than asking if you have caught them at a good time. Sure, it’s polite but it’s never a good time. They’re busy and you’ve given them a great way to blow you off. Instead,  use this handy trigger phrase:  “If I have caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you some questions to get a feel for your situation…”

Example #4: “Ms. Harris, my name is Mary Worth and I’m a financial adviser who works with single moms who struggle to plan their financial future.  Let me ask you, what are some of the personal challenges you’re experiencing when it comes to planning for your kids’ education?

Aw shucks, this started so well! The unique proposition statement is great. However, the following question is a real cold call killer. Who in their right mind would open up to such an intimate and personal question in the OPENING statement? Never, ever make your first question something that is challenging, embarrassing, personal or awkward.  Sure, it’s a bold and enticing question but you haven’t earned the trust or the right to ask it at this moment. Start with an easy question to get a wedge in the door.

 Example #5:  “Hi, this is Mark Major from Mensa Medical. We specialize in a variety of hospital supplies.  I was wondering: what would it take to earn your business?”

This opener has been around since 1953. It was cheesy then and it is cheesy now. Translated, it is saying is this: “I don’t want to earn your business the old fashioned way through a needs analysis. I want you to make it easy for me, a stranger, and just tell me.” There is no attempt at rapport and there is certainly no benefit to the busy prospect.

Example #6:  “Antonio? My name is Brandon Mirovich calling from Vaststar Software.  We work with HR professionals helping them streamline their personnel review processes. Antonio, if I could show you a way to reduce the time it takes to write, conduct and complete a personnel review by 50%, would you take a moment to listen?”

This opener seems to offer a rich benefit. You’d think the prospect would be salivating. The trouble is, this opener has been overused for 27 years.  Every prospect has heard it at least seventeen or eighteen times in their career. And this has made them skeptical and cynical. High falutin’ promises and benefits are seen as slick and untrustworthy. So, when you offer your benefits, make them reasonable, not ridiculous.

Example #7:  “Dr. James, this is Tracie Hardie calling from Orbital Dental. We’re the dental specialists. Dr. James, we offer a wide range of  (insert a 600 word pitch) blah, blah, blah.”

Sadly, this is STILL the most common cold call opener: The telemarketing pitch. The idea is to vomit and spew out information and hope that something sticks. No one wants a monologue, sermon or speech. Your cold call opener must have your full name, company name, a reason for the call, a benefit as to why they should listen further, and finally a question that gets a dialog going.

Cold calling doesn’t have to a hellish experience. Give yourself an edge and make the process easier by avoiding these seven blunders.

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