Tag Archives: Voice mail message

Tele-Sales Managers: 4 Reasons to Hate Scripts and 5 Reasons to Love Them

To borrow from Shakespeare: to script or not to script, that is the question.

In the world of B to B tele-sales, minor wars have been raged on whether or not to script the call.  There are those who love scripts and they have some compelling arguments to support their claim.  Others would rather chew off a body part than script a call and have some rather convincing reasons in their favor.

The truth is scripts can work for and against you. Knowing how and when to use them or avoid them is the key to better sales results. Regardless of where you sit on the scripting fence, here is a definitive look at scripts and the ultimate solution to help you maximize your calling opportunities.

The Case Against the Script

1. Scripts Lack Flexibility

Because scripts are highly structured, it assumes your client based is a homogenous mass that thinks, acts and responds in the same manner. You know and I know that just isn’t true. Certainly in a B to B setting, a script tends to lack the flexibility that is needed in a client dialog.  A sales rep has to be able to react and respond to the client depending on the situation and circumstances.  Scripts don’t allow that and that severely limits their effectiveness.

2. It Sounds Canned

For the most part, scripts tend to sound ‘canned:’ awkward, stiff, stilted, insincere, mechanical, belabored, rote, bored, lacking conviction and the list goes on. Unless your sales rep is a particularly good actor who can call effectively delivery his lines, the script rarely comes off as natural.  Your clients pick this up immediately. They don’t have the time or the inclination to suffer through a droning pitch.  Put more simply, prospect know when a script is being read and don’t like it.  And rarely do they buy.

3. It Burns Out Reps

Look at a script from your sales rep’s perspective. In fact, why not give it a try yourself. Recite a script thirty or forty times a day, five days a week and four weeks a month and you’ll clearly understand the impact it has on your rep. Mind numbing repetition will frustrate your reps in record time which leads to burnout which leads to turnover. And that costs you money.

4. Dependency

Once a script is in place and up and running, sales reps become hooked or dependent on them. It becomes difficult if not impossible for them to think out of the box when the client doesn’t follow the script you’ve set. They recite; they don’t think.  Of course what this really means is that you can and will lose selling opportunities.

The Case for a Script

1. Creates Consistency

A script ensures that “everyone is singing from the same hymn book.”  In turn, consistency helps ensure call quality. This gives you peace of mind that your client base is hearing the same thing from all reps all of the time.

2. Shortens the learning curve

A script is easy to learn. Plunk it down on paper and you have a training document. In short order, your rep can be on the phone making calls and making money.

3. Reduces call lengths and increases productivity

A well written script gets rid of useless clutter that often accompanies a sales call. Because it is focused and structured, it gets to the point more quickly; messages are more succinct and better understood.  This efficiency can carve seconds or even minutes off a call. Multiple those by the volume of calls and the number of reps and you have economies of scale.

4. Provides a Standard by which you can coach

But perhaps one of the most significant benefits of a script is that it creates a standard by which a manager can coach. A standard is specific way something should be said or delivered. If a rep knows precisely what is expected, it becomes easier to support it through coaching and coaching is the key to sustained sales results.

5. Allows you to test

Finally, one of the strongest features of scripting is that it allows you to test various components of a call. For example, you could create two or three opening statements and test one against the other to determine which gets the higher response rate. You can do the same thing with offers.  Does offer A out pull offer B?  Because you can control the variables of a call, you can isolate and test one component at a time. In this manner you can determine the best mix of words to get the highest return on investment.

The Solution?

So there you have it: a partial list of the pros and the cons.  What’s the solution?

It’s simple. Create a hybrid. Take the best of both worlds. Combine the good of a script and toss out the bad.

The trick is to use “scripts’ in certain key parts of the call. For example, the opening statement should be scripted. Think about it: your reps are making sixty cold calls per day to the same target market. This part of the call should never have to change because your initial message should be the same from call to call. Scripting the opening statement creates a call standard.  It creates a consistent message that can be coached and supported by you. Best of all, if your reps are using the same opener you can start to test variations and figure out what works best in garnering the client’s attention.

Questioning, on the other hand, is something that cannot be scripted. Oh sure, you can have a list of questions that should be asked but once questioning begins the client can take you all over the map. Your rep needs the flexibility to move where the conversation goes. He needs to “think out of the box.” Don’t script questioning.

Voice mails can and should be scripted. Why? Because you can see what works and what doesn’t work in getting a client to respond.  And dare I say it: test!

If you are using offers as part of the selling process, they can and should be scripted. The offer typically doesn’t change so why change the words? If you allow too much flexibility and free form at this stage you’ll discover that sometimes your reps are eloquent and sometimes they sound like the village idiot. Don’t risk it. The offer is the ultimate hook. Make it a standard, coach to it and watch it work. Or test it. Get half your sales team to present the offer in one manner and get the other half to present the offer in another.

Objections are a more troublesome. The problem is smokescreens: i.e., false objections. For instance, you can have all the right words and phrases to deal with a price objection but if that’s just an excuse to get rid of the rep, then a script doesn’t help, it hinders. Instead, you can develop a ‘call guide” for handling objections. A call guide is a process for a given situation. For example, you could teach your reps a 4 steps process to handling an objection (emphasize, verify/isolate, respond and confirm) which would give you structure of a script but the flexibility of free form.

When providing a solution in a complex sale, your rep will likely need to have the flexibility of  tailoring the message to a particular client. This is hard to script. However, like objections, a call guide can be used to craft a message that provides the client with key features supported by clear explanations and topped off with a benefit or two.

Script the close. You can have 10 different scripted closing lines if you want but you must ensure that the sales rep uses ONE of them.  If you do that, you increase the chances that the sale will close.

Summary

The fact of the matter is this: most B to B tele-sales departments typically don’t use scripting in the management of their calls. They give their reps license to do as they please because of the negative perceptions about scripts. Rest assured, sales and opportunities are being lost because a modicum of structure is not being applied. Script certain key parts of your call and you’ll have added a degree of ‘science’ to the ‘art’ of selling.

And if you’re not a script writer, find one. (see article below) The reps will learn faster, apply the knowledge more consistently and sell more. Period.

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Want Better Tele-Prospecting Results Tomorrow? Try the Squeeze Play Today

If you struggle to reach decision makers, if your messages are rarely returned, and if you’re frustrated with your prospecting results, then try using one of the best-kept secrets of tele-prospecting.

The secret? Call as high up in the organization as you can AND THEN apply the “Squeeze Play.”  You’re gonna love this because it really works!

At first blush, this approach would seem to be just the opposite of what you would expect. Executives (VPs and C-Levels) are tough to reach and getting them to respond is even tougher. Protected by personal administrators and voice mail, the odds of speaking to an exec are slim. So how could that improve your prospecting results?

But that doesn’t matter. You don’t have to speak the executive for the Squeeze Play to work. All you need is a simple strategy.

The Executive Suite

When you call higher up, one of two things will happen. You will get lucky and reach the decision maker or, more likely, you will reach a personal assistant. Either way, you can leverage the moment.

The Executive Encounter

Unless you’re selling a strategic product or service, the chances that the executive actually makes the decision to buy is negligible. An underling usually handles those buying decisions and that’s what you are really looking for. Begin by identifying yourself, where you are calling from and the nature of your call. They key here is to acknowledge that the executive may not be the right person and ask for guidance,

“Ms. Bigge, I know you probably don’t handle this type of purchase but perhaps you could steer me in the right direction.”

You’ll find the vast majority of executives appreciate your candid nature and will give you the name of the person in charge, the ‘underling.’ Now here’s how you complete the call and set up the Squeeze Play,

“Thank you Ms. Bigge for your time. I’ll call ____ today and then I’ll let you know how it went by the end of the week. How does that sound?”

Either the executive will say yes to your suggestion or she’ll explain you don’t have to call back. It doesn’t matter. You’ve set the stage.

The Personal Admin Encounter

You can use the same tactic if you reach a personal secretary. They’ll be glad to refer you to the proper underling. Be sure to thank secretary and let her know you’ll give them an update by a specific date and time.

The Underling – Voice Mail Squeeze Play

Call the underling. If you encounter voice mail, leverage the call to the executive suite and induce the Squeeze Play. Leave the following message,

“Mr. Underling, I was just speaking to Ms. Bigge (or I was just speaking to Janet, Ms. Bigge’s assistant) and she suggested I give you a call with an idea we discussed on how to ___________ (fill in your benefits statement)

Would you please give me a call at ______ as soon as possible as I told Ms. Bigge I will get back to her on Friday at 2:00 p.m. regarding the results of our conversation.”

By telling the underling that you will get back to the executive by a given date and time creates the “squeeze play.” At this point, the underling doesn’t know a thing about you except that you have had a chat with the executive (or the executive office). So naturally enough, the underling feels compelled to respond and reply to you…just in case. Et voila!

The Underling – Live Squeeze Play

You can use the Squeeze Play live as well. In your opening statement, make reference to the discussion with the executive right off the bat,

“Mr. Underling, I spoke with Ms. Bigge regarding ______ (your benefit statement). I am to get back to Ms. Bigge by Friday with regard to our call so if I have caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you a few questions to get a feel for your situation and to determine if there might be a fit.”

As with the voice mail, the underling knows the executive is somehow involved and will likely feel obligated to answer your questions or set up a telephone appointment sometime before Friday. In this manner, you avoid the brush off objections that typically occur.

Keep Your Word

The beauty of the Squeeze Play is that it is legitimate. You have positioned your executive contact so that it maximizes the opportunity.

Key point: ALWAYS follow through and keep your word. Call the executive or admin back as you promised. This can work for you in two ways.

First, if the underling does not call back, you can call Ms. Bigge and explain you made a few attempts to reach Underling but that he has not gotten back to you. Explain further that you will continue to try and will continue to keep Ms. Bigge updated. In this manner, you are not really “tattling” but rather fulfilling a promise you made to the executive.

Second, if the underling does call you back you must STILL call Ms. Bigge. Regardless of whether or not you get a sale or an appointment or whatever, be sure to give the executive (or secretary) an update. It’s not so much they they really need to know but rather an issue of keeping your word and positioning yourself for future opportunities.

Summary

Try the Squeeze Play. It’s easy, it’s ethical and it’s a little edgy. Certainly, it’s different. Most of your competitors don’t use it. Above all, it works very well and that means more decision maker contacts. More opportunities typically mean more sales. Give it a shot

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The 9-Word Voice Mail – That Gets Replies!

This morning my message light was flashing on my phone.

There was five.  Two were rotten messages from vendors and they were quickly deleted. Two were from clients.  The last message went like this:

“Jim, this is Bob Smith (not his real name). My number is ________”

So there I was clutching the receiver thinking : Who is Bob? What does he want? Probably a sales rep. But it could be a prospect. Maybe it was someone who attended one of my sessions.  I just sent out my newsletter, maybe it was a reader.  Could be those computer guys I called a while back.

My spider senses were tingling. Only 9 words. Hmmm… I sensed it was a sales rep.  But, dang, I was curious. I hemmed and hawed for about 22 seconds and then I called the number.  And sure enough it was a sales rep/consultant offering up a service.

I didn’t have a need and so the conversation was short.

But that’s not the point!

The point was his message worked. It got me to return his call. That’s what a good voice mail message should do.

Uncertainty

This message was highly effective.  Nine words! Short, simple, clear, directive.  It was delivered  succinctly and well.  And it created more that curiosity.  It created uncertainty.  I was uncertain about dismissing it, deleting it, or trashing it. It could have been  important. It could have been  a prospect; an opportunity. I did not want to risk ignoring and losing out.

5 Lessons Learned

First, the voice mail message did not try to sell me or pitch me.

Second, it did not identify the rep’s title, company or position. It gave me nothing to help me disqualify the message.

Third, it drove me mad wondering what it was about. It was like a pebble in my shoe.

Fourth, it indirectly played on one of the key motivators: fear (uncertainty).

Fifth, it got me to call back.

Summary

Nine words. So simple. So powerful. You couldn’t get much more of a basic voice mail, could you? But,  sometimes in our search for good solutions we become overly complex; we out think ourselves; or we try to be too clever.  Sometimes simple is the best. Try it and see.  Let me know  how it goes.

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The 5 Voice Mail Messages From Hell – Are you Guilty of One of These?

Here’s the bad news:The overwhelming majority of voice mails are not returned simply because they’re lousy. Period. Worse, every tele-sales rep is leaving the same tired and worn message over and over again. It is little wonder that your prospect erases your voice mail with 10-20 seconds.

Before you can leave a killer voice mail message it is important to know what prospects despise about the prospecting messages they receive.  By knowing what to avoid, it is easier to craft a compelling and intriguing message. Here are the five most annoying voice mail messages.

# 1 The Vomit

The vomit message is one where the sales rep throws up virtually everything about his company, services, results, unique selling propositions, success stories- you name it – in the hope  that something will ‘stick.’  Your busy prospects has neither the time nor the inclination to listen to your speech. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Stop the vomit,

#2 The Bland

The bland message is one that a rep has left for the last 23 prospects  It sounds tired, fatigued and ‘read.’ It screams, “I hate doing this and what’s the point?” With over 85% of your message delivered by the tone of you voice, this message will never inspire a return call.

# 3 The Race

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the ‘race’ message where the telephone rep zips through his script. Rushed and irritated because leaving messages has not produced a single call, this sales rep is simply going through the motions and getting the task over with.  Meanwhile, the prospect picks up every single annoying nuance and just as quickly deletes the message.

#4 The Cheesy

Cheesy messages use hype and exaggeration hoping to entice a return call,   “Hi Amybeth, this is Jim Day calling from ABC Recruiters. Amybeth, if I could reduce turnover by 20% or more a year, would you take a moment to call me back?”  Gag! While ‘benefit oriented’ cheesy messages NEVER get returned because the prospect knows perfectly well that results like that will never happen even  if  Jupiter is aligned with Mars. What they hear is “slick” and untrustworthy.

#5 The Incompetent

Sadly, the majority of messages are delivered incompetently due to a lack of preparation and practice. These message are filled with ‘ums…” and  “ahss…”; repeated phrases; stuttering; throat clearing; disjointed thoughts; poor grammar. You get the picture.

So…are you guilty of one of leaving one of these messages?

If so, go to the “voice mail” category on this blog and get some tips on how to leave a good voice mail message.

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The McCarthy Opener A Different Kind of Opening Statement

“What’s a good opening line when prospecting?”

Next to: “How do you get past voice mail?” this question is most often asked by sales reps who attend my training sessions.  Anyone in sales knows how difficult it is to capture a prospect’s fickle and fleeting attention especially if you sell “like” or “identical” products or services. And if you can’t grab their attention you are not going to sell them.

Here is an opening statement that has had some remarkable success and is something you might be able to adapt to your situation.

The McCarthy Opener

It’s called the McCarthy Opener because I stole it from Ryan McCarthy, a sales rep for Softchoice Corporation, a company that sells computer hardware and software. You can’t get a more “like” product than hardware and software. I have taken a few liberties in the example below, but the key components of Ryan’s approach are evident:

“Jim? This is Ryan McCarthy calling from Softchoice Corporation. We are a reseller of hardware and software technologies.

And Jim, believe me, I know you can get this kind of stuff at a lot of different places. But we really do things differently here at Softchoice to add value for our customers by helping them, among other things, develop strategies to mitigate legal risks associated with software purchasing.

If I have caught you at good time, I would like to ask you some questions and, if it makes senses to do so, provide you with a presentation that explains how Softchoice approaches the market.

How does that sound?”

Initial Reaction

When I first heard Ryan deliver this opening statement, my jaw hit the desk.  It seemed so flippant, so off the cuff that I had difficulty imaging that anyone would give him the time of day.  Well, I was dead wrong.  Ryan went three for three on getting clients to listen. He also used it as a voice mail message and got a response.  He explained that he had tested numerous opening statements and this one had the best hit rate.

Analysis

After giving it some thought, it occurred to me that this opening statement works because it has the right mix of words that conjure up positive thoughts in the client’s mind. When you look at the opening statement you will see there are four distinct parts.

Part #1: Identification

Pretty standard here: Ryan introduces himself and his company. He also includes a very brief description of what Softchoice does. This is helpful for a prospect that may not be familiar with the company.

Part #2: The Hook

This is where the opening statement really excels.

Ryan’s hook begins when he says “…believe me, I know you can get this kind of stuff at a lot of different places.” The statement is absolutely refreshing and candid. No one expects a sales rep to be so forthright; so blatantly honest. Consequently, it catches the prospect off guard and because it does, the prospect is drawn further into the opening statement. He listens because he is intrigued. You can almost hear the prospect say, “Wow, that’s a line I haven’t heard before.”

Because the prospect is truly listening it makes the second part of the hook more effective. The second part of the hook is the benefit statement. Ryan refers to how Softchoice can help mitigate legal risk associated with the use of software licensing.  To an IT director at a business firm, this is a pertinent topic. (Ryan has other benefits that he can insert here as well).

Part #3:  Reason for the Call

The third part of the opening statement is the reason for the call.  Ryan’s reason for the call is to set up presentation call. It is NOT to sell, it is not to send a proposal, it is not to provide a quote and it not even to set up a face to face presentation.  For the prospect, the reason for the call is relatively harmless. In other words, there is no concern that he will be ‘pitched’ a product or a service. This helps drop the reserve that many prospect have with unknown vendors.

Ryan positions it effectively too. He uses the phrase “…if it makes sense.” This is an excellent choice of words.  Again, the prospect does not feel he is being “pitched.” He understands that he is not being cornered. The implication is that if it doesn’t make sense then the call will go no further.  The prospect is put at ease and is more receptive.

Part #4:  The Bridge to a Dialog

The last part of the opener is very ‘techniquey’ but very effective.  Using the phrase, “if I caught you at a good time…” Ryan shows respect for the prospect’s time but he inserts that thought with a request to ask a few questions. He sums it up by asking: “How does that sound?” What this statement really does is it stops Ryan from talking further and gets the prospect engaged in the dialog.

If the prospect says yes, the first ‘sale’ has been made. Ryan has sold the prospect on asking questions. At this stage, Ryan goes on to qualify the account and determines if a follow up presentation makes sense.

Speaking of presentations, Softchoice did their homework. They developed a compelling USP – unique selling proposition- and bundled it into an effective presentation. Obviously, for this opening statement you need to understand and develop your own unique selling proposition. You need to be able to articulate what makes you “different.” You don’t necessary have to have a Power Point presentation but you should certainly have a clear and concise message.

Summary

The McCarthy Openers works well in almost any industry or market. I have “borrowed” the template and tested it with several other clients.  It doesn’t work 100% of the time but it does get more people to listen further.  It works well because it is different and unique.  Prospects have become jaded with slick and cheesy openers. This opening statement cuts through the clutter because it is bold and brassy. It tells it like it is and prospects seem to respect it. Give it a try.

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How to Leave a Killer Voice Mail Message (And Get Your Calls Returned)

Are you getting a decent response when you leave a voice mail with a prospect or are you like the vast majority of tele-prospectors whose messages go unanswered?

Well over 70% of B-to-B calls encounter voice mail so it is imperative that you have a voice mail message that works for you and increases your odds of getting a call back.

Developing a ‘killer’ voice mail message that gets the attention of the prospect and gets your call returned doesn’t have to be a major challenge provided you use this simple template.

The “Only You” Killer Voice Mail Template

First things first, a voice mail message should only be used after you have made several attempts at a live contact with the prospect. Your best bet for success is always a live opportunity. The key point is this: don’t get lulled into believing that all you have to do is leave voice mail messages all day and your phone will start ringing off the hook. Even though this is a killer voice mail message, it comes as a last resort.

Example #1 (to a high tech director):

“Hi Brian, sorry I missed you. This is Katrina LaCorte calling from ABC Company.

Brian, I have a question that I understand only you can answer regarding your server capacities.

Could you please give me a call at _________’

Example #2 (to an engineer or an architect):

“Kim, sorry I missed you. This is Dave Potts calling from Red Laser.

Kim, I have a question that I understand only you can answer regarding the status of your continuing education credits.

Could you please give me a call at_________”

Example #3 (to a chiropractor or other healthcare professional)

“Dr. Roy, sorry I missed. This is Sheri Roland calling from ABC Healthcare.

Dr. Roy, I have a question that only you can answer about lower back pain relief.

Could you please give me a call at _________”

Analysis of a Killer Voice Mail Message

Here is precisely why this is a killer voice mail. First, notice that the prospect’s name is used twice. This is a deliberate ploy. Using a prospect’s name not only personalizes the message but it gets the prospect to focus on the next 10-15 words. In other words, they actually listen to the message rather than dismiss it out of hand.

Next, is the use of the phrase “sorry I missed you.” This seemingly insignificant mix of words almost inevitably draws further attention to your message. An apology about missing them implies a sense of disappointment and creates a “gee-I-wonder-what-this-is-about” sense of wonder.

Third, notice there is absolutely no sales pitch or lengthy explanation about you, your product or your company. Leaving a pitch is typically a waste of time. Not because your pitch was poor but because it lumps you in with every other person who has left a message that day. Think like your prospect! He or she will hear they have seven messages and will quickly want to separate the important from the irrelevant. The moment they start hearing a pitch is the moment they delete or skip your message to move on to items that matter to them. Your message must be distinctive so it doesn’t suffer the fate of deletion.

Here’s the thing: the objective of the voice mail is NOT to sell or market your company, product or service. The objective is to create curiosity and get the prospect to RETURN you call.

Fourth, the heart and soul of this killer voice mail message is the phrase “I have a question that I understand only you can answer.” Think about it: this phrase subtly (or not so subtly) appeals directly to the ego of the listener. It implies that your prospect is the ‘resident expert’ or has unique knowledge that is required by you. There is an air of importance and/or exclusivity to the message and hence, it is flattering and hard to resist. Ego is an extremely powerful motivator in getting prospects to take action and this message deliberately seeks to tweak that inner sense of pride.

(Of course, you need to do your homework and make certain the question is applicable. Naturally, when prospects returns your call (and a fair number will), you need to have ‘the’ question ready to go.)

The last portion of the message is a simple call to action. Ask the prospect to call you back and leave your number. No fuss, no muss.

How to Make it Work for You

Okay, now it’s your turn. Think: what is a vital question that only my prospect can answer. It has to be important and proprietary. Once you have that established you’ve got it made.

Next, follow the template. Don’t change much. Learn to master the template before editing, changing, and revamping your message.

Finally, practice. Practice. And practice again. So much of this message depends on the tone of your voice. You must be comfortable delivering it so it doesn’t sound ‘read.’ It must flow to be convincing.

Summary

This voice mail message is highly persuasive because it leverages the psychological factor. It appeals to the ego without pandering. It creates natural curiosity. It is short, to the point, easy to listen to and easy to understand. It’s a killer voice mail message. Use it and see for yourself

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