Welcome to our special sales-minded series, featuring conversations with Matt Leddy, a Growth Consultant at OnlyGrowth!
As much as we were all told never to assume, we all still do it. Unfortunately in the business world, this can have disastrous consequences. Matt wanted to talk about one such assumption - that in sales and marketing, it's an either/or situation when it comes to phone and email. Simply put, many people adopt one strategy or the other, thinking that consistency is key. However, Matt points out that this phone vs. email thought process is a false dichotomy: "[a]ll communication channels should work synergistically to underscore your brand and the unique value you offer."
The thing to keep in mind when considering your communication strategy is that anything that can work should work. If it works for you, you should be using it. Otherwise you are missing out on massive amounts of potential. It's time to get back into that oft forgotten but still useful tool - the telephone.
Just bringing up the phone is all well and good, but this is 2017. People feel anxious when it comes to making a phone call. Matt knows this. He wants everyone to get over their fear of the phone. And if you don't? That's alright, because "the secret is, other people are a lot more like you than you think; if you're slightly anxious about talking on the phone with a stranger, chances are they feel the same way." Now that you know both sides are feeling the same, it isn't so bad!
But those anxieties are still pretty distracting, so Matt has a few steps to help overcome that initial discomfort.
The first concept is simple enough: be genuine. Believe in what you're talking about - get behind the value of your offer: "if you're not, or you're just calling to convince someone to buy something overpriced or not as valuable as presented, this may not be the right vertical for you." Once you've got that idea down, relax and be as calm as you possibly can. "You'll find that most people are naturally polite and friendly if you're respectful, nice, and not annoying." This pulls right from the concept of mirroring in human psychology. Ever watched two people arguing, and see how the situation escalates? It works the other way too. So if you're calm and that comes across to your listener, you'll help them be calm. A phone call between two people who aren't on edge is a successful phone call. Make sure you don't start out all wrong.
Next on Matt's list? Be up front:
"Explain exactly who you are, who you're with, and why you're calling right off the bat -- this is essential for putting the person you're calling at ease. Alarm bells go off when there's zero context for a social interaction, so providing an initial framework for why this conversation is happening puts everyone on a level playing field and establishes the trajectory of the conversation from there."
Ever heard of burying the lead? This is burying the point. There is being nice and polite, and then there's beating around the bush. You'll just seem like you're wasting time, and worse, people will think you're trying to trick them into buying something. You need to strike a good balance between being personable and making sure your listener doesn't feel like you're springing an attack on them. Once you've got everything on the table, both your time and theirs will be put to good use.
Well, you've got the introduction down, and you've talked about your ideas. Now it's time to stick the landing - something which Matt also has covered. In the end of any conversation, it's always good to discuss when the next contact will be. It could be over another phone call or switch mediums, but ending with the idea that you'll continue to be in touch is a great way to preface a future relationship. "[This] ensures everyone's on the same timetable and have enough time to get everything together for the next meeting." It is also just a good use of prime time. You don't have to schedule your next meeting, but if you don't you should be prepared to play phone and email tag for an inordinate amount of time - which annoys everyone involved.
Finally, once your call is finished, always follow up "with a short, polite email" that reiterates what you spoke about and thanks them again for their time. It's the ancient rule of thumb when it comes to speaking - tell them what you're gonna tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. It gives you a framework to help you feel comfy, and it will feel like a great, complete conversation.
It's All About the Message
Once you've got the structure of your phone call down, you need to ensure that you are sending the right message. Messaging is important. Here's Matt again:
"Focus on them, not you -- you're here to help solve a company's problem. If you're great at solving problems for companies, you make money. If you cause more problems for companies than you solve, you won't get hired anymore. It's a simple equation. You can even be great at just solving one particular problem endemic to a whole narrow vertical and build an entire business around that."
You need to run with their issues. A phone call that is nothing but hearing someone talk about all the wonderful things they can do only serves to get your number blocked. You've got a short time, so use it to really communicate how you are able to help them. Be specific, and have points in mind. Don't try to wing this phone call; when you're on your twentieth phone call of the day, it's going to get difficult to keep your potential clients straight. You don't want to come off as unprofessional, or like you don't know what you're doing.
So know their problems, and know how you can help them. If you're trying to come up with points but your focus just doesn't cover their needs, don't try to fake it; avoid the phone call. Save everyone's time.
Listening is the Best Sales Practice
It's easy to overload your phone call with your pitch. You need to be careful that you are getting your message across, but leaving ample room for what has become vital in sales: listening. This has been a seismic shift in the sales world, and Matt's got the history lesson down pat: "[e]ven in the 2000's, phone sales were about controlling the sale, memorizing a carefully-honed elevator pitch, getting a yes, and closing. Peoples' sensitivities have increased, with good reason." Your calls are no longer a barrage of information in order to simply have the listener agree to whatever you are saying. This is exhausting, for both the listener and yourself. Obviously having to sit down and hear a faceless voice droning on without pause is awful, but think about having to repeat the same speech over and over again. It's not great, to say the least.
Nowadays, there are so many channels to gather information that "the former authoritativeness of the phone salesperson [is] increasingly [coming] off as incredulity-inducing pitches." Why would they want to listen to you sell them something, when they could go research it themselves?
So instead of blathering on and on to the sound of sighs or hanging up, make sure your phone calling practices include enough time that is just you listening. Like we said before, you need to have done your research. But have questions that are open-ended for the listener; engage them. Don't talk at them, talk with them. Maybe you think it would be a better idea to guide the phone call exactly where you want it to go; it certainly leaves much less up in the air, and puts the power in your hands. However, Matt warns against it.
"You need to understand exactly where they're coming from and why they're hurting before you can evaluate if you might have a solid remedy. Guiding the call in a useful direction makes total sense, but trying to coerce people into thinking what you're offering is great for them regardless of whether it makes sense for them is counterproductive and transparent."
You can be the world's best at whatever you do - but if the people you're working with don't need your skill, it makes no difference. Listening is a basic act of decency, but it is also helpful for you. Use it to your advantage.
Becoming a Phone Master
You need to use every possible form of communication in order to keep in contact with your clients and potential leads. This is going to mean getting over the discomfort of chatting with a voice on the phone. Much like any other profession, there are going to be aspects that you don't like. But ignoring something because you don't like doing it is basically shooting yourself in the foot.
Keep these thoughts in mind, and you'll be able to use the phone to your advantage. Just remember that you're not cold-calling, and you're not aiming to seem like a telemarketer. Don't call during busy times or meals, and act naturally. Once you've established your persona on the phone, you may even find that people are excited to see your name flash onto their phone screen. And the more avenues of communication you have between yourself and your clients, the closer you are to them and new, exciting projects.
Don't write any tools off; you've got incredible power right in your pocket. Use it correctly, and you'll definitely see a difference.