As a sales professional, telephone selling is a key element of my sales job, especially in the critical, initial stages of prospecting and engaging new customers. For many sales people this is a frustrating, time consuming, low probability of success activity.
Here’s an approach that significantly improves your odds, provides value to your prospects, gives you important feedback and, for now, will clearly differentiate you from other sales people.
I’ve been thinking about the binary nature of sales prospecting and cultivating initial customer relationships. Consider, with most sales calls:
- We either connect, or don’t
- Leave a voicemail, or not
- Send an email, or not
- The prospect answers, or doesn’t
- Is willing to talk, or not
- Is interested, or not
- Is willing to meet, or not
- Is the right person or not, etc.
Of course, the odds of a favorable outcome for each option don’t favor us.
But what if there were a third option?
I use “second voice vignettes” to capture prospect attention, to help them understand why I’m calling, to get feedback on whether my message resonates or might be relevant to the prospect, to make it easy for my initial contact person to refer me to the appropriate person.
At each stage of the above process it provides a third option that significantly increases my chances for success.
Here’s pretty much how it works:
- I create a short (three minute or less), personalized vignette that addresses the relevant business, sales, marketing or communication issues of my prospect (this is what our business is all about, the process is noted in many places)
- I send the vignette in a VERY short email with a customer oriented, compelling title (the art of this is critical and is addressed well by many experts)
- I make my call and if the prospect doesn’t answer, I leave a message (the message is also critical, covered elsewhere, but it MUST be oriented to the business issues I’m looking to discuss — and not be “pitchy”
- In the message I refer the person to their email “to view a 3 minute custom streaming video that I assembled to introduce them to the issues I’m interested in discussing.” I also suggest that my email be shared with others in the organization who have responsibility for the issues
- If I connect with the prospect, my conversation is very short, issues oriented, requesting of a fifteen minute meeting — but I’m now focused not on binary options, but more open dialog about the impact of the issues, how they are prioritizing them, etc.
- The vignette helps me approach the prospect from a problem solving, educating perspective, to see if they would be open and interested in viewing my vignette. It gives me another tool to support the full range of questions that prospects use to delay and diffuse sales inquiries
- When the prospect views the vignette, I get an email notification (each time). This gives me feedback (and motivation) that my message and issues might be relevant. It helps me prioritize this prospect for follow up.
This method is no panacea. But it is a game changer. It intrigues and captures prospect attention. It helps the prospect understand why they should talk with me. It helps me capitalize on that attention in much more impactful ways than an email message.
If I’ve selected the right issues, I have a high probability the prospect will listen to my three minute message. Think about it — three minutes! Audio and visual impact vs. a couple of text sentences that will be skimmed in seconds from an email.
This always reminds me of the infamous Crocodile Dundee scene when he’s in New York City with his girl friend who tells him to give the punk assailant his money because “he has a knife …”
Once you start using customized, personalized vignettes, you’ll realize the phone and email are limited communication tools for prospecting. You need a bigger knife.