Guest Column | February 8, 2009

Avoiding Sales Call Accidents

brianjeffrey

Written by: Brian Jeffrey, CSP

A sales call shouldn't be something that happens by accident; it should be a planned event. When sales calls aren't planned, they often result in wasted time and effort, resulting in a no sale. No matter how hard you try, you can't make a sale on every call but, as a minimum, you should be either starting a sale, moving a sale along, or trying to close one.

I'm talking about sales calls here, not social calls where you drop in to chat with someone you like and who likes you. Those are called comfort calls, not sales calls. They're usually unproductive but comforting.

Setting Sales Call Goals

Before you pick up the telephone to make a sales call or approach a prospect, you should be setting a sales call goal. Each call should have a specific purpose, desired outcome, or intended result. Before making a sales call, ask yourself, "What do I want to accomplish or have happen as a result of this call?" If you can't come up with a good answer, perhaps you shouldn't be wasting your time or your prospect's time.

Beware of unrealistic call goals. There's little chance of "getting an order" or "making a sale" on an initial cold call. The best you can probably hope for is to get the name of the person you should be talking with. Just getting a future appointment with that individual would be considered a very successful conclusion to a cold call.

A sales call goal should answer one of these questions: "What do I want to happen as result of this call?" or "What do I want the prospect to do as a result of this call?"

Typical sales call goals might be:

  • get the name of key contact(s)
  • qualify an opportunity
  • make a presentation
  • get an order for…
  • get a decision regarding…
  • determine a close date
  • negotiate a sales contract
  • close an opportunity
  • get a purchase order

Next-Call Goals

On multi-call sales, finish the call by setting mutual goals or expectations for the next call. In essence, you're setting an agenda for the next call. Whenever possible, you want to get a commitment on the part of the prospect to do something, and you want to leave the call knowing exactly what you need to do for the next meeting.

Ending a call with, "I'll send out the literature for you to review. If you have any questions, just give me a call. If I don't hear back from you, I'll give you a call." is all right but it could be better. You've left the prospect with no clear commitment for a next step. Ending a call with the following would be even better:

"Let me send you the literature so you can review it and make notes of any additional information you want. I'll give you a call next Tuesday to answer your questions and see what the next steps are. Will that be okay?"

This approach attempts to get the prospect to commit to read the literature as well as accept a call from the salesperson.

Sometimes simply asking the prospect what he wants to have happen next is enough to set next-call expectations. Here are a few examples:

  • "Where do we go from here?"
  • "What's the next step?"
  • "How do you want to proceed?"
  • "What do you want me to do next?"

Whenever possible, put a timeline on these action items:

  • "When should we get together again?"
  • "Can we set a time for our next meeting?"
  • "When do you want me to get back to you on this?"

The advantage of setting next-call goals or expectations is that it makes the next call much easier to start and gives you an opportunity to service the prospect in a personal value-added manner.

Commercial Visitor or Valued Resource

How do your prospects and customers perceive you? Are you someone to pass some time with (a visitor), or do they welcome you because you bring something of value (a resource)?

Most people are simply too busy these days to just spend time chatting with you whenever you happen to drop by or call them on the telephone. If you have something of value for your customer when you call, you become a valued resource instead of just another commercial visitor.

I call this concept never selling empty handed (or empty headed!). Always try to bring something along with you on the sales call that you feel might be of value or interest to the customer.

Typical value-added items might be:

  • reprints (technical article, industry news, etc)
  • trade journal articles
  • industry-specific, general information
  • new product information with items highlighted for the particular customer
  • something, anything, that would be of value to the customer

The idea is to make your prospect feel special. If you know your prospect is interested in a particular subject, topic, or hobby, almost anything pertaining to these areas will receive favourable attention and make you a welcomed resource. In other words, do what you can to ensure that customers look forward to your visits and calls.

Calls to Avoid

Avoid these calls at all costs. They're guaranteed to annoy your prospect and make you sound like a self-serving salesperson.

The Post-Office-Check-Up Call

"Hi, I'm just calling to see if you got the literature I sent."

The What's-Happening Call

"I'm just calling to see what's happening with the proposal we sent you."

The Pick-Up-An-Order Call

"I'm just calling to see if you have anything for me this month."

The General-State-of-the-Union Call

"I'm just calling to see how things are going."

The I-Don't-Know-What-to-do-With-My-Time-so-I-Thought-I'd-Bother-You Call

"Hi. I'm just calling to see how things are going and…" (a telephone call) -or- "Hi. I just happened to be in area so I thought I'd drop in and…" (a drop-in visit)

Doesn't this last approach make the prospect feel real special? You just happened to be in the area? Even if this is true, don't insult a prospect by saying it.

Prevent Accidents

These simple rules can substantially improve your call effectiveness so start planning your calls today and prevent sales call accidents.


About The Author
Brian Jeffrey is President of Salesforce Assessments Ltd. His company works with sales managers who want to make the right hiring decisions and build a strong sales team. For more articles like this and your free copy of "The 8 Biggest Hiring Mistakes Sales Managers Make" go to www.SalesforceAssessments.com.

 

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