When we’re stuck in the grind of sales, one fundamental fact that’s easy to lose sight of is that our prospects are people first, just like us. As sales people, it’s a perfectly natural instinct to put defensive layers up to protect ourselves from the rejection we face every day, but in doing so, we’ve constructed a barrier that gets in the way of real connection – and lots more sales!
The opening moments are the hardest. You won’t get anywhere until you get your prospect to make the internal decision to have the conversation! Once they commit to being on the phone with you, you both relax. Now you can get to know them and share what you’re offering from a place of genuine service.
So to master your opening, start by asking yourself – how can I help them relax and make the decision to take the call?
Here are 5 tips to start the call right:
Dissolve their screening objections. We all listen to the radio station WIIFM – What’s in it for me. This isn’t being selfish – it’s simply how the human brain tries to manage the constant barrage of information we’re confronted with every day. This is the filter you have to get through in the first few moments of any sales call.
Your prospect’s screening objections (objections not to the sale, but to having the conversation) are the same ones you and I have when we don’t know the caller: Who is this? Why are you calling? Is this of value or an interruption? What’s in it for me? Your opening lines should answer these questions. If most of the people you call are impatient and irritated with you, this is a strong indication you haven’t answered one or more of their screening objections. Go back and re-jig your opening.
Never make someone work to remember you. If this is your first call after meeting someone at a networking event, even if you had a substantial conversation and exchanged cards, it’s important to make it easy for them to remember you. Doing this the right way will help them relax and ‘anchor’ the good feeling they remember from your meeting. Example: ‘Hi Janet, this is David, the financial planner you met at Wednesday’s Board of Trade breakfast. Your question about xx really got me thinking, and I had to call and tell you yy.’
Maintain your status. You made a connection when you met. If you fail to personalize the start of your conversation, you are demoting yourself back to a cold-caller, so it’s important to get this right.
Prepare engaging questions. Remember, your intent for nailing the top of the call is to help them relax and commit to the deeper conversation. Forcing someone to listen to a pitch or jumping immediately into a meeting request will put them in a defensive posture. Instead, prior to each call, prepare two or three open rapport questions that will help you both enjoy the conversation. We’re looking for genuine engagement, so instead of asking ‘Did you like the speaker?, ask ‘What did you think of the speaker’s comments on xx?’ Notice the first question will get you a yes/no answer and kill the conversation. The second one will get them talking!
Have your call to action ready. Before you pick up the phone, decide what you want the next step in your relationship to be. Meet for coffee? Attend your wine & cheese networking evening? Book a presentation? Practice saying it out loud a few times so that your call to action comes out in the same relaxed tone as the rest of your conversation.
Be present! Once you have the above technical pieces in place it’s time for the alchemy that builds lasting relationships. Producing this alchemy is not for the faint of heart! To get there, you need to be truly present with the human being on the other end of the line. Eek!
We cannot know or control exactly how the conversation will play out, so that makes us vulnerable. This is why we resist it! But ohhhh, it’s worth it. The courage to surrender to this unknown in order to be truly present will propel your sales forward like nothing else. There is real joy in authentic connection!
Instead of having a death-grip focus on your sales target, let that go, be in the moment with them and listen. Remember – we are all people first, and we all naturally want to connect. Challenge yourself for one day to be fully present with the people you call and watch what happens.
You have done your due diligence. You are prepared. Now enjoy the alchemy!
And remember… Speak from the heart. It’s good business.
Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach for the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business. Click here to learn more about Kira.