Time and time again I speak to salespeople of all ages and all different levels of experience about the challenges they face on a daily basis. There is one common denominator in all my conversations with people who sell on the telephone or use the telephone as part of their sales communication,what is it? I hear you saying.
The answer is ‘setting sales appointments over the phone’ so often people ask me as part of their sales training or on sales training courses, are we going to cover ‘setting sales appointment over the phone?’ For some reason this is very difficult for most salespeople and I can understand the reason why…..it’s not easy
Even though it is not easy it can become much easier with practice and with some sales training and sales tools that may help you going forward to improve and become more confident in using the phone as a way to obtain sales interviews. The purpose of this blog is to try and help all of you people who are involved in setting sales appointments over the phone as part of your day to day job role.
The first hurdle we have to cross is getting the prospect to remain long enough on the phone for you to have a conversation with them. This is possibly the most difficultof all parts of the telesales process, what we need to consider is that for most of you making outbound calls off a database the prospect is not expecting the call.
You need to picture what it is like for the prospect who may be in the middle of something and the phone rings and at that particular moment in time they have no interest on talking to you, so we really have to find a way of trying to help ourselves in this situation, so how do we do this? We will cover the key areas that will help you to achieve this in the next few steps.
This is absolutely vital, if you are involved in telephone prospecting/canvassing or selling you must have your preparation done. In sales training it is often said that we must get comfortable every morning planning our work and working our plan we need to get good at a thing called the 5 Ps
Positive – Planning – Prevents – Poor – Performance
The greatest problem we have if we are not prepared is that we will try and make every excuse to not pick up the phone because of fear of rejection, so we really need to set ourselves some SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time framed) goals for each day in terms of planning and preparation.
In fact if you were to google today what are the functions of a Manager it will say things like:
Although many of you may not be managers you still need to manage your day, so you need to carry out very similar functions to those quoted above. You as salespeople who are employed to get good at setting sales appointments over the phone will also need to plan, organise and implement your day just the same as a manager would do
When we have done our homework and have planned properly we need to be dressed and ready to go, but before we make any calls we must know the following:
- Who we are going to call
- When is the best time to call them (based on your business and their business)
- What are we trying to achieve in the call
- What is our primary objective
- What is our secondary objective
- Why should they listen to us
- What are the benefits to them of what I am trying to do
- What am I going to say, what is my opening statement going to be?
- How can I grab their attention
If we are looking at setting sales appointments over the phone then we need to make sure we start the call correctly. It is often said in sales training thatthe only way you can keep a prospect on the phone long enough to create meaningful engagement is if you can find a way of hooking them in on your opening statement. Some people refer to this as an opening benefit statement.
In simple terms your reason for call has to be about how you can help the prospect to overcome a specific need that they may or may not be aware of.
#2 Opening Benefit statements (creating the hook)
As was mentioned earlier that prospects only tune in if they feel it will be of benefit to them, sometimes in training we talk of a thing called tuning in to ‘radio W1 1FM’ The reality is there is no such thing as radio W11FM, but it is used as a reminder to salespeople who work in the area of telesales and appointment making to think of the acronym WIIFM which means:
What’s In It For Me
We have to find a way to let our prospects know what’s in it for them in the opening statement of our call, if we are setting sales appointments over the phone we have to at least get engagement as quickly as we can to stand any chance of keeping the prospect on the call long enough for us to try and get to the end goal of the call which is all about setting sales appointments over the phone
Let’s take a look at what I mean with a few examples:
my name is Frank and the reason I am calling you today is I work for a company who specialise in exterior paint, we have been established since 1990 and I believe we have a great range of colours.
Although there is nothing really wrong with what is being said it is highly unlikely the prospect will say—I am delighted you called I was sitting here in my office and hoping someone would call me from a company who have been in business since 1990. There is no real compelling reason for the prospect to want more information or indeed have any curiosity or be hooked into the call.
This is typically the type of opening that will get a response like, ok thank you I am alright for everything.
It is often said in sales and in fact I remember someone on a sales training course saying this 40 years ago, people buy for 2 reasons and those reasons are based round ‘The fear of loss or the desire for gain’ Even though I first heard this 40 years ago I am not sure that it has changed that much even today, I think it could still be very appropriate.
There are a few other areas that have created reasons for people to purchase that may be a little more modern or up to date, such as keeping up with the neighbours, greed and jealousy. I also believe that in my day most people bought because they had a need. Nowadays people can buy for either a want or a need, they may just want a product as opposed to need it .An example of this would be in my parents’ generation people would never replace the television unless the TV was on its last legs and needed to be replaced. Earlier today I was in my garage and saw a 40’’ television in the corner that we put in the garage about a year ago, as we replaced it for a newer larger model. When we placed that TV in the garage it was working perfectly but we decided we wanted to upgrade as opposed to needed to upgrade. The likelihood is now the TV in the garage probably wont work because damp has probably got into it
What we really need to work onin order to get good at setting sales appointments over the phone isto establish how to create a grabbing curiosity type reason for call which will arouse an interest in the prospect. Easier said than done but if we just try and think of what we feel may be important to our customer we will definitely have a good chance of creating an opening reason for call benefit statement which can work. I fully understand that this will depend on the customer and their business but generally here are some thoughts that customers often have in common, which you may be able to introduce as [part of the opening statement
They are looking at ways to spend less or make their budget stretch further
They are possibly looking at better turnaround times for delivery or a product
They are looking at ways to make them more secure
They are looking at ways were they can save time
They are looking for better terms of business credit/guarantees/minimum orders/stock keeping/marketing/merchandising/floor space/footfall
The lists are endless and depending on the business and the customer that you are setting appointments over the phone with, we have to pick the right one for them.
I suppose the old reliable is always time and money and it still works, we need to have an introduction that will hit the appropriate want and need of the customer to create a hook or curiosity
If we look at the example 1 above and change it to include some chance of curiosity it may sound something like this
Hi John, Frank here from ABC Company, depending on what paint is the most popular for your customers, I have an idea that might be able to reduce the amount you spend each month to help you cut down expenses and make more profit. I really don’t know if it would work for you, but can I just ask 3 short questions to see if it may help.
The likely outcome is at least the customer will ask well what is it? Then it is up to you to engage in questioning techniques to establish the need or create the need and to move towards the setting up of the appointment on the telephone.
I have set out below an option I often use which works with most businesses very well but it is a little cunning and you have to get good at thinking on your feet. On sales training it is often said that the best salespeople are those that can think on their feet and duck and dive from the punches, so to use this you have to sometimes be good at quick thinking.
To be honest it is similar to Example 2 above but the ending is slightly different, see below:
Hi John, Frank here from ABC Company, depending on what paint is the most popular for your customers, I have an idea that might be able to reduce the amount you spend each month to help you cut down expenses and make more profit. I really don’t know if it would work for you, but would you like me to send some information to you so you can see for yourself?
What inevitably happens is the prospect will say yes send the details on and I will have a look. The reason they say yes is because this is their way of moving on and getting you off the phone, so once they say yes you then need to then take control, how you do this is to ask a question so for example I might then say:
That’s perfect John, now in order for me to send you the most relevant information for your business I just need to ask you a few questions……..
You now have control, always remember one of the key points taught in any good sales training course is that whoever asks the questions will control the conversation.
This tactic now leaves you in total control to ask the right relevant questions and confirm back to the prospect what they have answered you. The next step is to then use a form of summarising and clarifying back to them what they have said to get the appointment,
If you do this there are then only 2 things can happen firstly they can throw out an objection or rebuttal or secondly if you have asked for the appointment correctly you may well get it.
#3 Managing Objections and Rebuttals
No matter how good your introduction is, you may still get objections and rebuttals which may get in the way of you setting sales appointments over the phone. We all know from being on sales training courses that in any telesales situation two things can happen. Firstly if you listen correctly you may hear buying signals. This is where the prospect says something that will help you move closer to your goal of setting sales appointments over the phone.
For example of you are on the phone and your prospect says something like, that’s interesting or I heard something about that before or I know someone who did that etc these could be buying signals and you need to act on them so as to bring the sale to a close quicker.
The opposite to this is you can also get rebuttals or objections such as, I am not sure about that because …. or I am quite happy with my current supplier etc. If this is the case we need to have a structure and a process that works to overcome this.
On many sales training courses up and down the country sales trainers will talk about the importance of being able to manage an objection, as well as how an objection is often a way of the client letting you know they are interested, but they just need more information or clarification of something.
While I am talking about objections and rebuttals it may surprise you to know that 90% of objections are the same for every business and it is very rare to hear a new objection that you have never encountered. I always say on sales training courses that once you are in a sales role or telesales role for 12 months or more, you are likely to have heard 99.9% of the objections.
Once we understand this our role of setting sales appointments over the phone becomes so much easier because once we have an answer to the objection plus a structure around how we will answer it, we can just use it time and time again, the wheel does not need to be reinvented for every objection or rebuttal we encounter
There may be an odd occasion where a client objects and you may be able to just keep pressing ahead without even acknowledging the objection, but in general 99% of the time you are better to meet the objection full on and deal with it. The key to success is how we deal with it, many amateur salespeople just answer the objection and hope for the best.
I have always found through good sales training that if we want to get good at setting sales appointments over the phone, there is nothing better than having answers plus having a proven tried and tested structure to follow for answering objections.
I have set out below the proven tried and tested steps I use which have always helped me to answer any objections.
A. Acknowledge the objection, let the prospect know you have heard them and are going to do something about answering it for them. There are many ways to do this but it could even be as simple as saying something like.
That’s a good question, I am glad you brought that up
B. The next step is to isolate the objection, you need to do this to try and establish is this the only concern the prospect has or do they have other objections that will stop them from proceeding with you setting sales appointment over the phone.
So for example you may say something like
Is that your only concern?
C. Once you know it is their only concern you need to try and show some empathy to let them know you totally understand where they are coming from. Empathy is where you try and see it from the prospects point of view.
I read somewhere there is a saying in India that says ‘walk a mile in my moccasins and then you will understand where I am coming from’ in other words walk in my shoes to understand me.
Obviously every situation is different and every telesales prospecting call will be different but a way that is worth considering is what is called the 3 F technique.
This technique is covered on many sales training courses and there is no doubt that in many cases it works very well. An example of the 3 F technique is below:
I can understand how you Feel
A lot of customers who now use us for their paint supplies Felt the same way
What they Found was that …….answer the objection
The 3 F technique is also known as the Feel Felt Found method
D. Once you have shown empathy and given the answer to your objection you need to close the objection off and move to the setting of the appointment, so you need to be able to ask a closed question which will move you closer to your objective of setting sales appointments over the phone.
So how you do this is you answer the objection and close it off by saying something like, I don’t know whether that answers your objection but it seems to make sense to me what do you think?
Here are some typical answers by using Feel Felt Find method
“Feel, Felt, Found”
This is a method of deferring objections that occur early in the sales process when your purpose is simply to gain a full sales interview. These objections are more appropriately dealt with at a later stage when you are face to face with the client and have something concrete to offer.
The following are examples of how this method might be used for the most common objections presented at the approach stage.
“I can understand how might feel (say) that. In fact I have had two other clients in the last three months who initially felt (said) the same. But when they looked at our overall proposal they found they were very happy with the value we had to offer.
What I am suggesting is that we sit down to discuss your requirements and as part of that discussion I will be happy to deal with any issues or concerns you may have.”
Look for appointment. (see closing the call)
Happy with current
“I perfectly understand that you would feel that way. I had another client only supplier! last month who felt exactly the same. However what he found was that he was glad to have taken the time to meet with us because there were several areas where we were able to offer solutions not available from his current supplier.
What I am suggesting is that we might meet to discuss your current requirements and see if there are any solutions that we might offer that could be of interest to you. In that way you will at least know what alternatives are available.”
Look for appointment (see closing the call)
Lead- time too long!
“I can understand how you might feel that way. I have a number of clients who felt the same way based on past experience with us. But what they have now found is that because of recent internal changes withinA.B.C, they are more than happy with the lead times we are now operating.
What I would suggest is that we might sit down to discuss your requirements and at that time I will be happy to address any concerns you may have regarding lead times.”
Look for appointment (see closing the call)
“I can understand why you would say (feel) that. Other clients have said (felt) the same. However it is a problem that we have worked hard to address and I have had three clients in similar situations to yours who have recent said (found) that they are very satisfied with the results we have achieved.
What I am suggesting is that we should sit down to discuss your situation and I will be more than happy to address the concerns that you have.”
Look for appointment (see closing the call)
“I can understand how you might feel that way. I can think of two new clients who said the same thing to me when I initially approached them. However once we sat down to discuss their situation and they became aware of some of the unique and cost effective solutions available from A.B.C. they found that the initial time the gave us was more than justified in their minds.
All I am suggesting is that you might give us 10 minutes initially to explore if there is an opportunity for us both to benefit. If not I will take up no more of your time”
Look for appointment (see closing the call)
Note: For this particular objection it may just be a case of bad timing and find out when is a more suitable time may be the best option.
Conclusion: (see closing the call)
This method of objection handling has many applications but it needs to be stated in a very fluid, sincere and confidant manner. The key to success is practising the script until it is a natural part of your vocabulary.
#4. Setting up the appointment on the phone
The whole purpose of the outbound call if you are trying to set appointments is to close the call off with your best possible chance of making an appointment. In sales training it is often said there are numerous ways to close a sale and the funny thing about this is we are not trying to close the sale, but instead take is to the next level which is the face to facemeeting.
In saying all of the above the principles of what we have to do next are similar to closing the sale, we are looking for a commitment. Every successful sales person has their own way of using the telephone to set up appointments but in every call there comes a time when you just have to get a commitment and decision to keep moving forward.
The best way I always found for doing this was by using an option close in other words say something like currently I have availability to meet on Monday or Wednesday which suits you best. Once you have said that the important thing to remember and it is often mentioned sales training courses is to keep quiet and let them answer.
Always remember ask a closing question and stop, once you have asked the question remain silent till they answer regardless of how difficult that may be. Finally if you get good at using the telephone to set up sales appointments you will be highly successful in any business, as it does not matter what you are selling it is the principles that can be transferred for every product. The ideas set out in this blog will work for any business but you need to adapt your own style to the basic principles