Back to the Fundamentals: The Technique behind Telephone Prospecting1 Jul, 2005 By: Howard Meltzer imageSource
Back to the Fundamentals: The Technique behind Telephone Prospecting
Although it may seem to be a
basic concept, telephone prospecting does require a certain technique. There is
more to it than just picking up the phone and hoping for the best, which of
course would be a face-to-face sales appointment to pitch your product.
It is a very effective way for sales reps to cover their territory. They can
simply divide it into quadrants, identify their prospects in each section and
hit the phone.
Fear of the Phone
But, amazingly enough, our client surveys consistently find that 8 out of 10
sales reps prefer face-to-face sales to telephone prospecting. On the surface
this would seem to fly in the face of human logic—pounding the pavement is more
time consuming and uncomfortable. Contacts are not pre-selected as logical
prospects, thus the ratio of productive hits versus time spent is about as low
as it gets.
But, after closer questioning, it turns out that their preference is valid.
Quite simply, they are not prepared to initiate and carry a conversation through
to its logical conclusion—an appointment. It has no other purpose.
Yet, far too often, sales reps get caught up in the moment and babble endlessly
about products, the company and why they are better than anyone else. They fail
to get an appointment, they don’t know why and the fear sets in.
Frankly, the primary cause of failure lies at the feet of their managers and
breaks down into three basic causes: lack of effective training techniques, low
priority scheduling and inconsistent results management.
Let’s see if we can help turn these problems around to help both the reps and
managers take advantage of this powerful prospecting technique.
Common Faults with Simple Solutions
Let’s begin with an assumption that we are working with trainees who have used
basic calling scripts, gotten through the screen, have connected with the right
manager, yet have not been successful. Chances are they are guilty of any number
of very common mistakes. One such mistake is being passive.
This is no good. The salesperson must phrase the presentation using power and
action words like:
• Investment, powerful, flexible, durable, compatible, versatile, guaranteed,
• Do not use words such as buy, sell and contract
The script they are using may not be effective. The correct sequence should be:
• Introduce yourself and your affiliation
• Build rapport
• Use an initial framing statement
• Link to a benefit statement
• Listen, probe and paraphrase
Fumbling and mumbling delivers a very negative message. The salesperson must
speak clearly, confidently and with authority in order to hold the prospects
The framing statement is critical, yet too often neglected. It should always be
in the form of a proposition. We call it the “Texas-sized Benefit Statement,”
and only one or two should be used:
• We are in the business of…
• I would like to show you a way to…
• We have been able to demonstrate…with many other companies like yours.
Invariably, the prospect will counter with an objection such as, “I am happy
with my current supplier” or “I’m not interested.” This is where the rubber
meets the road and where most callers fail. They get caught up in trying to
overcome the objection and they lose control of the conversation. The best way
to respond is with a “switch” that doesn’t directly answer the question, but
moves it off the table:
• “That’s one of the things I want to cover during a meeting.”
• “That’s a good question for our meeting.”
• “I understand what you are saying and will cover it when we meet.”
With that out of the way, they should tie everything back to the Texas statement
and then move quickly to the call to action. If the sales rep can control and
move the conversation through these points, an appointment is almost automatic.
Things can get troublesome, however. The most common problem is when the sales
rep asks, “Gee Mr. Smith, when can you see me?” That is a killer. It can
literally negate everything that was worked on up to that point. It hands
control back to the prospect and opens up the question, “Do I really want to see
The ONLY way to ask for an appointment is the tried and true alternative close
“I need 10 minutes of your time. I am going to be in your area next week. Will
morning or afternoon be better for you?” The salesperson retains control of the
transaction and good old human nature dictates that the prospect answer
directly. Game, set and match!
Schedule and Environment
When phone prospecting is used effectively, it is made an integral part of
the dealers selling week. The worst way to approach it is as time filler. Phone
work must be scheduled each and every week for a specified period of time. The
schedule should be consistent. Each session should be in a comfortable
environment and coached by a manager.
Reps should be prepared with a script that they are familiar with and a list of
prospects to contact. Each session should be uninterrupted and the sales reps
should be chained to their desks. The calls should be made one after another to
develop a rhythm and create excitement, but the manager should hold down the
celebrating and high fives.
Although some managers may be out of practice, they should lead the initial
training process by using the five-and-five technique—“I make five, then you
make five.” This will very quickly identify all each rep’s weaknesses and allow
for coaching. Once over that hurdle, managers should continue to monitor the
calls until satisfied that the trainees are comfortable with their techniques.
When the sales team reaches this level of confidence and expertise, managers can
start having some fun by introducing competitions. The possibilities are
endless, but must be measurable; for example, most appointments per session.
When a dealership reaches this point, phone prospecting should, and will, become
a primary weapon in their arsenal.
Howard Meltzer is the managing partner of Pro/Point Management Services,
which provides goal-oriented sales management consultation and on-site sales
training to office equipment dealers nationally. For details on the company’s
programs and methods, contact the company at 904.285.8542 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.