‘I’m not selling you anything.’ ‘I just want to ask you a few questions.’ ‘It will only take a few minutes.’  It is not unusual for any of these to be the introduction to a telesales call. They can be perfectly polite but they are still not a good start to a sale.

However, for research purposes, I often do allow those few minutes just to find out how useful the questions will be to me. In a recent example the company wanted to know how old my washing machine was. Would we think it was ok to approach someone on the street and ask them how old their washing machine was?  No! It was just too personal so I asked them to take me off their list! 

Was that fair of me? Pretty quickly in any call there needs to be a clear benefit for us to spend our time either answering questions or listening. Particularly when we don’t know the caller. Without that our minds will be racing to extricate ourselves from an unwanted situation. Instinctively I didn’t want to share any information with complete strangers.

In the quest by some telemarketing companies to get prospects to give away key information a few fundamental influencing skills have been lost.

To earn the right to be heard, whether in a face to face meeting or at the end of a phone line, the basics have got to be right.

  1. A clear introduction of their name and the company name.
  2. What the company does (far too often a closely guarded secret).
  3. Why they believe it would be interesting for me – and with a good basis for thinking this.
  4. Permission to take my time – and appreciation if I give it.
  5. Honesty and clarity about what is involved – are you going to give me 3 very interesting pieces of information which will change how I feel about life or are there 3 questions for me to answer?
  6. What will happen next? How will you use my information?
  7. Check I’ve understood what we’ve talked about, what happens next and my level of satisfaction with all of that.

What else have we learnt?

If the company has invested in their brand then it makes good commercial sense to use that brand to build trust in the introduction.

If the company hasn’t invested in building a brand then the sales guy needs to succinctly and clearly explain their credentials.

There has to be some benefit for the prospect – a cause or product they are likely to be interested in – and the connection made clear.

Demonstrating some basic research can go a long way – knowledge of previous conversations or a reference to how they came to be on the list.

As in any good pitch, a preview of the benefits to be had and how they are going to be proven goes a long way to engaging attention.

Show appreciation for their time and input.

Don’t :

  1. Lie that I asked you to call me.
  2. Lie that I took some survey months ago and agreed to the call.
  3. Call me by my first name – especially when you haven’t bothered to research how to pronounce it. (That means sudden death in my books).
  4. Say it will only take 2 minutes then plough on for 10.
  5. Read out a page of information which would be almost impossible for anyone to take in without some serious memory training techniques.
  6. Say, ‘let me finish’ when I interject with a question. Honestly, that happened!

I say it a lot, I know – when you’re preparing for a call or a meeting, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. See things through their eyes. The next steps will be so much clearer.

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