I am a little nervous about sharing these tips today because now you will all know my secrets! As you might imagine I get a lot of phone calls and make a lot of phone calls each day. Over the years, I have learned the art of making a short but productive phone call with someone and I would like to share my 5 best tips below.
#1 – Start the call with a clear time constraint and initial action step. “Hey Bob, I have another meeting in 10 minutes but I wanted to get right back to you, what can I do for you today?” It is very unlikely that even the most talkative person will respond to this with small talk. This also sets you up perfectly to end the call in 10 minutes if necessary, or whenever your next scheduled event starts.
#2 – Keep bringing “Action” into the conversation. “Susan, I believe I understand your concern, what would you say is the next action step that I could take to start working towards a solution?” or after a 2 minute detour by your customer about their dog who just had to go to the vet… “Bill, you will have to keep me posted on that, I sure hope everything works out, I unfortunately do have to run in about 5 minutes so I wanted to take down some notes about what actions you would like me to take today or tomorrow regarding the concern you had about XYZ”
#3 – Always summarize, clarify and re-clarify… then, just to be safe, clarify again! Somehow phone calls can end up sending the wrong expectations, especially when they are coming from a sales professional. Let’s face it, we like telling people what they want to hear but, that can be very dangerous. Summarize the action steps you are going to take throughout the call and make a note of these, so you can actually do them!
#4 – Let people finish their thought. This is a tough one for me, in fact I struggle with this all the time by cutting people off once I “think” I know where they are going. The hard truth is that this actually makes the call go longer since they don’t feel like I understand them and they keep repeating themselves to drive home their point since I have not really acknowledging it by listening intently. Once someone starts talking, it is too late to gain control until they stop talking.
#5 – Schedule repeat phone calls for those who contact you often. If you set up a new customer and they are calling you three times per day and you don’t know what to do, here is my suggestion. Follow up with them face to face and then let them know you value their business so much that you would like to schedule a recurring appointment with them once per week for the next 4 weeks while they get used to the system. Now, they will not call you as often, since they know you will stop by once per week and if they do call, you can make the call much shorter by saying, “Would you mind making a note of that for our Tuesday meeting, I think I could explain that much better in person, is there anything else you would like to go over during that meeting?” Very quickly they will get in a habit of saving any issues for the weekly meeting. By the way, this is a must in delegation to your team of employees or sales reps if you are building a local company of your own.
I hope these short tips will help you. Now you must promise you will not get mad at me when I use them on you during our next call! 🙂 I believe that most people appreciate someone who has drive and a desire to get a lot done each day. Once you get good at using these techniques, they will save you hours.
Make it a great day!
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