One of my most circulated columns was “15 Ways to Be a Lousy CEO.” (https://www.successfulculture.com/15-ways-to-be-a-lousy-ceo). In keeping with the tradition of teaching you how to fail miserably at your job, I’m sharing with you the things you can do to make a prospect slam the phone down as soon as they hear your voice.
These strategies were written by one of my Mastermind group members, friend, and trusted advisor Bill Cates, also known as The Referral Coach (www.ReferralCoach.com). Bill is THE EXPERT for anyone who wants to know how to build a thriving referral-based business. Thank you Bill for sharing your expertise to help others achieve more success!
If you pick up the phone and start making calls without thinking about your approach, habit and the phrases you’ve picked up from telemarketing calls you have received over the years are going to dominate what you say. Surprise, surprise: that’s not the most effective way to make calls. You may be committing age-old blunders without even knowing it.
Here’s a quick checklist of classic telephone prospecting mistakes. Are you making any of them? If so, take action to rectify your approach!
1. Don’t open a call with “How are you today?” This smacks of telemarketer—bad telemarketer. This is not a question you ask strangers, as they will immediately put up their defenses and look for ways to end the conversation.
2. Don’t ask, “Are you busy?” or “Is this a good time to talk?” Of course people are busy, and therefore you’ll feel the pressure to cut your call short. Rather, say, “I know you are busy; the reason I’m calling is…”
3. Don’t assume this prospect is a match for your business and you’re a match for his or her situation. Qualify a little over the phone before trying for an appointment. Prospects will appreciate your careful approach to making sure it’s a match for all concerned.
4. Don’t think you can wing it with each prospect. Have a clear goal in mind for the call and your likely path to get there. Think through your calls and potential outcomes before you pick up the phone.
5. Don’t read from a script. Of course it’s OK to write out your scripts, but then you need to own them through consistent practice and real-life application. If you rely too much on your script, you’ll have no flexibility. Your presentation will lack energy, and you won’t capture people’s attention. To sound natural (the goal!), you have to strike a balance between ad-libbing and saying what you’ve scripted.
6. Don’t talk too fast. Slow down! Talking too fast can make you appear nervous or lacking in confidence. When leaving your phone number on a voice mail, take your time and leave the number twice.
7. Don’t use “alternative choice” closes. Don’t say, “How about tomorrow at 3:00 or Tuesday at 11?” Just ask them to pull out their calendar and match it against yours. You don’t want to trick them into setting an appointment with you. That’s a no-show waiting to happen.
8. Don’t go on an appointment without confirming it a few days in advance. Consider emailing or mailing something of value before the appointment. A compliance-approved article that you wrote is a nice credibility builder.
9. Don’t expect one email or one phone call to a prospect to result in an appointment. You must have a series of value-oriented reasons to stay in touch. Timing is everything, and it often takes five or more contacts to generate an appointment. Don’t give up too easily!
10. Don’t expect time for calling prospects to magically appear in your calendar. Block off enough time every week for these types of calls. Treat that appointment with yourself like a client appointment.
In summary, be thoughtful, prepared, and systematic with your prospecting calls. Think through your processes and the words you plan to use. The work you do is too important to not put your best foot forward from the very beginning!
Once bad habits take hold, they can be tough to break—or even recognize. Check yourself against this list of missteps—because if you are making one of these blunders with prospects, it’s hurting you.
For ongoing advice and guidance on how to build a successful referral-based business, I encourage you to sign up for Bill’s multi-media blog (http://www.referralcoachTV.com). You can learn about client-centered referrals, reputation marketing, overcoming your fears of prospecting, and many other strategies that are important to your success.