Relationship Selling: Nine Tips & Strategies on Handling Incoming Sales Calls
Guest writer Floyd Jerkins closes his series on relationship selling with today’s blog post on nine tips and strategies on handling incoming sales calls.
The radio newspaper was invented in 1939. The idea was that a radio transmission would transfer the newspaper to the device in your home, which would then print it out on a nine-foot role of paper, which could then be cut or folded. Each page would take 15 minutes to transmit, which seems slow in our age of instant news access, but in those days was probably considered revolutionary. It didn’t ever really catch on, but it probably had a bearing on later inventions, such as the fax machine.
The telephone has proven to be one of the greatest inventions ever made but I guess it is a lot like the radio newspaper, if it’s not used right, it is just another device. We are in the “let your fingers do the talking” generation. Customers want to save time and money, so they start making calls seeking information before the make a purchase. Salespeople many times don’t handle these incoming calls as true lead. This misjudgment costs the business thousands of dollars every year. They can be as valuable as a walk-in customer if you handle it right.
Common questions customers ask when calling in:
- What do you have?
- How much do you want for it?
- What is your best price?
- How much is mine worth?
A salesperson can quickly gather information as well as give it on the call. Many calls I’ve heard had the salesperson answering every question the customer asks without gathering information to help them understand the customers buying patterns. The salesperson can control the call by just asking qualifying questions.
The goal is to give and get information.
It’s important to be of service to the customer, but also to yourself. Giving out your entire inventory list with pricing doesn’t build value, especially if we are talking about used products because there is no way to compare apples to apples. Find out why they called your business, when are they thinking of buying and other qualifying questions. Asking for the customer’s name and contact number is a fundamental goal. It’s all when and how you ask that makes a difference in the customer’s perception of whether you are helping them buy or if you are trying to sell something.
Nine Tips & Strategies on Handling Incoming Sales Call
1.) Take the Customer Out of the Market and Into Your Business
The overall goal of the call is to schedule an appointment with the customer. You want to take the customer out of the market and into your business. That’s where the money is.
In some instances, the customer may be calling from outside your trade territory. That does not mean they aren’t a buyer. And I get it, there are some sales made over the phone. I am more referring to what happens most of the time.
By planning ahead for your response to each of the common customer requests, you can improve your effectiveness and make more money.
2.) Answer With a Warm Friendly Greeting
Ok, I know that sounds so cliché, but have you called into a business and the person answering the phone just woke up? Or you called, and it sounded like you intruded on someone’s day? The tone and inflections you use create impressions about your business to the customer.
A warm, friendly greeting starts a positive impression of you and your business. When it happens, it is noticeable and can stand out among the prospects other calls where they experienced much less. When it’s positive, it’s the best way to engage a customer on the phone. Think back to the last few places you called. What did it sound like? How did the sound of their voice make you feel about wanting to spend your money with that business? Make no mistake about it; it does make a difference.
3.) Thank Them and Introduce Yourself
In today’s market, customers can buy the same product from five different places or, in some cases, order it and have it delivered to their front doorstep. The key is to make yourself and your business indispensable. Be the resource your customer wants to seek out.
Make a professional introduction of yourself to build rapport. Speak slower than you might in person. Over the phone, there are distractions. Use your full name vs. just your first name.
4.) Get the Customer Excited
Now, this doesn’t mean you pull a Tom Cruise on Opera’s chair. It means that you sound like you interested because you are, right? You want to make more money. You want to create more customer goodwill for your business.
Treat this call just like the customer was in front of you.
Thank them for calling and do that with a positive expression. Listen carefully to what they are saying.
If you are distracted for any reason, don’t take the call. Customers can tell when you are not listening to them. Don’t answer the phone when preoccupied with other thoughts or activities. If you can’t concentrate on giving the customer your full attention, let someone else handle it.
5.) Take the Incoming Call Seriously
Take notes, be a professional, and show the type of consideration you would like to have when you call a place of business searching for a product.
Eliminate distractions and noises so the caller can hear you. If you have loud background noise, recognize that to the customer. You know they can hear it, so recognize it.
6.) Qualify- Take Control by Asking Questions
Don’t let the prospect maintain control with constant questions. I can’t express this enough but learn to ask good questions. I’ve witnessed many salespeople taking these incoming calls only to serve the customer but never win themselves. The goal is to give and get information. If you give out your price list or tell them everything you know, what reason do they have to come to see you in person?
Can you seriously appraise their trade-in without looking at it? I know it’s being done, but I also know it’s a stop-gap measure that can easily spiral into more time and energy to make the deal work when you look at the trade-in real life. I’m talking about high valued trades, not a throwaway product.
Use questions and phrases such as: “What’s that worth?” “Anything wrong with it?” “This equipment will sell for…” “What budget or payment range are you looking to stay in?” Use “availability” rather than “inventory.”
Don’t ask questions like what do you want for it, or what do you need for it? It opens you up for negative questions. Every customer will tell you how great their trade-in is even when it’s not.
7.) Take the Customer Out of the Market and Into Your Business
The goal is to take the customer out of the market and into your business. Schedule an appointment so that you can be of service to them. Imagine if you looked ahead on your calendar for the week, and each day you had 3-5 appointments? Sure, not all of them will show up, but if 80% do, you will have a higher closing ratio of appointments vs. just guessing when they will come in.
8.) Get the Name and Phone Number of Every Prospect
What is the “sales goal” of the call? Is it to give the customer all the information they want and make the customer happy, only to get off the phone and not know who you were talking to?
If you ask, you will get, if you don’t, you won’t. The first rule here is to always ask, but know it is how and when you ask, they determine your success.
You may encounter the customer who won’t give you, their name. Now, think for a minute. If you were the customer under these circumstances, why would you not give them your phone number? I realize there are exceptions to this statement, but more times than not, it is because you didn’t earn the right to get their name.
Can you show enough value, “over the phone” to achieve a higher margin because your business demands it? Yea, some sales are made over the phone but more are not.
Maximize every opportunity! Ask for referrals. I’ll talk about this in a future article.
9.) Use Professional Sales Language and Approaches
Be careful about using industry jargon. What are customary descriptions to you may not be to your customer. You also don’t want to “low-ball” a customer. It’s simply another word for lying just spelled differently. Never lie just to get them in the door, but don’t tell them all the truth to keep them out, either. You won’t win a lot of poker hands when you show people your cards!
You are a professional, so talk and act like one. Prepare questions ahead of time, so you know how to navigate a call like this vs. winging it. Good questions lead to a close.