And How Are You Today? - Yuck!
Call me crazy, but when someone calls me to try to sell me something, I don't hang up on him or her. I listen and respond and then make suggestions to the caller on how to improve his or her call.
For many people, prospecting-marketing-for new clients on the telephone, or "cold calling" is the job of last resort. Who wants to be cursed at, hung up on and lied to? But many of my clients are in professions where cold calling is one of their necessary methods of prospecting.
Do people hate to receive calls at home? Do busy managers and executives hate to be bothered by callers trying to convince them to buy their products? Yes. . . and. . . no.
"If I were calling you to tell you that you just inherited a million dollars and I needed to arrange for you to pick up the check," I ask in my workshops, "would you be angry that I interrupted your dinner?"
"No," they all agree.
"If I were calling you at your place of business with a guaranteed way to make more money while simultaneously reducing expenses," I ask, "would you be upset that I got past your 'gatekeeper' to reach you?"
"No," they agree again.
"So, then," I ask, "What do your prospects hate?"
The answer usually comes down to "sounding like a telemarketer." There are, of course, successful telemarketers who sound natural and comfortable, but you know the type we're talking about . . .
~They mispronounce your name with no apology and no effort to get it right.
~They sound like they're reading a script.
~They come on strong, forcing a big "salesy" smile through the telephone.
~They try to warm up the call by pausing to say or ask something disingenuous like, "And How Are You Today?" You know they don't care about your health or wellbeing at all.
~They use "salesy" language like, "We're going to be in your neighborhood on Tuesday" or "This is an exclusive offer."
If part of your work is making calls to people you don't know, the "telemarketer type" provides you a great guideline for how not to do it. Here are some suggestions:
1. Get the name right beforehand or apologize and fix it. If you can't find out how to pronounce the prospect's name ahead of time, ask if you got it right. Apologize and try again. Continuing to call me "Mr. Skuzzel" won't help your cause.
2. Throw away the script-one way or another. Scripts are okay. Some of the best actors use them. But you change the channel quickly when the actor sounds like he or she is reading it. Either learn it so well that you no longer sound like you're reading it, or toss it away and keep an outline with the bullet points of the things you want to say. It's not a bad idea to keep it near you, but don't read it.
3. Forget about the rule that you should sound "up". Coming on too strong can be a turnoff. Don't be timid, but start gently-and adjust to the person you're talking with.
4. Don't do AHAYT. "And How Are You Today?" raises an instant red flag that I'm going to be sorry I took this call, so just don't do it. Get to the point of your call. Telemarketers use this greeting to catch their breath before jumping into the script-and prospects know it. Another killer is "actually" as in "Actually, the reason I'm calling is . . ."
5. Stay away from "salesy language." "In your neighborhood (or area)" is a sales killer. If you're seeing someone “up the street” or in that town, you have a better chance of getting an appointment than if you will happen to be in my neighborhood.
Make cold calling more fun for you and less painful for your prospective clients by aiming not for the appointment or sale, but to engage them in conversation. While this may, at first glance, seem like the long way to go about it, I promise that it will be much more effective.