Let’s take the phone call from the call receiver’s perspective: the phone rings — the receiver answers. What is the question on everyone’s mind when you answer the telephone? “Who is calling me?”
There is no doubt that when you call someone you interrupted something. The person picking up your call is thinking about something else. Don’t waste their precious brain-power, making them wonder, “Which ‘John’ is this?”
Even if you know the person, they may be in the middle of a million things, so it is always helpful to re-orient the call receiver by telling them who you are – first and last name, and the name of your company. If you’re not well acquainted with them, you might also want to throw in a brain-jogger like, “we met on Tuesday night at the Bristol Chamber of Commerce meeting”.
This brief introduction may save the call receiver some embarrassment and will definitely save them some brain-power. Your introduction will also give them time to re-orient themselves from what they were doing to pay attention to you.
Their full attention is what you want, so don’t forget to be confident and speak slowly and clearly.
Why Are You Calling?
What’s the second question on the call receiver’s mind? — “Why are you calling me?” Or, more specifically, “What do you want?” Or, if they are in the middle of a crisis, (or always in the middle of a crisis): “Crap, a phone call, I don’t have time for this, what the heck do you want?”
If you always ask, “Did I catch you at a good time?” Or even better, “Do you have time to talk with me for ten minutes?” (or however long you think you’ll need), it will always be worth the effort.
This does three things: it starts the conversation with a “yes” by getting their consent to continue; it shows respect for their time; and it sets up an expectation of brevity. Now of course, if you ask for three minutes, you need to really only take three minutes, otherwise you’ve broken a contract and shown that you cannot keep your word.
Controlling the Call
As any good telemarketer will tell you, ‘in the question lies the power’. The person asking questions controls the conversation. In the sale situation this is not necessarily what you want to do for the entire conversation, as you don’t want to appear demanding. A good salesperson will tell you, observing – or as is the case on a telephone call, listening – is your greatest sales skill.
When Do We Get To Chit-Chat?
Once the person has agreed to speak with you, get right to the point. Some people say that it is essential to establish rapport first, but in today’s busy society, let’s save the small talk till the end. At that point you have spoken about the most important thing first, which hopefully fit within the time they consented to; now you can leave it up to them whether or not they would like to connect on some other level, and for how long.
What Do You Do if They Say, “I only have three minutes”?
The receiver only has three minutes? That’s great. That’s the same as a “yes”, in that they have agreed to talk to you. That is why you need to be ready with a very succinct message. If you are not a person who can get to the bottom line on the fly, write yourself out a script beforehand. Create four versions: the 10-minute pitch, the 3-minute pitch, the “not now” pitch (30 second), and the closing small talk.
What Do You Do if They Say, “Now is not a good time”?
So they say that they can’t talk? How about if you say: “I respect that. I was just calling to talk to you about _____. What time would be better to talk?” The middle sentence is key – don’t forget to tell them why you’re calling; if it’s important to them they may drop everything and talk to you right now anyway.
A phone call can be a huge time saver if it’s done right.