Reach Out and Sell Someone!


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I was speaking to the operator of a successful business the other day, asking him how he and his fellow franchisees earn their clients. He mentioned 10 ways: networking, referrals, and advertising are among them.

But one, he said, outperforms the rest: selling by telephone.

Businesspeople who make calls outpace their peers by a wide margin, he said, noting that he is the franchise system’s top performer.

Why aren’t more experienced business people emulating this fellow, using their people skills to meet and greet potential clients by phone? There are several reasons:

1. They’re afraid of real-time rejection.
2. They believe the phone is a tainted tool.
3. They have low frustration tolerance.
4. They think there has to be an easier way!
5. They believe they come across poorly.
6. They believe phoning lacks dignity.
7. They believe their target market is deluged with calls.
8. They don’t have a manageable database.
9. They lack an effective phone presentation.
10. They lack good phone training.

If you look at this list, at least half of the items result from psychological factors. Many people resist phoning because they needlessly beat themselves up and disparage the medium. That’s what items 1-7 are all about—negative beliefs and judgments.

Instead of focusing on themselves, businesspeople should attend to the last three items: managing their database, devising an effective phone presentation, and getting good coaching and training. Address these challenges, and the first seven impediments will either go away, or be dramatically minimized.

Let’s discuss these items briefly, and put them into proper perspective.

1. They’re afraid of real-time rejection.

Most of us are rejected silently and indirectly. If we send out a zillion resumes, most will end up in the trash, but we don’t feel that pain, directly. Nor do we hurt if we mail out as many business brochures, which meet the same fate. But when we empower someone to flatly say no, directly in our ear, it feels threatening. Rejection is usually not about us—at most it’s about our offer, our value proposition, and how we have communicated it. So, there’s no reason to take it personally. Attend to the real challenge: fix your message and how you’re delivering it. (For a more complete discussion, please see my article, “Thanks For The Rejection!”)

2. They believe the phone is a tainted tool.

As consumers, many of us have been bombarded by calls that have had little value. For years, it made economic sense for giant call centers to spray-and-pray. Now, with the ubiquity of answering devices, caller I. D. and effective anti-telemarketing legislation, these calls have been diminishing, but our negative attitude about them, persists. The phone, as a medium, is alive and well. We need to work on developing the message and the messenger.

3. They have low frustration tolerance.

There is a math-of-success in prospecting and selling. If you make fifty calls, you’ll probably find ten people who will express some interest and be worth pursuing. After sending information to them, and following-up, three may still be interested, and of these, you might close one or two.

I’m just using these numbers as an example, because they point out that fifty tries might earn you one success. Let me tell you one of my favorite war stories about a guy who did much worse than this.

A Houston-based client of mine sells investments to institutions such as colleges and large banks. One of their commission salespeople worked from January through October without earning a sale. Literally, he made thousands upon thousands of calls, to no avail.

Every other salesperson was making at least some money, and a few were doing very well, but he struck out, left and right.

Then, in November, he got his first order of the year. It was so large that it made him a millionaire, on the spot.

He had high frustration tolerance, which is a trait worth developing! (For a fuller discussion, please refer to my audio seminar: “The Law of Large Numbers: How To Make Success Inevitable, ” published by Nightingale-Conant. )

4. They think there has to be an easier way!

The other night, at a meeting of business professionals, I was discussing marketing with a consultant. He beamed that he got a client four years after initially meeting him at a mixer. Networking is his favorite way to get business.

I agree, networking can be pleasant but it’s just too unpredictable. Waiting for the phone to ring only seems easy. In my experience, it is harder than proactively selling someone, which permits much greater control and instant feedback.

5. They believe they come across poorly over the phone.

True enough, when you hear certain people over the phone, there’s much less than meets the eye. Their voices may be inherently unpleasant, squeaky or gravelly, or their articulation may be flawed.

But most people don’t suffer from these ills, and even non-radio announcer voices can be enhanced through training, while others can be improved with medical help.

(6) They believe phoning lacks dignity.

Some aristocratic businesspeople feel that phoning is simply too far beneath their social station to be permissible for them to do. They equate it to begging.

All I can say is that the dignity in phoning is equal to the dignity you bring to it. If you sound impressive, and credible, you’ll generally encounter fair treatment.

(7) They believe their target market is deluged with calls.

I’ve been in business over twenty years, and the cold calls I receive today are significantly less than ever before. I suspect fewer people are making business-to-business calls, if only because they don’t know how to penetrate voice mail systems and call screening.

(8) They don’t have a manageable database.

Calling isn’t merely about dialing and smiling. It’s about getting organized to call and being able to capture information about the calls you’ve made.

The first challenge is to get a good list of prospects. Once you have that, you should load it into one of the many inexpensive database programs offered by software sellers.

By tackling these tasks, you’ll be able to be productive and you won’t have the time or interest in wallowing over your rejection rate. You’ll be able to measure it, and improve upon it.

(9) They lack an effective phone presentation.

You need to write, or hire a pro to write a good script.

No matter how glib you are, you should know exactly what you’re going to say to get through screening, to leave a captivating message on voice mail, to greet a real-time human, to credibly introduce yourself, to state your basic offer, to earn a commitment from the listener, to confirm the progress you made in the call, and to identify the next step to come.

Without a script, you’ll ramble, seem disorganized, invert the order of what you say, and hopelessly change your talk from one contact to the next. That way, you’ll be unaware of what’s working, what’s failing, and what you need to change.

A script mustn’t sound stilted or canned, and you need to make yours seem fresh and spontaneous. But when you do, it will serve you very well.

(10) They lack good phone training.

I had the luxury of being trained by my father, who was superb at making cold calls to develop his advertising, radio, and TV ventures. He’d phone from home, and I’d listen, fascinated by his ability to adjust to different people.

In college, I worked as a full-time collector for a finance company, and then I became top salesperson and a manager at Time-Life Books. Later, with a Ph. Communications, I started training others as a consultant.

I’ve found that some people are “naturals” over the phone—but they’re rare. Most need to be trained and coached, to develop their skills.

But once they have them, they feel as I do: I could land in any place in the world where I speak the language, pick up the phone, and prosper.

It’s always the right time to Reach Out & Sell Someone®!

Dr. Gary S. Goodman

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. Gary’s programs are offered by UCLA Extension and by numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. When he isn’t consulting, Gary can be found in Glendale, California. He can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: .


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