Note: The following are merely suggestions. Keep in mind that each person on the phone is different, and that you may have to vary your strategy based on the type of call you are making, and your audience. Enjoy!
Unsolicited e-mail is for wimps. Just like anything else, you get what you pay for. It takes five minutes, and NO risk, to craft a well-formed e-mail. Maybe you even run the spell checker. Good job. You took the cheap way out.
One in a thousand times, your cold e-mail might work. (Spammers please feel free to shower me with your 80% ROI on e-mail marketing campaigns. I know you will.)
For you job seekers, please stop submitting your resumes to companies online. That’s just glorified e-mailing that makes you feel like you are doing something with your job search.
The reality is that, for cold e-mail, it takes a millisecond to delete.
The phone is better. It is SO much more effective than e-mailing your target. For sales, jobs, dates, or whatever else, the business rules of the phone are the same as any other social rules. But many people who are ineffective on the phone forget that. And they never get what they want.
Here are some tips:
Your First Call Is About Building Rapport: This first rule does not necessarily apply if you are in a “time-crunch.” When you cold call someone, your goal is to make a connection. Whether it is a recruiter, sales manager, executive, or whomever else, you are simply attempting to build a rapport with that person. You want them to know who you are and be familiar with you. Did you notice how I said “first call?”
Would you immediately start asking someone you just met at a networking event how much profit they made last year? (PLEEEEASE tell me you said no!) So do you think it is okay to start talking business with someone you just met, and aren’t even looking at, over the phone? NO! It’s actually rude to ask someone you don’t know about their personal business.
So, your first call is an introduction. “Hello my name is Sam Diener. We haven’t spoken before so I wanted to make your acquaintance.” Go from there and don’t ask the person on the other end of the line for anything. This is key. DO NOT ASK THE PERSON ON THE OTHER END OF THE LINE FOR ANYTHING. Just attempt to exchange some small talk. You will surprise them, and they will usually be somewhat intrigued and pleasantly surprised you didn’t try to sell anything.
Then when you call back, you have gone from being a no one, to an acquaintance.
Know how you sound: I will tell you right now, most people who are sales people sound like exactly that on the phone. It’s a side effect of all of the coffee they have to drink to actually keep them making ineffective cold calls. Everyone knows the tone of a sales call when they hear it . Therefore, you should try everything in your power to avoid sounding like this. One important key is to match your vocal/emotional tone to the person who you are talking to. It makes the other person feel more comfortable, and this is SO important. If the person on the other end of the line is up and you are down, game over. You want the person on the other end of the line to feel comfortable. That starts with your voice. This is your first impression, so you had better get it right.
A quick side note that was brought to me by Laura Rivchun: “While it’s important to be aware of how you sound on the phone and if you’re matching the other person’s vocal/emotional tone, it’s equally important to sense if they can’t talk. That’s your cue to say, “you sound busy, is there a better time to call?” If someone’s about to go into a meeting, it’s not a good time to try and engage them. You’re starting off on the wrong foot. I’ve had many people who’ve done that with me and I don’t appreciate it. It tells me they’re not listening. Courtesy and appropriateness go a long way.”
- Your goal is to get the other person talking about themselves: We are all guilty of this, myself included. We simply forget that we are trying to have a conversation. While this is much harder to do on the phone when you don’t know someone, it’s still VERY important to do. Think about this conversation:
- Do your research: In an age when everything is electronic, you had better know something about the prospect you are going after. You have so many resources. Linked-In. Facebook. Company websites. Google. You had better be using these. If you are calling someone completely cold without doing ANY research, that’s just lazy.
Time is a non-issue here. If you are making one call, you probably want to be successful. Therefore do your research! If you are making a thousand calls, would you rather use research to WOW 20 or 30 of those contacts, or call every single one completely cold?
Research makes leads warm. Make sure you get the research right though….
Listen Up: There is a principle in medicine, which I honestly don’t believe is in any textbook, that says that any patient will tell you exactly what is wrong with them in approximately seven seconds; You just have to listen. Often what YOU think is the problem is really not what ails someone. In a phone call, if something is bothering the other party, a good listener will pick it up.
Take a job listing for example. Sometimes a posted job description only mildly matches the actual needs of the position. If you were to call up and request to ask some questions about that position, and LISTEN to the response, you might be in a MUCH more competitive position to tailor your resume.
If you are trying to drum up business, keep in mind that people generally have to personally say they need a service or a product for them to psychologically want it (from “Start With No” by Jim Camp). Therefore your goal is to get them to realize they have a need and to talk about it. You must listen for verbal clues someone gives you, and ask great questions to get to this. Asking great questions to get someone to realize that they have a need takes practice. People generally WILL hint at their needs with their words, and if you are truly listening, you will catch it.
Let The Other Person Lead: No matter what, the other person is in control. If you are going to get anywhere with them, you are going to have to let them lead you. By this I mean to let them be in charge of the flow of conversation, the topics, etc. Any time you call someone unexpectedly, you are on their time. Many of the times when you are calling a manager, recruiter, etc, they are going to have a dominant personality. If you try to control the conversation (by talking too much without being asked to), they are probably going get annoyed or may even hang up. Remember which person is the buyer here, And he/she who has the gold, makes the rules.
Once again, your goal is to make your contact on the phone feel comfortable with you, and to do this, you must take great care to follow points 2 and 5. When someone feels comfortable with the conversation, he/she will realize that they would like to know about you, and will start asking you questions. That is your opportunity to share what you have to offer.
Phone: “Ring Ring”
Million Dollar Executive: “This is Mr. X”
Sam Diener: “Hello Mr. X, My name is Sam Diener. I have a great widget for you. It does yadi yadi yada, ramble ramble ramble. How does that sound?”
Nice, eh? On the phone, I was quick to start talking. Immediately, the busy executive is listening to me talk about myself. I became just another cold caller. Game over.
In fact, the first 3 seconds of any phone call are CRITICAL because that’s when the person on the other end of the line decides if they want to talk to you. And, of course, for anyone to want to talk to you, they have to like you, QUICKLY.
So how do you do that?
Let’s dust off my copy of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends And Influence People,” (which ironically was a gift from the absolute worst manager I ever had). Looking at a summary of how to make people like you:
1. “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests”
2. “Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely”
3. “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”
And I am going to harp on this last point for a second: when a person gives you their name, repeat it back to them in conversation at least three times! If they don’t give you their name, ask for it….
A quick tip on how to follow through with the 3 points above: Always ask questions about anything you can! It gets the other person talking about themselves, which EVERYONE loves to do!
So instead, your phone call goes something like:
Phone: “Ring Ring”
Million Dollar Executive: “This is X”
Sam Diener: “Hello X, it’s Sam Diener. I just was reading through the Wall Street Journal and heard you got promoted. Congratulations!”
Million Dollar Executive: “Why thank you. Who is this again…”
Sam Diener: “Well it’s funny you should ask, we are actually both good friends with Joe. He was telling me he plays on your bowling team. Joe and I bowl all the time. How long have you bowled?”
You might be saying, well you aren’t going to know all that before calling someone! Well, I disagree, you MUST – which brings us to point 4…
Funny Note from Kellie the Editor: Kellie was an executive assistant (aka “Gatekeeper”) at a Chicago ISP back in 1998. Her bosses were Mike and Tracy. One day she got a call from a guy wanting to talk to either one of them, saying he was “good friends” with both Mike and Tracy. At first, it sounded like this person may have been genuine. He knew enough about the business and was very friendly with me. She was just about to put the call through when the salesperson said, “I knew Tracy when she and I lived in Florida. She was a real go-getter then, too.” She immediately took note of the phone number, name of the person and the company he worked for and decided not to put the call through and instead “take a message”. It turns out, while this person did know that Tracy lived in Florida at one time, he apparently didn’t do enough homework since he didn’t know that Tracy was a man. Game over for caller – permanently.
Conclusions: I know you have some good tips to share that I didn’t catch…. what are they? If you don’t have any tips, what are some things that you want people to know when they call you?