If you or your team are responsible for reaching business decision makers by phone, you need to acknowledge the subtle shifts that have taken place in the past two years. And then you have to adapt … or see both revenue and morale falter.
The first and most important change is – it is absolutely true that decision makers are more difficult to reach by phone today than they were one year ago, perhaps even six months ago.
This is not reversible; it is a growing trend.
When we don’t acknowledge this, either as sales managers or for ourselves, we create additional pressure and disappointment that negatively impacts results and morale.
There is nothing more discouraging than spending the day – or even a few hours – calling prospects or clients, continually reaching voicemail and receiving no response. Combine this with the pressure to produce the same, or better, results as last year … a downward spiral indeed .
- Help everyone understand that in today’s busy, hectic, overwhelmed world, not returning a call is not rude. It’s not personal. Not returning a call does not mean “no” .
It does mean that the person you are trying to reach has deadlines in front of them or is involved in lengthy and continuous meetings or is traveling steadily or – in some cases – has personal, family issues that are making phone conversations a very, very low priority.
- Change your view of the “why” you leave messages. In sales, our calls are about something we’ve determined our prospects and customers need to know, provides them a benefit, is of value. And if they agree, we generate revenue. In other words … we get paid to reach them. It’s our job – and our responsibility to reach them.
Leave your message knowing it is part of the process but let go of the expectation of a return call. In fact, let your prospects and customers know that you don’t want to add to their “to do” list or set them up for phone tag. Demonstrate your ability to be responsible, persistent and determined. Demonstrating these characterists is what closes sales anyway.
Your message can be something like this:
“Hi David, it’s Mary Jane at The Phone Lady calling on Friday November 29. Sorry I’ve missed you. I’m at my desk today until 4:30 pm and you can reach me here at 404-3290. That’s 404-3290. If we don’t connect today, rather than play phone tag know that I’ll follow up with you early next week.”
These past few weeks I’ve been diligently working on a phone project into Vancouver, working from 5 to 9 pm in the evening. Because my schedule doesn’t allow me to be at my desk everyday, I did not want to set people up for phone tag. I left a message very similar to the one above, saying “I’m at my desk until 5 pm your time today. If we don’t connect today, know that I’ll contact you again later this week”. The project ended with an 80% call back ratio!
Why? Two reasons: 1) The prospect/customer heard that I was taking responsibility. They felt respected and valued and this motivated some of them to return my call; and 2) The prospect/customer heard that I was going to continue to call them so, if they had a moment, they called me back.
What are your thoughts? Are you frustrated by unreturned messages? Can you change the way your view the process?
There are two more trends vital to B2B phone sales success that I’ll talk about before the holiday season. Check back here for Part II on December 16. Next week, I’m excited to introduce my first guest blogger with a “do not miss” motivational phone story.
Enjoy your phonework!