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Typically when we get someone on the phone, we overwhelm him or her with information. We tell them everything there is to know about everything, and then we ask them that all-powerful question, “You wouldnt possibly be interested in getting together with me, would you?”

Your business is all about projecting confidence. If you are confident, others will be confident in you. You need to select the words carefully with which you want to convey your message. Just as important as what you say, is how you say it.

Here are seven timeless principles that will transform the outcome of each telephone call you make.

Principle #1: A strong introduction. This is the most critical part of the entire conversation. On an outbound call all you are trying to accomplish is to introduce yourself and ask for permission to speak. On an inbound call you are inviting them into the conversation.

Here is an example of an introduction for an inbound call:

“Thank you for calling <your company name>. This is <your name>, and how may I help you?”

The caller will probably state their purpose whether you ask that question or not. But it is important to ask the question to help you maintain control of the call.

Here is an example of an introduction for an outbound call:

“Hi, this is <your name> with <your company>. Did I catch you in the middle of something or do you have a quick minute to talk?”

People are so surprised that youre asking them if they have a minute to talk. Never call anyone and ask, “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“Of course you caught me at a bad time.” The people that you call will always focus on the last thing that you said. So I typically say, “Did I catch you in the middle of something or do you have a few minutes to talk?” A majority of the time they respond with, “I am always in the middle of something, but what is this call about?” Now they have given you permission to speak.

If they say they are busy, simply ask what would be a good time to call back. When you call back you immediately have rapport with this person because you respected his or her time in the first place.

Principle #2: The opening statement. On an inbound call, this is where the person calling your organization states his or her purpose. Three things must happen here:

1. Listen intently;

2. Begin to ask questions; and,

3. If its a problem, get off of the problem and focus on the solution.

So much is revealed to you in the opening statement. How many times have you gotten to the end of a call and you cant remember with whom you are speaking? Often, the caller revealed his or her name in the opening statement, but for whatever reason we were not listening. Use the callers name throughout the conversation; this is a great opportunity to build rapport with the person you are speaking with.

On an outbound call, the opening statement will vary depending on three things:

1. The purpose of the call;

2. Who youre speaking with; and,

3. How many times you have spoken with this person.

When making an outbound call, the opening statement is where you state your purpose. Begin with, “The reason for my call,” or “The purpose of my call,” or “Im calling in regards to”

Your opening statement should be two to three sentences in length, and it should always end with a question. A question engages the person who you are speaking with, as well as determines the direction of the call.

Principle #3: Ask The Right Questions. It is very important that you design your questions based on the purpose of the call or what you specifically are trying to accomplish. Also, the questions you ask will depend on the person you are speaking with.

There are two types of questions that will help you identify and create opportunities. The first are closed questions–they get a yes or no response.

The second type is an open-ended question, which allows the person you are speaking with to open up and elaborate on what you have asked them.

Now, after we ask a question, what are we supposed to do?

Principle #4: Listen and Learn. Be a better listener. Listen for opportunities to capitalize on. Listen for ways to accomplish the purpose of your call. Here are five principles that will help you to become a better listener.

1. Be prepared. Have a plan for what you are going to say. When you have a plan for what you are going to say, you dont have to think about what you are going to say next.

The more prepared you are for the call, the more confident you will sound. The more confident you sound, the more confident they will be in you. All you have to sell is your confidence.

2. Its all about them. Its not about you. The focus needs to remain on them.

3. Dont interrupt people. No matter how long it takes, wait for the person to respond and dont interrupt. How many times have you asked somebody a question, and you couldnt handle the one-second of silence so you answered the question for him or her? Have patience. Sometimes it takes a while for people to respond to your question or gather their thoughts.

4. Ask first, then tell. Salespeople love to tell stories. You can pick average salespeople out a mile away. They are typically the people doing all of the talking. For example, if I asked you what time it was, you would tell me the time. Would you tell me how the watch was made? Probably not–that is not what I asked you. But how often do you find yourself telling the prospect or customer how the watch is made, when that is not even what he or she asked you? I am not saying that it is not okay to tell a customer how the watch is made but only if that person asked.

5. Learn to love silence. Silence is golden. Silence shows people that you are confident in yourself. It shows people that you dont have to be talking constantly.

Many feel that they have to talk and talk to control the call. Not true, you will lead and control the call by asking the right questions.

Principle #5: Work Through Objections. Dont overcome objections–work through them. When you overcome something, somebody wins and somebody loses.

Its not about fighting with people or overcoming their objections. When a customer sticks you with an objection dont feel the need to talk your way out of it.

Instead, find the true objection. The only way you can do this is by asking the right questions.

When a prospect or client says they are not interested, calmly say, “Well, I can appreciate the fact that you are not interested. Do you mind if I ask why?”

The word “why” is a very dangerous word. You have to be careful how you ask it. Dont say, “Why arent you interested” with a loud and irritated tone of voice. Soften your voice and calmly ask, “You must have a very good reason for not being interested. Do you mind if I ask why?” You have to be very careful with the word “why.”

Heres another example: “In addition to the fact that youre currently working with someone else, is there anything else that is holding you back from you and I getting together?”

Whatever the objection is, place it inside of your question. For example, “In addition to the fact that youre currently working with someone, or youre busy, or youre happy where you are at, or you have no money, is there anything else that is holding you back from taking the next step?”

Now let me share with you The Formula for Success(TM) when working through Objections:

1. Listen and dont get defensive.

2. Ask questions to identify and to create an opportunity.

3. Get off of the objection and focus back on the purpose of the call. Dont ignore the person–stay focused on the purpose of the call. If you make the objection an issue, it will be the issue.

Principle #6: Ask For What You Want. You have to ask for the appointment or the business. Ask and you shall receive.

Did you know that 50% of the salespeople in America dont ask? Forty-six percent only ask once. Four percent of all salespeople ask five or more times. And did you know that 60% of all sales come on the fifth attempt.

I am not suggesting that you get them on the telephone and ask for the appointment or sale five times. But if you dont ask, somebody else will.

Most people have a fear of asking. They feel that if they ask someone to buy their products or services, they might not like them. This might be a fear of rejection or failure.

But asking for a decision is a test of your confidence. Do you really believe enough in what you are doing to ask people to buy?

After you ask for a decision, keep quiet! When you are on the phone and there is silence, its uncomfortable, isnt it? Ive been on the phone and kept quiet after asking for a decision, and Ive heard calculators, Ive heard paper shuffling, Ive heard keyboards, and Ive heard conversations. I dont say a word, because after you ask somebody to do something they are processing what you have asked them to do.

Here are some closing techniques I have found successful throughout my career in sales.

Any time I present an idea to anybody, I say, “How does this sound to you?” If I get any positive response from that question, I follow up with another question that begins with who, what, where, when or how. For example:

Whose name would you like to have appear on the account?

What dollar amount would you like to start out with?

When would you like to get started?

Where would you like the confirmation sent?

How would you like your name to appear on the account?

Principle #7: Self-Promotion. Self-promotion really encompasses the entire call from beginning to end. Self-promotion starts when somebody says “Hello.” Everything discussed earlier, all the little things that you do, the experience that the prospect or the client has with you, is what separates you from all of your competition.

People like people who are sure of themselves and who are confident. You are the product. You are the first thing that is bought in the conversation. You must have confidence and believe in yourself.

Confidence and belief come from four things:

1. Practice.

2. Being prepared.

3. Your knowledge of your industry, of the competition and of the customer or prospect. The more knowledgeable you are, the more confidence you will have.

4. Your ability and skill to communicate your knowledge.

is the creator of The Telemasters System(R), a system for achieving superior results on telephone sales and customer service calls. His company, Telemasters Inc., is based in Bloomington, Minn. He can be reached at steve@telemasters.net. This is an abridged version of a presentation he gave at the MDRT meeting in Las Vegas.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, June 30, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.