Phone Standards That Really Will Increase Sales
Turning seemingly casual phone inquiries or that dreaded ‘how much is it?’ phone call into a sale is paramount to improve your return on the investment in your marketing AND to increase your profits.
As is turning those same phone calls into face-to-face meetings between you and the potential customer. It may not be appropriate to sell your product or service over the phone. To do that, you may need to arrange a meeting with the potential customer. Perhaps this is true for you. If so, turning these casual or price-inquiring phone calls into a meeting is a ‘mini-sale’ in your sales process.
Without turning these calls into sales or meetings, you will be losing money hand over fist. And that’s simply because you will have gone to all the trouble and expense of placing advertising and creating marketing tools, only to have your efforts foiled at a critical moment.
That moment when your potential customer speaks with a team member.
And your team member does their best to handle the inquiry, but doesn’t have a system to work to, hasn’t been trained on the best sales techniques over the phone, and so, by no fault of their own, loses that customer.
There goes your investment in your marketing, usually in less than 3 minutes. Worse yet, your marketing actually worked—the phone rang—but no sale was made!
Your team member might feel that the customer was lost because of price. But that’s simply not true statistically. Only 15% of the market shops on price alone, whereas 68% will choose not to deal with you because of ‘perceived indifference.’ This will be explored further here.
This information is designed, then, to give you insight into some key ‘performance standards’ and those over-the-phone sales techniques that really will improve sales for your business.
Performance standards (setting a minimum that sets you and your team’s performance apart) and phone-answering techniques to get the ball rolling are addressed in: ‘Phone Answering and other Powerful Phone Tips.’
Little words make a HUGE difference.
If there were ever a time when you and your team needed to concentrate on the little things, it’s during your phone inquiries.
The phone performance standards you’re about to work through may seem unimportant. Yet you’ll discover they are among some of the MOST important standards of all. These are the standards that really make you stand out. These are the standards that will have you selling left, right, and centre!
Performance Standard #1: SMILE to the point of a GRIN before you pick up your phone.
Performance Standard #2: Answer your phone on the second ring.
Performance Standard #3: ‘Good [morning / afternoon / evening], [optional location], this is [Your First Name] and [Your Last Name].’
Performance Standard #4A: Listen attentively.
Performance Standard #4B: Give out positive strokes.
Number 4A suggests that you eliminate 2 things:
- This kind of statement: “Good morning, ABC Company hold the line please.”
Let’s face it, there’s nothing more annoying than calling a business and being put on hold before you’ve even had a chance to open your mouth! Remember, you probably thought it was rude at the time, so why allow this to happen in your business?
- And this kind of interrogation: “May I ask who’s calling?”
Keep in mind, not asking this DOES NOT imply you have to take every call so that your customers won’t feel ‘screened’ or annoyed.
If you aren’t available for calls, simply allocate the amount of time you won’t be available. The person taking the call mentions that you are ‘with someone at the moment’ or ‘out of the office until (time).’
Listening attentively means just that: The person taking the call listens attentively and finds out how best to help that customer—either by handling the call themselves or by putting the caller through to the best person.
Next, ‘positive strokes’ are reassuring, positive comments designed to build trust and encourage dialogue. Often they are simply small comments that let people know you’re listening and you understand. Comments like:
|Uh huh||Sounds like it||Great|
|I see||It’s true that can happen||That’s right|
|Really||I understand||Thank you|
|Mmmm||I know what you mean||Thanks for that|
|Right||You’re right about that||Good|
By looking at these phrases, you can understand how positive strokes work. They let the caller know you really are listening, and they help to build rapport and get a conversation going on something other than price. Using positive strokes, you begin to build a relationship by empathising with the caller.
It’s these sorts of statements that makes a customer feel you are sincere about their needs. And it’s important that you are. Positive strokes are incredibly powerful when you mean them. In fact, your potential customers and customers will end the phone call feeling happy and warmer toward your business than others offering similar products or services.
At first it may feel a little strange, but imagine you’re talking with a family member or a good friend. Naturally, people tend to give each other positive strokes. Very unnaturally, we tend to do the opposite in business. We tend to clam up. And only speak when spoken to and only give answers as required. This is NOT a positive experience for your callers.
On the other hand, positive strokes make it so. Giving positive strokes is all part of, once again, making your business different from your competitors. You see, it’s always these little things that create a truly profound difference.
Think about the sincere positive strokes you could be using when you talk with your potential customers. What could you say to acknowledge their comments more positively? You should be able to come up with a lot.
And as a final thought on positive strokes, you might remember this phrase:
‘As of now, our aim is not to satisfy the customer, our aim is to Delight them. Our aim is to be memorable.’
Sometimes it is appropriate for team members to ask the caller several questions—if the questions relate to the caller’s needs. This leads us to the next significant point.
No trust = No sale.
And the only way to build trust is to ask questions.
Specifically, to ask open-ended questions. That is, questions that get information other than a straightforward yes or no answer.
Typically, closed-ended questions—that is, questions that get a yes or no—are to be avoided because of two reasons. First, they stop the conversation short. And second, you have a 50% chance of getting an answer you don’t want—like NO!
Ideally your questions should start with:
All of these questions generate much more than a yes or no answer
Take a few moments now to think about the open-ended questions you and your team could be using to learn more about your customers’ needs (and in turn sell more!). Use these as thought starters:
What sort of [product or service type] do you have [or use] right now?
Which particular aspect of your [home, garden, business, and so on] were you hoping to improve?
When would you like to [start or have that delivered]?
Where did you hear about us?
Why do you specifically feel you need [product type or service]?
Who would be primarily involved in the training?
How would you like to pay for that—cash, check, or credit card?
There is just one occasion, however, when you CAN and MUST use a closed ended question. It’s crucial that you do.
This question MUST be used at the very beginning of the phone call, particularly if a caller has asked:
“What’s the price of a…?” Or “How much is it?”
And this question is:
‘Well fine, thank you for calling. So that I can help you best, could I just ask you a couple of questions?’
Approximately 7 out of 10 people will say yes. Fortunately, most will be pleasantly surprised and you can go right ahead and help them out by talking with them and matching their needs to your products or services.
The other 3 will say, ‘Look, I really just want to know the price of XYZ.’
In this instance, it’s simply a matter of saying something like, “Of course, I understand. It’s just that the price ranges from $49 to $78. To find out what’s going to suit your needs best—what/which/when/where/why/who/how.” So at this point, just launch into the questions irrespective.
In fact, you should ask questions IRRESPECTIVE because:
- The caller will be encouraged to respond to your questions—that is, they’ll be encouraged to talk.
- The caller SHOULD be doing most of the talking early on in the call—after all, it’s the caller who has the problem!
- As a general rule, people asking questions are in control of the conversation.
Last but not least:
- Information is POWER.
By asking questions, you’ll gain a better understanding of the caller’s needs, make sure they get the right product or service to suit them, and be armed with information to justify their purchase from you.
And this is:
Performance Standard #5: Ask questions irrespective.
These questions can be softened by the following sorts of statements:
Could I just ask…?
By the way…
Incomplete questions can also be good, particularly for gathering personal details. For example:
“Once again, my name is Jenny Tucker and yours is…?”
“And [Potential Customer Name], just in case something crops up, your phone number is…?”
By the word ‘script’ here, we don’t mean something you have to follow word for word. Perhaps a ‘prompt sheet’ is a better description. That is, you have a sheet of paper in front of you, on your wall, or somewhere easily visible during your calls.
You’ll find that many callers begin their calls with very, very similar questions. What the prompt sheet does is remind you to be the one asking the questions as outlined here, instead of simply responding to the questions your caller asks.
Remember, too, that your prompt sheet should ideally consist principally of ‘open-ended’ questions to make sure you get all the information you need before you propose a solution to a caller’s problem.
A comparison worth making
When you compare this scenario with what usually happens, you can instantly see why these phone techniques work so well.
Let’s do that for just a moment.
For instance, you’ll agree that a lot of those callers begin their call like this, “Could you tell me the price of…” (or a similar phrase that makes it sound like they’re just shopping around).
And you’ll probably agree, too, that most businesses, maybe even yours, respond to that question by saying something like, “Oh yes, the price for that is…”
Once you’ve answered, what do most people do next? That’s right, they say, “Thanks very much. I’ll get back to you.” But they never do. Right away, they call someone else.
And here’s the point
You see, that next person treats them no differently—all they get is another price. And the next and the next, until finally somebody gives them a different price. Only then do they stop and purchase.
Yet at this point, have those callers you’re losing to competitors been given ANY other reason to buy? Do they have anything OTHER than price to differentiate you and your competitors
No. Of course not.
Think about the lost dollars. You invested hard-earned dollars to get that phone to ring. You most likely would have been guaranteed a new sale if it had been handled in the right way—or at least an initial meeting. Yet (maybe even without your being personally aware of it) the opportunity and the sale could have been lost.
You see, statistics show that it is NOT so much price that makes a buying decision (in fact, only 15% of the market shop on price alone). Rather, it’s a lack of any other means of differentiating you over your competitors!
Now imagine they called your business and right up front somebody thanked them for calling. Somebody actually acknowledged that they had a choice, they didn’t have to call you, that they could just have easily called your competitor. But they didn’t, they called you and, shock of shock, you showed them you understand that by thanking them in the first place!
Next, imagine you went on and said, ‘So that I can help you best, can I just ask you a couple of questions?’
Wow. You’d probably be the first of the people they’ve called to do that!
No wonder most people say ‘sure.’
Next, you go on and ask them a whole heap of different questions about THEM and THEIR NEEDS, rather than just talking about how good the product or service is or what a fantastic business it is.
(By the way, this is what your competitors will be doing, so if your customers do get to the point of talking with them (most likely not), they will be suitably unimpressed because no one will treat them the way you did!)
Right at this point, you will have already given then something other than price to make a decision on.
In fact, in many cases they would be far more likely to buy from you just because you took an interest in them and their needs.
Statistics show that 68% of the people who inquire and then don’t purchase fail to do so because they feel you don’t care enough about their needs. In fact, they perceive you couldn’t care less whether they purchased from you or not. In other words, they perceive you’re indifferent toward them. Using the performance standards outlined here, asking questions, and so on removes this perceived indifference instantly.
The numbers could be staggering
Now let’s say the average conversion rate from inquiry to sale for your business is 4 sales out of 10 inquiries. That means, for example, from 100 calls a week, you’d make 40 sales.
Now imagine if, by improving your team’s phone skills, you could increase that conversion rate from 4 out of 10 to 6 out of 10. That’s a 50% increase in sales!
A 50% increase for doing nothing else EXCEPT improving your phone-answering techniques, listening attentively, giving positive strokes, and asking questions. There are no added costs. No added hassles.
Just a few little words that make a HUGE difference.
Now that you’ve seen that you can create profits from seemingly casual ‘price’ or general inquiry calls when your people have certain skills, you’d be mad not to change to these performance standards! After all, it’s your profits we’re talking about!
Now that you have a systematised way of gathering information and building rapport over the phone, you can begin getting better sales results immediately.
And this is still just the tip of the iceberg
You’ll agree: Creating an agreed way of dealing with people over the phone is critical, and the performance standards outlined here are a great way to get a call started.
However, you also need to address other issues, such as furthering a brilliant image with callers and setting more standards to address transferring calls, taking messages, etc.—standards that really would set you apart.
Most importantly, creating sales from apparently casual calls and effectively dealing with the ‘how much is it?’ phone call is vital to generate a better return on your marketing dollar and increase sales. Developing meetings with people who matter takes a certain finesse over the phone. Handling complaints successfully is important, too.
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