The first half of the calendar year’s sale cycle is behind us, and hopefully everyone will be seeing a vast improvement in their sales as the second half of 2013 begins. Gearing up for a strong finish to the year and an equally strong beginning to 2014 is at the forefront of our minds (and sales goals!).
In our market, we’ve seemingly been forced to create an increase in sales volume to combat the trend of lower budgets, sometimes being asked to provide lower pricing for the same amount of products and services. Thankfully, as buyers’ confidence levels increase and the feeling of an improved economy becomes more pervasive, we should continue to see an increase in overall sales. Coupled with an increase in both referrals and interest from social media/online venues, sales volume has been rising.
While it’s still unclear whether this is a short-term boost or a sign of better days ahead, what we do know is that we still need to be generating new leads constantly so we can increase our sales volumes – and take the unexpected increase in non-generated leads as a windfall.
I’ve written articles previously about the importance of generating leads and increasing sales volume. But when your prospects are builders or other affiliated professionals, the first order of business is getting in the door. That means getting past the gatekeeper to get a meeting with the decision-making prospect if you have any hope of eventually making the sale. The first step of this process is generally through cold calling.
We generate our call lists and follow up with our leads. One of our largest sales hurdles is voicemail. You have your list of prospects to call on and you sit down at your desk to make your calls and you get a prospect’s voicemail. You leave your message. You more than likely don’t get a call back.
You follow back up a few days later or the following week and you leave another message. You wait. You call again. Nothing. So now you get busy with another task or project and you momentarily put aside your call list to attend to the immediate work at hand.
Thankfully my business partner (who happens to be my wife) has an uncanny knack for asking me, “Did you get hold of so and so yet?” just as revisiting my call list has fallen to the back of my mind (or sometimes, directly through the cracks). I find myself constantly responding to her with the same response: “Not yet, he/she won’t call me back.” I (she) finally got tired of hearing that response and I started to do some thinking about how I can be better at leaving messages to differentiate myself from other sales calls my prospects are receiving.
GETTING RETURN CALLS
How do we get people to call us back? On average, it could take between three and eight phone calls before someone will call you back. Yet most people will only reach out two or three times before they give up. Don’t give up. Persistence, patience and frequency are critical.
Here are a few thoughts to help make you stand out and reduce the amount of times you have to reach out to one of your prospects.
- • Spend some time prior to your call and be prepared. Plan what you’re going to say in your message before you even place the call. Speak clearly and concisely; your message must be brief and to the point. Rambling on will ensure that your prospect hits the delete button halfway through your message – plus your lack of focus reduces your credibility. Remember, too, that if the prospect has to replay the message more then once to get your phone number, they are unlikely to return your call.
- • Do your research. Look at the company’s Web site prior to reaching out to the prospect there. Know who you need to speak with and use the person’s name in the beginning and end of the message. By spending a few minutes looking into the company, you can leverage that information in your message, which builds credibility, increases the comfort level of your prospect and helps propel them to call you back to find out more about what you can help them with. I was trying to get in touch with a builder I wanted to work with (left several messages) and was looking at their Web site to see what had changed in their business. I saw that they’d recently won an award for a project and I left a message saying I’d heard about their award and congratulated them. I explained we had recently won a design award as well and how powerful two award winning companies would be to prospective clients if we teamed up to work together and marketed our services that way. He called me back that day.
- • Be confident and have a positive attitude. You must project confidence in how your products and services will benefit your prospect’s business. Be prepared with several key factors that illustrate how your products and services can benefit the prospect, and leave a different message each time you have to call back. Remember, if you’re not excited about what you have to say, how is your prospect going to be excited enough to call you back?
- • Drop that boring, generic message. It’s not going to work in your prospect’s busy day. Craft a creative message that stands out and compels the prospect to return your call.
- • Spark your prospect’s curiosity. Give them just enough hook in your message to entice them.
- • Offer a proposition of tangible value. Your prospect’s interest may be sparked if you address a critical issue they may have and demonstrate significant value. To reinforce this, you could mention other businesses like theirs that have benefited. “We supplied cabinetry to several other builders, like Builder A and Builder B, that are building where you’re building, and have delivered each project on time 100% of the time, and in full. Call me back to discuss how we shorten the time we’re on the jobsite to ensure you finish on time or ahead of schedule.”
- • Finish strong. You must exude value and give them a reason to call you back. Make them feel like they are missing out on something if they don’t set up an appointment with you.
There’s no surefire way to get prospects to return your call, but standing out from the competition will ensure they at least remember you when you do connect with them. Remember to be persistent and don’t give up!
Bryan Reiss, CMKBD, is an award-winning designer who is president of the Mount Pleasant, SC-based Distinctive Design. Reiss, a 15-year veteran of the kitchen and bath industry, is an active member of the Carolina Chapter of the NKBA who specializes in sales innovations and business stabilization.