Making the Most of Phone Enquiries – It’s What You Say and How You Say It

It takes a lot of money and effort to get the phone to ring with a potential new customer! The marketing cost for each inbound prospect call is around $50 to $100. Whether the prospect buys and how much they spend is totally dependent on the quality of the call and the skill of the person answering the phone. Most staff just do the minimum required – they answer the customer’s basic questions or just take the order – but they don’t do much selling.

For many years our prospects would phone and ask us questions about two main things – either price or availability – and we would politely tell them the answer and be off the phone in a few minutes or less. Most prospects were pleasant but never called back and we lost potential sales as a result. Our phone call sales conversion rates were just average and our business struggled financially.

It wasn’t until we learnt the technique of asking great questions that we made those additional sales and turned the business around. Selling is NOT telling – selling is all about asking questions and active listening. Don’t just blurt out your price– always discuss your value before revealing your price! It would be like a doctor prescribing a cure without effectively diagnosing the problem.

A single question (just 15 words) turned the business around and made us our first million dollars. Five years later we found a power phrase ( another 20 words) which was the key to “selling off-peak” – filling up in our low season and quieter times.

Let’s start at the beginning with answering the phone – Have you ever noticed that different staff answer the phone in different ways? Some staff are much more effective than others at getting names and building rapport early in the conversation. A happy attitude and voice tone is important – but the specific opening words you use are vital for making more sales.

We found adjusting to the pace and mood of the caller was critical – matching a fast or slow speed (quick and loud or slower and quiet) and a focus on either results or relationship (sense of urgency and the amount of small talk required) were important.

We developed a detailed phone script – a structured list of the best possible questions to ask any phone enquiry. Using the phone script doubled our sales conversion from phone enquiry to sale. The trick with the phone script was not to ask all the questions hurriedly or rudely like the Spanish inquisition, but to build lots of rapport with the prospect during the diagnostic process – and spend more quality time on the phone. Compliments, common bonds and appreciative enquiry techniques helped build rapid rapport. Use of question softeners like “Do you mind if I ask…” helped build trust and respect quickly and sales grew substantially.

It was crucial to find out fast whether they were a past customer or had much experience in our industry so we developed several great questions for finding out the source of the enquiry up front.

Sales confidence and competence was important – prospects could tell when you were new or not very confident. The fastest way to become an expert was to really know your stuff – we trained and drilled our staff on the “seven Reasons Why?” and sales role-playing paid dividends. With each enquiry potentially being worth thousands of dollars, it was too expensive to let newbies handle the customer enquiries. The SAS have a great saying about training – “Better to sweat on the training ground that bleed on the battleground”.

Using a few special words really made a difference to sales conversion – for example just saying the words “because” or “which means” turns any feature into a useful benefit for the customer.

Most prospects buy on emotions so the choice of closing question was important and needed to be tailored to the particular type of customer – for example “How does that look?, How does that sound? or How do you feel about that?” – Don’t ever ask “What do you think?”

Once we had landed the sale, we could go after the high profit Add-ons. The favourite at McDonalds is “Would you like fries with that?” but did you know there are even better ways to ask for add-ons?

Depending on the way you ask you can get either a poor result or a spectacular one. Techniques such as using your personal recommendation, use of visual and tactile sales aids, the magic nod, staff incentives, future selling and telling success & war stories really boost the sales of add-ons and extras.

Repeats and referrals are the key to any business – you can turn one customer into many sales by asking questions that explore further possibilities – Think ”What else?” and “Who else?” when talking to your customers. Give them a personal checklist of all the great uses for your products and ask if they know anyone that is your “target customer for the month”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *