I took a break from my desk and spent yesterday morning networking at the Business East event. Held at the Weston Homes Stadium in Colchester, it’s a popular business to business show attracting 700 visitors.
Aside from the networking opportunity, I was interested to hear Mandie Holgate’s seminar, ‘I Hate Phoning People.’ (Just as a caveat here, I quite enjoy phoning people – it plays a major part of my job role! I dislike the days when I cannot get past the gatekeeper and when no one responds to my voicemails), so I was quite keen to hear what Mandie had to say and ask her a few questions myself.
Mandie opened with an interesting and well known stat among us sales people.
80% of sales require five follow-ups after the initial contact, but 44% of sales people give up after one.
So what is stopping us from picking up the phone and why do we hide behind email? The main concerns are catching the person at a busy time, fear of rejection, worrying that our follow up looks desperate or pushy or not being able to reach the decision maker in the first place.
Mandie explained it’s important to understand our audience and not to allow ourselves to make negative assumptions about our follow up. She mentioned that some studies have shown that millennials who thrive in a fast paced environment prefer a phone call – an email trail can be long and timely.
An important skill we often forget about when talking to people on the phone is listening. You need the ability to listen to the other person, this is vital in helping build rapport and trust. You want to communicate that your company’s services or products are the solution to their problem but only if you listen to understand their challenges and concerns. When cold calling, I am trying to understand and identify whether there is a useful fit between what we offer and what the prospect might need.
So what about getting past the gatekeeper?
The gatekeeper is a powerful person. They might not control the purse strings but they have the ear of the person you want to reach. They should be treated with respect. Bother to learn their name. When I’m making calls if the gatekeeper answers giving their name [“Good morning, Coast Digital, Vikki speaking”] I’ll always answer by addressing them by name [“Hi Vikki, would it be possible to speak to X please?”] it’s a small gesture but it starts off the call with a friendly tone. Start building some rapport with the gatekeeper and the next time you call they may try harder to put your call through, give you an email address or a better idea of when to reach the person.
Mandie’s advice is to stop trying to bypass the gatekeeper and get to know them. Take note of their communication style. It gives a good insight into how the company likes to communicate. You can replicate this style when you pick up the phone to their company.
So whether you’re cold calling or making a telephone follow up, be confident in your approach, smile and remember, like Bob Hoskins said in the 90’s BT advert, “It’s good to talk!”