Know why you are calling
This sounds obvious, but we are all guilty of making a follow-up call just because it was on the list, or to “touch base,” having long since forgotten why we wanted to call. Worse, there are times we never place the follow-up call at all because we aren't sure of the reason for doing so. Make it a habit to type a few words to remind yourself where you left off in your last conversation, and what the purpose of your follow-up contact will be.
The most productive calls are about something you know or suppose the other person wants from you, rather than something you want from them. In preparing to make a call, visualize that person in your mind. Ask yourself, "How could I best be of service to this person today?" Whatever you answer, that should be the reason for your call.
Prepare your plan
A good way to begin is by developing your introduction and talking points for your conversation. The last thing you want is to sound like you are reading lines. Begin with a brief introduction of yourself and the purpose of your call. Say just enough to answer the question "what's in it for me" for the person you are calling, then check to see if the prospect has time to speak with you. “Is it convenient now?”
Your talking points should outline the questions you wish to ask, and answers to questions you anticipate they may ask you. Each one should be no more than a breath or two long. If you have to inhale several times to get all your words out, you're making a speech, not having a conversation.
Make it a conversation
Your talking points are a loose framework, not a laundry list of items to check off. This is why listening is so important. Yes, keep your plan in mind, but let the other person's responses guide the direction of the call. Especially at the beginning of the conversation, keep your focus on learning rather than on teaching.
Once you learn more about what your prospect or referral contact needs or wants, you'll be able to offer solutions in a relevant, respectful way. There's no payoff in launching into a description of what you can provide without knowing first if your customer has any need for it.
Ask for a commitment to the next step
Before you hang up the phone, be sure to ask for the next step. This isn't pushy; it is respectful and professional. Outlining and gaining agreement on the next interaction with the person you called is essential to being of service to them.
Your next step might be an in-person appointment, sending information, placing a call to someone else, or calling again after a length of time. Whatever it is, be clear, and get the other person's permission for what you plan to do. Be certain to complete that next step as you discussed. Doing so builds your credibility.
All of these tips keep one main idea at the forefront; the reason for your interaction is to be of service to the other person as opposed to making your numbers. If your focus is to help people instead of to sell to them, your prospects will find it easier to talk and make the best decision for their lives.
Thanks to Patti Hutton for this contribution to the RD Blog.
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