Challenge: Voice Mail
is driving me crazy! It seems like I can never get through to the people I want
to talk to.
Welcome to the club. Not
so many years ago, there was no such thing as voice mail. Today, it is almost
impossible to call a customer on the phone and get directly to him.
The electronic gatekeeper,
voice mail, stands in the way. Voice mail has become the number one irritant
for salespeople in the Information Age.
And with good reason. If
you can't communicate with your customers, you can't get to see them. And if
you can't get to see them, you've been knocked out of the sales process. Unless
you learn to work through this electronic obstacle, the likelihood of you making
a sale is dramatically reduced.
So, voice mail is one of
those irritating issues that threaten the very heart of what you do. You've
must solve the voice mail dilemma or you won't be in business very long.
Applying the Six Hats
of the professional salesperson.
There are six hats that
a professional salesperson must wear to succeed in the 21st Century. Each of
these hats represents a set of skills and processes, and the successful salesperson
must gain and use each as the situation warrants. The hats empower a salesperson
1. An Astute Planner.
2. A Trusted Friend.
3. An Effective Consultant.
4. A Skillful Influencer.
5. An Adept Human Resource Manager.
6. A Master Learner.
Let's begin by putting on
the first hat of the 21st Century salesperson, Astute Planner. Recognize that
voice mail is one of the most likely outcomes of your telephone call. So, don't
be surprised when you call a customer and are routed to voice mail. Instead,
be prepared. Imagine that you are given the ability to create a 30-second ratio
commercial and beam it directly to your customer. What would be in that commercial?
That's the attitude to take.
So, before you make each telephone call, prepare a 30 second ratio commercial
(your voice mail message). Then you're prepared for the likely occurrence of
being routed to a voice mail system.
Next, put on the third hat,
Skillful Influencer. You must put as much skill into your voice mail message
as possible in order to influence the customer to take action. Begin by focusing
on the action that you want the customer to take. If you're cold calling for
a first appointment, the action you want the customer to take is to get back
to you, either in person or via email or fax. If you're following up on a proposal
or a previous visit, you want a different action from the customer. Keep clearly
in mind the action you want them to take, and bring all your skills of influencing,
using the presentation process as best you can, to deliver a powerful presentation.
Don't sell your product, sell a return call. Give them a reason to call you
The presentation, like all
of them, should traverse through the steps of the basic presentation process.
Identify some need/interest you believe your customer has, identify some thing
you can do to assist him, show him how that will benefit him, and ask for action.
Use your language and tone of voice to convey competence and confidence and
to make your customer comfortable with you. It's the influencing-presentation
process capsulized in 30 seconds.
As long as you have your
Skillful Influencer hat on, you can use it to take a broader view of the situation
and create a series of communications of which your voice mail message is merely
Think about using alternate
media to make a series of contacts with the customer, to precondition him/her
to respond to your call. For example, you may send a letter, follow it with
an email, follow that with a fax, and then make your phone call.
A few years ago, one of
my clients, an advertising agency, developed an incredibly creative way to precondition
the customer to accept the initial phone call. Here's how the program worked.
They first qualified a list of 100 people they wanted to see. During the first
week of the program, they sent each of the 100 a small box, wrapped in plain
brown paper, with a hand-printed address on it, and no return address. In the
box was a sugar cube with a small printed message saying, "Keep it sweet." Nothing
else. You can imagine the curious response of the people receiving that box.
The second week, another
package came in the mail. It was wrapped and addressed in the same way, only
this time, the box contained a lemon. The message read, "Don't let it go sour."
Week three came, and a third
box arrived. Same wrapping, same appearance. This package contained some tinsel
foil with the message, "Make it sparkle." Week four arrived, and the anticipated
delivery of the fourth box. In it was the business card of the salesperson with
a note, "I'll be calling you for an appointment." You may be interested in the
result. One hundred percent of the recipients of that series of packages set
appointments with the sales reps. The electronic barrier of voice mail was overcome
by creatively pre-conditioning the customer to respond to the call for an appointment.
But there are frequent occasions
when you encounter voice mail and you're well down the road of the sales process.
It's not your first call, it's a subsequent visit with a customer you know.
Your best strategy in this
situation is to apply the hat of Human Resource manager, focusing on time management
issues. Think ahead and avoid voice mail altogether. When you're with the customer,
instead of agreeing to call him and make an appointment for the next meeting,
make the appointment now, while you are with the customer. Explain that doing
so, even if it is tentative and several months in the future, will save you
both a phone call or two, and that means less time and less hassle for both
of you. When you make the appointment, you've eliminated the need for a phone
call and the frustration of voice mail.
Even if the situation or
one of your schedules changes, you can then use voice mail to your advantage
by calling with a schedule change, leaving that message, and getting your customer's
acknowledgment on your voice mail!