In this fifth article of six David Armes and David Das, sales gurus to brands of all sizes and global reach are going to help you Reach Out and sell with laser-like relevance, because that’s what customers are demanding right now.
This means helping you with your hook that we challenged you on last time and looking at how it works as part of a ‘first conversation’ structure with a customer you’ve never met before. Let’s dive straight into it.
Structure over scripts
It’s really important to note that specific word, ‘structure’. In our experience, scripts just do not work in the vast majority of cases when contacting a customer for the first time. This is because they force you to come across unnaturally and can make you panic if the conversation veers away from it. You’re trying to develop an instant rapport with the other person, so you need to be listening and responding in a natural way.
In order to do this, here are some tips to think about before you pick up the phone or make first contact:
Tips on making first contact
- Know what you want to achieve, e.g. a meeting or second conversation
- Write down your first 12-20 words. Starting the conversation with the right tone is vital
- If you think a call is going to be difficult, or you feel nervous, find a quiet place and stand up
- Remember to smile – the customer will hear this in your voice
These are really simple things to help you to get physically ready to Reach Out with relevance.
With these tips in mind, you can now turn to the actual call. The following structure helps focus on the objective of the call, show relevance and come away with a date for a second conversation.
Structure of a great call
Again, this is deliberately simple. How long would you say a first call with a new customer should last for? Five minutes? Ten? Nope, we recommend that this type of call should last no longer than two-three minutes. That’s all.
That’s not to say that if the customer wants to talk more about what’s important for them, or they ask you questions, that you should cut them short and hang up. The critical thing to avoid is to start talking in detail about how you can help them with your reshaped offer. That content should be left for the second conversation.
Here are some tips for each step in the structure:
Show credibility from the start
This is the most basic tip out of all the articles. Surprisingly, even the most experienced people can sometimes miss this out, and we can understand why as everyone feels a little pressure right at the start of the call:
- Say hello
- Check you’re speaking to the right person
- Say hi again and then your name
- Say where you’re calling from
The most often-omitted of these three things is your name, instead the caller says something like ‘Hi, I’m calling from PHD Inc, am I speaking to Sarah?’. This is mostly met with a wary ‘yeeesssss?’. Saying your name brings humanity straight into the conversation.
The pause is important as it begins to engage the other person into the conversation. Again, after you say your name and company and pause, you may be met with the same wary answer, but in the pause there’s the chance that they’ll say hello back.
It’s all about the hook
The very first thing to think about when putting together your hook is how to make it ultra-relevant. We covered the topics that make your hook relevant in the last article [something they’re working on, something they should be working on, fresh ideas]. With an idea of your hook in your mind, here are the guidelines to creating a hook that stands out:
- You need a clear ‘So What’ – customers are saying there’s no real drop-off in the number of people contacting them to sell things. The ONLY people they really give the time of day to though are those who are immediately relevant. Our question to you therefore is, you’ve got a new offer, so what does that mean to me if I was your customer?
- Your service or product is simple to use – anything seen as complicated to execute or needs considerable effort to deploy is not what customers are looking for right now.
- Know their context before you get in contact – don’t expect to impress if you contact them without knowing their situation as much as possible. This is your chance to cut-through all the other noise by demonstrating you’ve done your homework and can start the conversation far further along in their thinking.
Your hook must quickly lead to displaying relevance. Here are a couple of examples:
- We had an idea on how ABC Holdings could unlock that opportunity in the property market in the Midlands you’ve been looking into….
- You know the new regulations on XYZ? We think we’ve found a way to comply by changing only one of your processes, not fourteen of them…
You’ve probably noticed something that’s common to these examples and is common to every genuinely effective hook. That is, the content is focused on what’s important to them.
Rapport builds throughout the whole conversation, so don’t think of it as the second step in the phone call, rather be aware of it from the very start.
If your hook is strong, it’s rare that they will tell you to go away because they’re ‘not interested’. They may tell you to go away though, if they’re under time pressure, or are in a bad mood. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to acknowledge it and say something like, ’it sounds like this isn’t the best time for you, when would be a better time to call?’
The purpose of this part of the conversation is to bring them into it, as opposed to it being a one-way street. You do that by asking them a question based on your hook. Using the example hooks from earlier, they could look something like this:
- We had an idea on how ABC Holdings could unlock that opportunity in the property market in the Midlands you’ve been looking into…and wanted to ask how important the area is to you now, given the situation?
- You know the new regulations on XYZ? We think we’ve found a way to comply by changing only one of your processes, not fourteen of them…What did you think when you first saw them?
These types of questions are great as they give the other person the opportunity to speak. Lots of sales calls use hooks that are about their own business ‘I’m calling from XYZ and we do this and that’, which then leads to a question such as ‘Have you heard of us?’, which elicits a yes/no answer and then the caller carries on regardless of the answer. No rapport, no understanding. Basically, the type of call nobody wants to receive.
Asking the right question leads to a two-way conversation and once they’ve provided their answer, you can then exchange information back. Typically, this is in the form of your point of view, or something drawn from your experience.
In the example, it may be something like:
‘Where there’s been this amount of regulatory change in the past, we’ve found that we can help reduce the challenge to three steps, the first one being to….[insert your POV or experience here]’
You’ve just provided something for nothing bar a very short amount of time out of their day. However, a lot of people get this part wrong.
Because the other person has engaged in the conversation during the Information Exchange, you can sometimes feel relief that it’s going so well. So when it comes to giving your view, it can morph into talking about your wonderful service or solution in more detail.
However, in this first phone call, we want to show value and relevance, and minimise cost in terms of their time. So the moral of the story is to keep to your point of view and move on to getting the meeting.
From the Information Exchange you can propose a second conversation where you can deliver more value.
This is often called the close. There are different ways of doing this, but put simply our preferred ways give the other person a couple of options. For example:
- When would you be free over the next week or two to catch up?
- [If you genuinely are in the area] I’m in [town] for a few days next week. Do you have any availability then?
- Are you free next Tuesday or Wednesday?
Once a time and day is agreed, send an email confirmation straight after the call.
We appreciate there is quite a lot of information here for such a short conversation. But getting it right is crucial to start building your relationships and unlocking new avenues of growth.
In the sixth and final article [for now], we’ll be covering how to run that second conversation and elevate it to a level where your customer is helping you to build the solution and is on your side.