A common question I ask my sales training clients during a workshop is whether they have ever picked up the phone, or stopped by a customer or prospect’s office and said, “I’m just checking in” or “touching base” or “following up”? I’m always surprised with how many raise their hands. We have all done it. Unfortunately, this is not the best technique to use when making effective sales calls.
You Must Have at Least Two Reasons to Call
When you call a customer or prospect, you need to have at least two reasons for your call. The first reason can be to “check in” or “touch base” and see how things are going, but the second reason must be something of value to the customer. This helps you position yourself as an expert and trusted advisor, instead of an annoying “fly buzzing in your customer’s ear.”
Have Something to Bring to the Conversation
A few months ago, I went shopping for a new car. I discovered, in order to test-drive a car, the dealership required my contact information. Ok, it’s now three months later, I’m still getting calls from some of these salespeople.
Here’s a typical (bad) sales conversation:
Car Salesperson – “Hi Mr. Cherry, I was just calling to check in and see if you have purchased a vehicle yet.”
Me – “Well actually, no I have not found a car yet.”
Car Salesperson – “Ok, well you can come on down to our show room and we will find you something great. We’re open until 9pm all week!”
Click – Call over!
Is this really the only thing that salesperson can think to say on the phone?
Instead of just calling to check in, what could that salesperson have said that might be useful?
- Tell me about an upcoming sale.
- Share with me 2-3 cars currently in the showroom that they think I might be interested in.
- Inform me that a new shipment of cars is coming in on Wednesday, and I could be one of the first to check them out.
- Let me know that they increased the amount of money they would give me for my trade-in vehicle.
- Advise me of any tax law changes for auto business deduction purposes.
All of these pieces of information would be valuable to me, and might lead me to going back to the dealership to make a purchase.
The Real World – Sales Call Limbo
Now you might be thinking, “Paul, I’m not a car salesperson. My work is much more sophisticated than that.”
That might be true. But here is a common scenario I find happening with sales professionals, over and over again. A salesperson meets with a customer 1-2 times and everything is going great. The customer is supposed to make the next move, but nothing happens. So the salesperson calls just to “check in,” and gets blown off. Maybe the customer is just busy, or maybe he/she is not interested anymore. Either way, the salesperson is now in limbo. Not knowing what to do, the salesperson just keeps calling and “checking in.” The customer gets annoyed and stops taking the salesperson’s calls. Opportunity – OVER!
Demonstrate Your Value
Instead of just checking in, have a second purpose for your call! Here are some possible conversation starters when you call up your customer or prospect:
- I have an idea I’d like to share with you.
- My boss and I were talking, and thought of this unique solution to your problem.
- Another client of mine was experiencing an issue similar to yours, and I think you’d like to hear how they resolved it.
- I found an article I thought you would be interested in, it discusses some of the same topics you brought up in our last conversation.
Call Your Customer with a Plan of Action
Once you have found a piece of useful information to share with your customer or prospect, you need to make them an offer they can’t refuse. Entice them with this information and then arrange to meet and discuss it.
Here’s an example I use when I call customers. Say something like this:
“The reason for my call is, I was thinking of the recent challenges you mentioned with your salespeople. I thought about some ideas to share with you on how to get your people to prospect for new business and shorten their sales cycles. When can we get together to talk about these issues?”
So the next time you make a sales call on a customer and the words slip out, “I’m checking in” or “touching base” force yourself to have another purpose that brings value to the call.