Even your most high-octane business solution will stall in the driveway if you can’t get through to the prospective customers who’ll benefit from it the most. How do you get yourself in the driver’s seat and schedule your own appointments when prospects are on the fast track, so busy negotiating the speed bumps of their own hectic schedules they’re lucky to have time to listen to their voicemails, much less see you in person?
DANGLE A SOLUTION YOUR PROSPECT CAN SINK HIS TEETH INTO
Doctors and dentists are probably the hardest clients to call on, with their hectic schedules and their receptionists who double as watchdogs, zealously protecting their busy bosses from unwanted intrusions. To breeze past these gatekeepers, your message has to show that you’ve got real value to offer, yet intrigue your clients enough to make them eager to talk with you.
Janet Thompson, an inside sales rep for a major dental products company, called on dentists who were all but impossible to reach by phone. She shared with me her tactic that produced outstanding results in getting past the gatekeeper and through to the actual decision-maker. If Janet called and got the dentist’s voicemail, she’d leave a message like this:
“Hi, Dr. McTeague, this is Janet Thompson from XYZ Company. The reason for my call today is that we just came out with a new dental crowning mixture that the American Dental Association has found will reduce chair time by as much as 50%. For you, that means the ability to see more patients. Your peers are quite impressed so far, and I’d like to share with you what they have to say. I’ll call you this Thursday at 9:00 A.M. to discuss this further. If by chance this is not a good time for you, I can be reached at _________. Again, Dr. McTeague, this is Janet Thompson, XYZ Company, at _______. Thanks—I’m looking forward to talking with you!”
Janet’s approach got her through to the dentist three times more than her colleagues who did not use this approach. Here’s how you can make Janet’s technique work for you
- Have a creative, targeted, and results-focused message specific to your audience.
- Get others to commit to your time schedule.
- Be proactive and tell your prospects or customers when you’ll call back.
- Ask for the courtesy of a reply beforehand, in case there’s a schedule conflict.
- Otherwise, inform your contact there’s no need to reply, but to expect your call at your suggested time.
No matter how successful you are with this approach, undoubtedly there’ll still be a number of prospects who’ll either forget or disregard your scheduled phone call. This actually works in your favor! A few will feel a little guilty that perhaps they “blew you off;” as a result, they’ll be more receptive to speaking with you.
GET THE GATEKEEPER ON YOUR SIDE
What should you do if you schedule your own follow-up at the time frame you indicated, but the prospect wasn’t available to accept it? Not to worry—this gives you a legitimate reason to press “0” and get transferred to her assistant, to whom you’ll explain that your contact was expecting your call. Give the assistant this information with authority, self-confidence, and assurance—but don’t confuse this with bullying or (dare we say it?) bossiness. You want to come across like a peer of her boss, your prospect—not a schlepper salesperson desperate to get your foot in the door. If you come across with the quiet confidence of a good boss, the assistant will give more value, importance and urgency to your call. As a result, she’ll be more willing and able to help you confirm one of the following:
- Her boss is in the office. The assistant will locate her and bring her to the phone.
- Her boss is out of the office, but did want to speak with you.
- Her boss is traveling and unsure what the call is about. If all goes well, this should result in the assistant saying, “Since I manage her schedule, let’s go ahead and schedule a time for when she’s back in town.”
- The assistant regrets to inform you that her boss told her to tell you thanks anyway, but she’s not interested.
If an assistant isn’t available, leave a voicemail stating that you’re sorry they weren’t available at the time you promised to call. Guess what? That’s right: be proactive! Go ahead and reschedule your call for another day and time, and again leave your name and number so your prospect can call to cancel or reschedule. Scheduling follow-up calls for your prospect keeps you in the driver’s seat.