When you’re in the business that requires you to make sales pitches at people, or at least, get them ready to buy from a company (your client), you need to be ready for some ridiculous reactions. Why? Because we’re talking about using people’s time for something that they have yet to benefit from. Besides, nobody owes you anything, so don’t expect anyone to say “Yes” just because you want them to. Simply put, people are entitled to react negatively.
While the worst case scenario would be your prospect getting all ballistic, there are cases that are not so bad. So let us first categorize the kinds of prospects you will face and how best to handle them.
Scenario #1: Your prospect is BUSY and STRESSED
Picture this: The prospect is right in the middle of something that is not only important, but urgent. She is under a deadline for a report her boss needs within the hour. She is frantically trying to collect the numbers, and is waiting for a call from logistics. Yours comes in, she dives for the handset, and her balloon is burst when she realizes you are not Brad, the logistics guy.
Open with a startling statement that’s both true and relevant. Ask if you’ve interrupted something important (rhetorical) and offer to call back if you have.
What to say:
- “I know my call couldn’t have come at a worse time, but…”
- “I am so sorry for catching you at a terrible/very inconvenient time. Can I get back to you later?”
- “This is obviously not the best time to call. Can I call you again later today?”
- “I wish I could help you there. I guess the least I could do is call you some other time.”
Or you can send the prospect this message instead:
- “I have the feeling I called you at a bad time the other day. I apologize. The purpose for my call was to run an idea by you that could potentially help you to (fill in the blank with some result they would be interested in). I’d like to ask you a few questions to determine if we have the basis for a conversation. I will call you again on Friday, or you can reach me at (your office number), and my email is….”
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Scenario #2: Your prospect is INTERRUPTED
Perhaps he’s in a meeting in his office with his team, one of the members is making an important point, and then, riiiiiiing, riiiiiing… here comes a call. He could ignore it, but instead winks at his audience with a “Watch this” look, and demonstrates how forcefully he can swat away pesky salespeople like you. You don’t know what hit you.
Ask if it’s more convenient to call back at another time. Apologize for interrupting. State a compelling reason for interrupting.
What to say:
- “I’m sorry for interrupting, but I thought you’d benefit from this offer as this is only open for today.”
- “A very interesting offer just came up and I thought about how it will benefit your company, so I didn’t wait a second and called you. But since it appears that you’re busy, may I know when I can call you back?”
- “Look, I understand how you feel. I’d feel the same way, too, if I were in your shoes. But at least consider what I am going offer.
- “I thought you’d like to avail of our limited-time-only offer, hence the call. I can run you through this now very quickly, or shall I call you later?
- “I’d understand if you think I’m rude, but I wouldn’t forgive myself if this opportunity passes without you knowing about it…”
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Scenario #3: Your prospect is DISINTERESTED
Your prospect has had a long day. He barely managed to beat the deadline and was halfway through his little prayer, thanking the heavens he’ll be out in 15 minutes. He knocks on wood after whispering “no more calls today, please”. Then you called. So your prospect speaks in a monotone, normal or quiet voice. The greeting is a standardized answering phrase, such as “Marketing Department, can I help you?” Prospects inundated with calls often show such disinterest.
Drop the name of someone else in the prospect’s company who referred you to him or also uses your services. Show interest in his company or industry.
What to say:
- “Hey, Joe! Rex from admin told me you’re the best guy to talk to about this, so…”
- “Joe, I hear managers in your industry are being swamped with new orders! Let me help you with that…”
- “Hi, Joe! Brad from Finance, my roommate in college, told me you just got promoted to head of marketing. I thought you’d like to at least hear my proposal…”
- “I didn’t want to bother you with this, knowing how many calls you receive each day, but I know this one call will make a difference. You have a minute?”
- “As the new head of Sales, I heard from your former boss, who happens to be a golf buddy, that you were responsible for the positive jump in your revenues after just three months. I have reason to believe that our new software will help you boost sales even more…”
Scenario #4: Your prospect is APATHETIC
Your prospect doesn’t care anymore. About anything. He could be an employee who’s had seen better days, something with an axe to grind against the boss or the company in general. Or possibly he is just immersed in one of the ten thousand distractions all of us are faced with every day, any of which is perceived as more important than the call coming in at that very moment.
A monotone voice, non-committal verbage and audible sighs are all signs of apathy. Typical phrases are one- or two-word impersonal greetings, like “Marketing” or “Personnel Department.”
Ask for your prospect’s help and draw him or her out with open-ended questions about the company, products or personnel. Your voice tone should impart motivation.
Ultimately, your best response depends on the needs of the prospect. Think about what your product or service offers the customer. Does it save time? Reduce stress? Use the benefits of your product to match your prospect’s state of mind.
To gain an edge over the competition, listen for the verbal clues that will make your prospect glad you called.
- “Ms. Jones, you sound a little hurried. Would you be interested in hearing about a way to manage your time that has given many executives, like yourself, hundreds of extra hours every year?”
- “Ms. Jones, it’s Vivi from Callbox. I know we’ve never spoken before, but I’ve got something that can be helpful to you.”
- “I’ve spoken with your guys from I.T., and the general consensus after your meeting was that, a new software might make work more efficient and save you big bucks. If you have a couple of minutes, I’ll tell you how it can help…”
- “I can tell you’re in dire need of a solution to that problem that’s been hampering your company’s full growth potential. If I tell you I have it, will you give me a couple of minutes to explain?”
- “Almost all the companies I’ve had talks with share the same opinion about the system. Fortunately, we’ve found the breakthrough and I’m excited to share it with you first.”
Scenario #5: Your prospect is ANGRY
Consider that it could be one of those days for your prospect that we’ve all had. The kids were being bratty, the unusually bad traffic made her a bit late, two employees she was counting on for input on a project called in sick, and she is dreading having to attend a meeting that she has no idea why she is included in. Her email inbox is overflowing, half of them needing urgent replies, she was just handed the disappointing numbers from the previous day that she will have to explain to the boss, and she realizes she just left her wallet will the cards and cash home.
Your call comes in.
Your prospect answers with short bursts of loud speech like “Yes?” or “What is it?” or “It had better be good”, which tell you that your prospect is angry. The anger may be directed at you, your company or, more likely, another source.
Response: Be soothing
And be unfailingly polite. If you know your prospect well, ask if he’s having a bad day and offer sympathy. If you don’t, offer to call back at a time of his choosing. Do not attempt to present your ideas unless invited to do so, and then keep it brief.
- “I can sense you’re having a really bad day. I hope things get better. I can call you then.”
- Ma’am, I am really sorry you’re having a terrible day. I don’t know if this makes you feel better, but I’m having a rough start to my day myself. Now let me turn your day around by what I have to offer…”
- “You sound a bit angry and I’m sure I’d be too if I were in your place. I’m terribly sorry for that and I’m sure we could turn this around in a jiffy..”
- “You know, if I felt the way you do, I would take my business down the street too, but here’s the thing, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure not only that you stay with us but that when you walk out this door today you are looking forward to coming back to see us. Now, let me ask you a question…
But if all else fails…
“I think a different company may be a better fit for you. Thank you for your time.”
Remember, walking away is not giving up. It means you’ve been rational enough to know that forcing it might do more harm than good.