In fact, there was a time when I’d do anything to avoid calling prospects. I was far more comfortable emailing or texting, or even sending them messages through LinkedIn.
Those are great tools, but it didn’t take me long to realize that the top performers in our line of work are good on the phone. It’s better for building rapport, and it creates a sense of urgency that email and other tools simply do not.
Now, I make several outbound calls daily. I still don’t always love it, but I’ve come a long way. Most importantly, I’ve learned to use my phone effectively.
If you feel like I did about calling your prospects, this post is for you!
Today, I want to focus on the type of call that is among the hardest to make: an introductory call requesting a face-to-face meeting with someone you’ve never met. Here are some things that have helped me:
1. Divide and conquer. Making outreach calls requires mental and emotional energy and, let’s face it, our supply is limited. So is our willpower. I’m able to make more calls if I break up the process and make each of the following a separate activity:
- Deciding who to call, what to call them about, and when to call them
- Preparing for each of the calls I’m planning to make in a given session (see #4)
- Following up, if needed
This approach gives me the least opportunity to talk myself out of picking up the phone. By the time I’m ready to make calls, the decisions are all made; the preparation is done; now I just need to make the calls. I’ve learned the hard way that if I need to make decisions about each call, prepare for it, do it, follow-up, and then repeat for the next one, I’m just not going to get through as many.
2. Call when you’re fresh. I like to do A and B (above) at the end the work-day, and then C and D the next morning. I know that I’m freshest (read: most caffeinated) between 9:30 am and 11:30 am.
3. Prepare. I probably spend about 5-15 minutes of prep time for every one minute I’m on the phone. Start with what you want to accomplish and then reverse-engineer the entire conversation. Speaking of preparation…
4. Write a script. Yes, I know you’re not a sleazy telemarketer, but having a script, or at least an outline, will keep you on track, eliminate the fear of the unknown, and give you confidence. And yes, sketch out the message (see #10) you’ll leave if you don’t get the prospect on the phone. Keep it under 30 seconds.
5. Ask questions. As you’re writing you’re script, remember that your job is to build a relationship with your prospect, not lecture them. Build in a few easy-to-answer questions near the beginning: “Did you survive the storm last week?”, “Is your summer off to a good start?”, ask about the last event they attended, ask if they received the last newsletter, “Did you see the news about _______?”
6. Practice out loud. Writing for a reader is entirely different than writing for a speaker. The first draft of your script may not be conversational enough, but you’ll never know if you don’t test it out.
7. As you practice, find your “guru voice.” Here’s what I mean. You represent an amazing organization that’s doing amazing work. You’re an expert in the issues your organization addresses and you have the potential to help connect your prospect in a meaningful way. Gurus are confident in their abilities, yet still inquisitive, calm in their demeanor, but never apathetic, and they are clear in their delivery, yet not heavy-handed. Gurus have a child-like mastery. You don’t need to be apologetic, you don’t need to worry about whether or not you’re bothering the prospect, and you don’t need to try and muster up false enthusiasm. Find your warmest, most inquisitive, most confident self, and speak from there.
8. Take a deep breath before dialing. Big inhale. Big exhale. Dial. This will help you slow down.
9. Stand up, brighten your eyes, and smile. Sounds cheesy, but trust me, you’ll sound better on the other end.
10. Leave messages. Play to your strengths by using the phone to get people to email you. The odds are good you’ll need to leave a message for your prospect. Do leave your call back number, but also, let the prospect know you’ll follow up via email. Send the note shortly after the call. I get far more replies to my follow-up emails than I get calls back.
So remember, you don’t have to love your phone. But if you want to be a top performer, you do have to use it. Thankfully this is a skill that can be learned and improved over time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Was getting comfortable on the phone a hurdle for you? What would you add/subtract from my list above?