This article originally appeared on Inc.com as part of BusinessBlocks CEO Justin Kulla's weekly Inc. Magazine column. To see the original post, click here.
The lifeblood of a small business is sales. Whether you own a jewelry store like my parents or a restaurant, you're number one concern is likely figuring out the best way to reach customers. Plenty of consultants and blogs will tell you that you should double down your efforts online and on social. Have you tried a Snapchat campaign or an SMS offer? Social, email and text can reach a broad audience, sure, but we're all competing against each other for our customers' attention and even our best emails often have relatively low open and click rates. Consider the good 'ole telephone -- it is still a great tool.
Phone calls can be very effective for sales that require a personal connection, a high ticket price, or a consultative sale. Plus, it saves time and expense for the small business owner, especially if you are drumming up sales yourself. Sales reps in big companies are expected to make 30-100 calls per day. You may not have time to do that with all of your other responsibilities but it is a numbers game. Here is some advice from a small business owner who actually likes to make phone sales calls (really, I do).
Remember that you are selling yourself as well as your product. You need to make the connection with the customer beyond just a few-seconds sales pitch. As owner, you want to develop and nurture a customer relationship not just a "sale". The tone of your voice is important in establishing an immediate opening. Be professional but friendly. Try to make this a conversation so be aware of letting your prospect talk more (about 60 percent). I find that the more I listen, the better my responses are and the more likely I am to close a sale.
Convey your enthusiasm for your product, after all, that is why you started your business. Try to use the customer's name in the conversation and don't rush your words. Practice a comfortable pace and do not multitask while on the call. Many people find that moving about during the call helps maintain a conversational tone. I like to walk back-and-forth in my office.
Try to find a "hook" to build rapport so that the call becomes more a conversation rather than just a pitch. Break the ice by mentioning some positive item perhaps about a local sports team or the weather. Sam Richter, author of Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling recommends doing a search on www.yougotthenews.com prior to any sales call or meeting. This search will let you look up news that's relevant to them and add a personal touch. It only takes 3 minutes and it's worth it. Gauge how chatty you should be and if you are not getting good feedback then get right to the point of the call.
If you can engage the other person by asking questions you increase the likelihood of opening the door to another phone call at a later date. Get some feedback by asking questions or risk losing the connection. Gong.io found that spacing about 11 to 14 questions throughout a call seemed to hit a sweet spot. Then get to the point of the call -- either a specific ask or just a preliminary introduction to a later follow up. If you do want a follow-up then pin it down and make a calendar note to yourself. Personally, I live by my Google and Outlook calendars, but you should find a system that works for you -- even if it's pen and paper.
It is tricky to balance how many and how often to make phone calls. An advantage for the small business person is that you are more likely to be able to develop that "connection" especially if you are dealing with other small businesses. Use this to your advantage as much as you can.
The strongest customer relationships are nurtured with regular phone contact. Avoid "bad mouthing" your competition and highlight how you can help them with their product or service needs. Everyone likes to feel that they are speaking with someone who wants to help them improve their business and emphasize your ability to provide more personalized service. Don't be too timid to follow-up if you have sent some information after the call. Persistence can also be appreciated -- sometimes when you don't connect, it's not because the customer isn't interested just that their busy.
Utilizing the phone as a primary sales tool will save you time and money. Keep at it -- the more phone calls you make, the more comfortable you will be and the more proficient you will become in your conversion rates. Practice the right mindset and don't let a bad sales call throw you off your game. Keep making the calls. Success breeds success. Remember even Uber started with sales cold calls.
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