I received a call from my cell phone operator today. During the call I nearly fell from the chair I was sitting on. I genuinely had to use all my will power not to burst out laughing.
If I have spare time, I do sometimes listen to what telephone marketers are selling. I never buy anything from them, but it’s interesting to hear their attempts of selling to me. This time I had the time to listen but I was also interested to hear what they had to sell. I’m already their customer so I expected them to make a reasonable offer. In the end they cut my phone bill in half making it worth my time.
So, what made this call so funny. The guy used words like, “umm”, “wait”, “I can’t remember”, “hold on”, “ou”, etc. almost as much as all other words combined. Really. I enjoy exaggeration, but I don’t need it in this case. The guy was completely lost. Maybe I was his very first call and his manager was breathing down his neck, but still it wasn’t good.
The only reason I listened to him for more than five seconds, was that I made the decision to listen before answering the phone. I haven’t listened to telephone marketers in a long time and I was curious to hear if they had learnt something. No, they haven’t…
Why telephone marketing is difficult
Selling over the phone follows the same rules as all selling. But some serious limitations apply. It’s easy for the prospect to just hang up. Obviously you can tell a sales person in a store you’re not interested, but it’s not nearly as easy as it is to end a phone call.
Most important difference is that during a phone call your voice is all you have. Face-to-face you can say “umm” without sounding like a moron, because you can compensate with everything else you do. But over the phone your voice and words are you. When you say “umm” you are “umm”.
People expect telephone marketers to be annoying. So, they get annoyed the instant they understand they’re getting a call from one. You have no more than a couple of seconds to justify your call. Or the prospect will decide not to buy, regardless of what you have to sell. You will still have a slight chance of selling to them, but it’s a stretch.
Avoid the immediate hang-up
So, the opening is the key. There are a few ways you can avoid prompting a hang up.
- Ask a question that implies a benefit to the prospect. “Do you want to save at least 30% off from your phone bill?” Of course everybody wants that and only the people who have a principle not to buy over the phone will hang up immediately.
- Make a clear offer the prospect wants. “I can save you 30% off your phone bill.” Again only the people with principles against telephone marketing will hang up.
- Ask them to take part in a short survey. “Could you please answer 3 questions about your telephone operator? It’ll only take 60 seconds.” (Note the use of “60 seconds”. “One minute” doesn’t sound as precise.) People are more likely to take part in a survey than to listen to sales pitches. If you don’t tell them you’re going to offer something to them, they may get really angry. So, add, “If you do answer the questions, I can offer you a discount from our prices.” It may even create desire to get the discount. The need to work to get it makes it seem more authentic to the customer. Additional benefit is that you gain knowledge of the customer’s situation. And you can do some market research at the same time.
How to ask questions and explain your offer
There are six rules to how you should handle the actual conversation.
- Rehearse your lines. As said before: your voice and words are you. If you don’t know what you’re saying, you’ll sound like an idiot.
- Make simple questions. People don’t want to be challenged into a chess-like straining of their brain. They’ll get frustrated the moment they need to really think about an answer.
- Forget conditional offers. “As long as you only wear pink trousers on Mondays, you’ll receive a complementary tennis ball.” In other words: if something happens then something else happens. If it takes more than a second to understand, your offer is too complicated to be sold over the phone.
- Forget special services. “We can send someone to measure your beard’s thickness to know exactly which razor is best for you.” People want time to process complicated offers and time is the one thing you cannot offer if you’re a telephone marketer. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.
- Ask for a minimal commitment. “To get your new phone fly to Zimbabwe. Find a guy called Fratameeá. Give him an ice-cube and in return you’ll receive your new phone.” Anything more than a simple “yes” is too much to ask over the phone.
- Rehearse your lines. I know this is a duplicate. But it’s the one thing that telephone marketers never seem to understand. You are not fluent enough to sell without a script. You don’t necessarily need a word to word script to everything you say. But your questions, (your common) answers, and offers need to be fluent. Your voice and words are you. If you stumble even a little, you’re screwed.
If you mumble or use complicated expressions during a phone call, your prospect cannot understand you. You need to articulate clearly and ask understandable questions. Otherwise understanding you becomes a chore. Nobody wants to work to understand what a telephone marketer is saying to them.
Do you listen to telephone marketers?
I’d like to hear what you think about telephone marketers. Do you hate them? Do you buy from them? How would you sell over the phone? Share your thoughts in the comments below.