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Monday, 11 October 2010

Seven Phone Marketing Traps and How to Avoid Them


Behind the anonymity of the telephone, your sales prospect operates with a hidden agenda. Often, the prospect doesn't want to buy but doesn't like to say "no" either.

The prospect sets traps for the unwary salesperson, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes on purpose. Everything from "Let me think it over" to "I do business with my brother-in-law" to "Business is lousy and we don't have any money."

Here are seven traps every phone-based salesperson has faced and some responses that keep prospects talking. They may actually turn a "no" into a "maybe" and a "maybe" into a "yes."

1. "Send me more information."

You may consider this a positive expression of interest. More likely, it's a way to get you off the phone.

The best response to this trap is, "I'd be delighted. Let's be sure that I send you information that is really meaningful to you. May we spend a few minutes exploring what you're most interested in so I'll know exactly what to send?"

Then add, "I'm going to put a bright label on the envelope that says the things we talked about are inside. I only ask in return that we have a conversation a week from now to discuss the material."

2. "Just send the information and if I'm interested, I'll call you."

That answer is a big yellow caution flag. The person has lowered his or her value as a prospect saying, in effect, "I don't want to have a follow-up conversation."

If the customer is not willing to do that, send a one-page letter and a two-sided flyer in a 44 cent envelope instead of your complete fulfillment package.

3."We need a demonstration/evaluation copy." (for software marketers.)

This is a high-tech version of "Send me more information." Unsophisticated marketers think there must be real interest, since they want to try the program out. More likely, when the box arrives, it sits on somebody's desk because there's no compelling reason to try it.

Your answer: "If you were to evaluate it, what aspects would attract your greatest attention?" If they don't know, don't send the demonstration disk just yet. Send printed literature instead.

4. "Sounds great! When are you coming to see me?"

In these days of the $400-plus sales call, that's a trap (and a very expensive one, too).

Response: "We can usually accomplish everything right here on the phone. Will that be OK?"

If the prospect insists on a personal visit, ask what happens next. Who will be there? Nail down the participants, their roles, and prerogatives. Turn a routine demonstration into an event. Do a careful ROI (return on investment) analysis. Go only if necessary. After all, your job is not to make trips, but to sell on the phone.

5. "I have to discuss this with other people."

"Tell me about the other people. Who does what in the decision process? Tell me about your timetables." Get the whole story! Pin the prospect down.

6. "It's not in our budget."

The response to that comment is to learn whether this purchase is ordinary but off-cycle. "Does that mean there's no budget now, not ever, or is it a nice idea whose time hasn't come?" When will a purchase like this come up for consideration? Is a supplemental appropriation possible?

7. "You're a fabulous salesperson, but..."

This is not a compliment. It's an indictment! The prospect is saying that you've described product features rather than asked the right questions. You may have made a benefit statement without knowing how the product or service will be used. In other words, told not sold.

In these days of corporate "right-sizing" a lot of responsibility - but not authority - has shifted downward.

Prospects may bring you along in good faith without realizing they can't make the decision. To avoid embarrassment, they stall and invent excuses.

Recognize this new state of business life. Ask questions but don't press. Give the prospect a face-saving way out. When that person goes up the ladder and gets the authority, you will have made a good friend and customer.








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