Note: If you’re serious about drumming up new business by tele-prospecting, Jim Domanski says “you absolutely, positively need to integrate emails into your approach to the market.” He detailed how to do that in “Six Steps to Emails That Get You the Call.” Today, Jim explains how to use the phone to follow-up on the email and seal the deal. Before you read this, review his previous article to refresh your memory. Jim will be presenting his telephone prospecting workshop at this year’s Fordyce Forum in June. To learn more about the year’s conference check Fordyce Forum 2013.
Be careful how you approach your prospects. Take it a step at a time and work in small batches. First, build a list of about 20-25 names. This is a manageable number when you are trying to coordinate a mail out program with a telephone follow-up program. (Depending on your other tasks and responsibilities your email campaign might be sent to more or less.)
Send your emails out either the day before you call or several hours before your scheduled call. This gives your prospect time to see and read your email. It also gives them time to digest your message; give it some consideration. Whatever the case, you want to make your follow-up call after no more than 24 hours. Your email was designed to catch your prospect’s attention, but that attention span is short. Strike while the iron is hot.
Preempting the Gatekeeper
Depending on the company you’re calling and the level of the individual within the company, you might encounter the dreaded gatekeeper. Most gatekeepers are adept at screening your call, and one of their favorite tactics is, “Is she expecting your call?” Your email nips this one in the bud. You can truthfully answer that indeed the call is expected. After all, you sent an email saying you would call.
You can also preempt the gatekeeper screen simply by saying”
“This is _____ from ____ I am calling for (prospect name). I have an 8:15 appointment.”
Of course, this doesn’t work all the time. You can still get screened. But it will work some of the time, and that increases your opportunities, which is precisely the objective.
How to Leverage Your Email
Your email is the perfect pretext for your follow-up call. This is where that one-two punch of a visual and audio message comes into play. The trick to your opener is use the same message theme as you did in the email. Here’s a template:
Craig, this is _________ calling from ABC Recruiters.
Craig, the reason for my call is to follow up on the email I sent you yesterday afternoon about reducing the frustration and hassle of finding and keeping a better quality sales rep.
Of course, I am not certain if this is an issue with your firm, but if I’ve caught you at a good time I’d like to ask you a few questions, get a feel your situation and then determine if it might be beneficial to talk further.
Let me ask you, are you absolutely 100% satisfied with the quality of your recruiting efforts.
Here are some important points to bear in mind with this follow-up opener. First, never, ever ask if the prospect received or read your email. It’s far too easy for him/her to say ‘No’ and it can become a show stopper.
Second, notice how the opener echoes the same message as your email (pain points: frustration and hassle), and implies a solution (the reduction of those pain points). If finding and keeping a quality sales rep is an issue, then the prospect will probably give you a few more seconds.
The third key point in this opener is the use of the humble phrase, “I am not certain if this is an issue…” It is courteous and respectful. It implies if there’s not an issue, you’ll not belabor the point or the call.
Next, you explain that you’d like to ask some questions to understand the prospect situation. Notice, there’s no pitch and no attempt to set up an appointment. You want to qualify the prospect before zipping off for a visit.
Finally, the first qualifier references the very first line of the email. It’s a good question. If the client is “absolutely 100% satisfied” then there is probably no need. But the question is crafted so that there is room for the prospect to acknowledge a possible issue. This is the thin edge of the wedge. If you get the prospect to agree to that, then you have the basis for moving forward. The neat thing is this: Your email from the day before has already primed the pump. It planted a seed. It had time to germinate. This increases your odds of the prospect opening up.
Voicemail Messages That Get Returned
If the prospect is not available and you reach his /her voicemail box, you can – and should – leave a voicemail message. Remember that your email said you’d call at 8:15. You not only want to show the prospect that you met your commitment to call back, but you want to use the opportunity to re-brand your message in his mind. For example:
Hi Craig. It’s ______calling from ABC Recruiters. Sorry I missed you.
Craig, I am following up on my email I sent yesterday about possibly reducing the frustration and hassle – not to mention the cost – of recruiting, hiring, and keeping a good sales rep. I promised I’d call at 8:15 to discuss your situation and see if there might be a possible fit.
My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Again, it’s ____ from ABC Recruiters. xxx-xxx-xxxx
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Notice how short and compact the message is. Busy prospects like that. The emphasis of the message is that you may be able to help solve a problem. You’ve done that visually through your email, and now you’ve left an audio message. This makes you more memorable.
Follow-up With Polite Persistence
Of course, not every prospect will respond to your email and voicemail strategy right off the bat. You need to be politely persistent.
Translated, this means giving the prospect time to respond. My rule of thumb is three business days. That gives them enough time to get back to you, and it’s long enough so it doesn’t look like you’re desperately stalking them.
When you follow-up, use the same strategy. Send a quick email and make a follow-up phone call. The idea is to continue to reinforce the visual and audio message. Your messages should be brief and request a call back. Use the same principles as outlined above.
If there is no rely after three business days, send another email followed by a telephone call. Your messages should be polite and request a call back. They should not pitch or promote your solution or your company. I assure you, no one wants your infomercial.
By now, you’ve made three attempts to reach your prospect: the initial email and voice follow up, and two subsequent email/voice follow ups. That might be enough. Conventional wisdom says you should persist and not give up. I am a realist. Trying to manage follow-ups with dozens of non-responding prospects can get overwhelming. But it the prospect has potential, try once or twice more. What have you got to lose?
In today’s marketplace, you have to work a little harder and a lot smarter if you want to gain an edge and develop more business. This one-two punch of email and voice follow-up combines hard work and smart work. Apply it and watch your sales grow.