Why Sales Reps Hate Telephone Prospecting and How to Fix It

By Jeff Beals

Earlier this week I made a critical error – I picked up the phone even though I didn’t recognize the number.  It was actually a live human, and he had this to say:

“Good morning, Jeff. I represent an overseas SEO and web-development company. We have a team of 70+ IT professionals and we aim to deliver high-quality services at cost-effective prices and without compromising on client satisfaction. We can work for half the cost of our U.S.-based competitors. Our team handled over 400 SEO projects and obtained 15,000 manually built links in the past year.  I know you’re busy, but I’d love to sit down with you in the next week or two to go over our package and pricing.”

The caller got through that entire text before taking a breath.  I sat there listening partly out of fascination that he could talk so fast and partly because I was amazed that people still start phone conversations that way.  The caller chose the worst possible start to a phone call.  His message

It reminded me of my high school days in the 1980s, when I worked as an outbound telemarketing sales rep.  For five hours each evening, I would call people when they didn’t want to hear from me (usually during dinner) and tried to sell them something they didn’t need.

We telemarketers had a very sophisticated selling strategy:  If you talked fast enough, you might get through your whole script before they hung up on you.  And we had a second strategy: If you barfed up enough features and benefits, the prospect might be so dazzled, they’d buy the crappy service you were peddling.

There’s a reason why most sales reps don’t enjoy telephone prospecting.  They don’t do it properly.  When you sound like a cheesy salesperson, your prospects will do whatever is necessary to get off the phone as quickly as possible.  Here are four things you can do to make telephone prospecting more effective for you:

1. Research your prospects before calling – I try to take an hour or so on Sunday evening each week to do background research on the prospects I plan to call that week.  I look at their personal career paths, study their company and research their industry.  I look for things that are unique about them and try to determine what they value.

2. Lead with value – When you do call the prospect, start the conversation with issues and concerns that the prospect likely has.  You know this because of your pre-call research.

3. Ask questions and listen intently – If the prospect is amenable to chatting, ask probing questions that reveal the prospect’s problems and concerns, the things they value and care about.

4. Focus on outcomes, not features and benefits – Once you know what the prospect values and cares about, only talk about the ways you can satisfy that value specifically and exactly.  When you do talk about your products and services, focus on the outcomes you provide rather than features and benefits.

Would you like to see a couple good ways to start a prospecting call?

Let’s say I sell copier machines, and I call the office manager of an accounting firm:

“In my work with other accounting firms, I have found that office managers like you hate three things about copiers: one-sided lease agreements, ridiculously complicated machines and unresponsive repair techs.  We have a new membership program specifically built from an office manager’s point of view.  Twenty-five of my clients have switched so far. I’d be happy share what this means to you.”

Now, let’s say I’m a Realtor, and I call a homeowner I’d like to represent:

“We’re finding three things holding back homeowners who would like to move to a new house: What if my current house sells too fast; what if the new house is too expensive and what if we have to settle for a house that doesn’t measure up?  Fortunately, I have some ideas that will get rid of those worries for you.”

In both the examples above, the caller catches the prospect’s attention with a compelling statement and then focuses on things he or she believes the prospect cares about.  How does the caller know what the prospect cares about?  Because the caller is an expert in the field and researched the prospect before calling!

How can you tweak your telephone prospecting messages so that they are more compelling and value-based?

Prospecting Help

If you want to get your prospects’ attention, you need compelling language that convinces them you bring relevant value.  That’s what my prospecting masterclass is all about.

If your sales team is not prospecting as effectively as it could, schedule this in-depth masterclass for your office.  It can be a half- or full-day program.  Either way, it will give the sales reps in your company actual language they can use to turn cold prospects into paying clients.

Click HERE for an outline of this interactive prospecting workshop!