How To Improve Your Communication Skills - 14 Proven Strategies
You make a call to a prospect for the first time and their first instinct is to roll their eyes and hang up. Whether the prospect is cold or even a referral, calling out of the blue often has that effect on people. No one likes being caught off guard and asked to have a conversation they were unprepared to have. Prospecting is arguably the worst part of sales, but necessary if we want more clients and a thriving business. When was the last time you received a call from a salesperson and thought to yourself; “I am so thrilled they called me right now. I can’t wait to have a 30 minute in depth conversation with them”. Anyone....Anyone...Bueller?
It’s a challenge to deliver a sales pitch to someone who has never heard about you or your offerings but getting good at your phone skills will propel your career to a whole new level.
When you get good, you will stand out in stark contrast to your competitors. Most people never practice and you know what they say about practice… NO, practice does not make perfect. Practice makes progress and that’s what you should be striving for. Just like any skill, phone skills need to be honed, practiced, and improved upon over time.
Here are some phone calling strategies that will transform you into a linguistic champion.
Strategy One: Embrace rejection
Rejection is a necessary part of all prospecting so why even be surprised when it happens? The top advisor at my past company would often brag that he would consistently get more “no’s” than any other advisor and that’s why he was number one in sales every year. Not only was he rejected the most, but he wore that distinction as a badge of honour. He literally failed his way to success. No one closes all their prospects. So how do we get over our fear of rejection?
Create a “funniest rejection” Slack channel where you and your colleagues can share your experiences. What better way to beat rejection than by taking away rejections power over you?
If someone says no to your proposal, ask them why they turned down your offer? Explain to them that you want to learn and improve your skills. Ask them if they mind telling you why they thought you couldn’t help them? Don’t try to resell them at this point. This is valuable information for your self education and future phone calls.
Role play with a colleague and have them throw out every possible rejection you could ever get. You will be surprised how few there are. Most rejections are variations of the same handful of objections.
Rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough; it means the other person failed to notice what you have to offer.
Strategy Two: Stop wasting your time on unqualified prospects
Build a targeted list of prospects so you’re not wasting your time figuring out whether you can help them or not. One of the challenges I noticed from my advisors was the lack of quality prospects many of them had. The reason they didn’t get rid of their unqualified leads was because they weren’t doing enough prospecting to fill their pipeline with qualified leads. Thus, they were stuck spinning their wheels talking to the wrong people over and over. Fill your pipeline with qualified prospects and purge your pipeline of unqualified prospects. Not only will you acquire more clients, but you will reduce the number of unpleasant calls. Who knows, you may even begin enjoying your prospecting calls. Shocking, I know!
Strategy Three: Finding the right time to call
No one wants to waste their time calling back the same prospect over and over. Yet if you’re calling them at the wrong times, that’s what will happen. By tracking when prospects are more likely to answer the phone, you can focus your efforts for a bigger impact.
What days and times are your prospects most likely to answer the phone? Call high quality prospects at those times. Doing research online, I consistently noticed studies that say Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to have a conversation on the first dial. The worst times to call are on Friday afternoons where people are checked out (thinking about the weekend) and Monday mornings where they are their busiest as they try to catch up on work.
Most people work from 9am-5pm, with a break for lunch somewhere from noon to 1:15. People are more likely to answer the phone when they’re not fully engaged in work tasks. Calling during lunch or near the end of the workday will improve your odds of connecting. More people working from home has altered this slightly, but most people tend to keep to a structured schedule.
If you’re trying to reach them at home, then Sunday afternoons were hands down the best times for me as an advisor. I found that this was the time people were winding down their weekends and preparing for the start of a new workweek. Not only are they more likely to be home, but they should also be relaxed and more accepting of your call.
If you receive a lead of any kind, the sooner you call them, the higher the connection rate and interest level. If you delivered a presentation, call them early on because everything will still be fresh in their minds. If you call within 24 hours, their experience will still be memorable. Call two days later, they may still remember but it’s getting foggy. You wait three days or more, there is a greater likelihood they may not even remember what you said at your presentation. When in doubt, sooner is better. Research shows that the conversion rate is highest the minute after the lead is generated. This makes perfect sense since the prospect is at peak curiosity.
Strategy Four: Have a goal for the call with a defined next step
Let’s face it, you’re not going to convert a prospect to a client/customer on the first call. However, you do need to get your prospect to commit to something, no matter how small the commitment is. Set clear next steps so both you and your prospect agree on how to proceed. Prospects don’t want to be sold. You’ll have more success by helping them through their buying process. Getting your prospects agreement on next steps, is key to your success.
Their commitment could be an actual meeting or simply agreeing to another call.
Strategy Five: Don’t perform like a robot
Calling prospects for the first time is a performance. You need to be able to get in the zone just like actors do. Actors use scripts, yet don’t come across as robotic. Actors can inject emotion into their scripts and come across as being natural and genuine. That’s exactly what you need to do on your calls.
Know your introduction and value proposition cold. If you have a ‘WHY statement” this will be extremely valuable on your first call.
Ask open-ended questions that will encourage your prospect to open up and talk. When this occurs, you need to listen and not just wait for your turn to talk again.
As above, be prepared to handle common objections. You know they’re coming so be ready. It’s like taking an exam where you already know the questions in advance. Yet most people won’t even bother to prepare.
NEVER make a call off the cuff. You are in control of the sales process so be fully prepared before you make that initial call.
Objection: “I’m already working with an advisor.”
Response: “That’s great, I was hoping you would say that. All my satisfied clients were once working with a different advisor. After given the opportunity to show them how I could help them, they gladly switched.”
Practice makes progress. Practice handling objections like, “I’m not interested,” “Just send me an email.”, “I don’t have money/time”.
Strategy Six: Early and often
Research shows that you may need to call a prospect eight times before you get through. (NOT on the same day.) I have met people where they practice the “One and done” method which is not effective in the least. Keep in mind that this is likely their first interaction with you, and they know knowing of you or your offer. Be prepared to show and offer value. Connect with the client by asking open ended questions and get them to talk about something personal. Kids, sports and hobbies they may love.
Strategy Seven: Tonality
It’s not WHAT you say but HOW you say it. Your tone will make a big difference in determining how successful your calls are. Your tone should exude confidence and enthusiasm. If you are speaking in monotone, not only will you sound boring, but your prospect will pick up on it and not want to progress with you. Keep a cheerful and inviting tone and your prospect will more likely want to continue conversing with you.
Strategy Eight: Prepare
Before you go into your call, do a bit of research on your prospect. With tools such as LinkedIn available to you, there’s no excuse for going into a call blind. Armed with some valuable information you got from a quick social media search, you should be able to stack the odds in your favour in starting and keeping a meaningful conversation.
Strategy Nine: Proper introduction
Introducing yourself by your full name commands respect. You should also be including the company that you work with. For example: “This is John Smith calling from ABC company”. By doing this you avoid awkward questions like “who is this” and “which company are you calling from”
Don’t ask “Did I catch you at a bad time?” but instead ask “How have you been?” People who know each other would use such a question and you will connect with the prospect at a subconscious level. Even if you’ve never talked to the person before, it will sound as if you have and you’re likely to get a favourable response.
Make sure that you’re also stating the reason for your call. Your prospect will want to know why this call is taking place and the sooner you get this out of the way, the sooner the prospect will lower their guard.
Strategy Ten: Less selling, more educating
Learn something from every conversation you have with a prospect, good or bad. Write it down and create a list of ways to improve.
Make sure your prospect learns something from you every single call. You need to provide value from the get-go. Too many of us believe that we will show our prospects value AFTER they become clients. That’s backwards thinking. The value we provide is upfront including the initial call.
Give the prospect the opportunity to talk. You want to learn more about them, including their problems and their needs.
Continue to tweak it until you can get through your entire script sounding genuine.
Carefully listen to the answer’s prospects give to your open-ended questions. The better the question, the more they will end up talking. Keep track of what’s working and what needs improvement. This way you can visually see how you are improving over time.
Team up with a colleague and share your experiences with one another. Setting your expectations correctly and constantly learning as you go will put you years ahead of the average advisor.
Strategy Eleven: Keep the conversation going
Once your prospect answers the phone you have five seconds to earn five minutes. Successful calls are twice as long as unsuccessful calls. This may seem like common sense, but the longer you can get your prospect to talk the greater the likelihood of moving them through to the next stage of your process. The advantage you have is that you already know the objections you’re going to hear, and you’ve practiced your rebuttals. With practice, you should be able to master the skill of keeping the conversation going, even if the conversation is personal in nature. The more interaction, the better. A strong sign that a call is going well is the rate of back-and-forth between you and your prospect.
Calls that include collaborative language are generally more likely to result in follow-up. Use words such as “we”, “us” and “our” instead of words such as “I” or “my” as an example.
Strategy Twelve: The close
You made the proper introduction. You built rapport. You exuded confidence and sounded authentic throughout your call. You did everything like a champion and now it’s time to see if your efforts are about to pay off. Yes, it’s time to ask for the meeting. By now you should have connected with them on a personal level, answered all their questions and demonstrated value. What better way to prove how awesome you are than by setting up a formal meeting? This is where many peope fall flat because they’re not sure or not confident enough to ask for the meeting. I will make this as easy as possible for you and the prospect. Simply ask “do you have your calendar handy?” That’s it. Simple and to the point. If you did your job properly, the meeting will be booked, you will thank them for their time and tell them you look forward to speaking with them soon. If you fell short along the way, the prospect will let you know at this point. You may need to handle another objection or answer a few more questions, but you should always default back to booking the meeting. (see below for other ways to win the call)
Strategy Thirteen: Learn to Leave Effective Voicemails
What’s your goal for your message? Is it that you come highly recommended by someone they know? That you can help them solve a problem you know they face? Or maybe you just want them to know who you are. By choosing one of these messages, you can avoid leaving long voicemails where you’re going on for too long and slap your forehead after you hang up. It also helps with future calls because you have new messages you can leave with your prospect.
Create short, specific scripts and have them ready when the inevitable time comes to leave a voice message. “I come highly recommended by somebody you trust.” “I understand the challenges you face, and I believe I can help.” “I have solved the problems you face for others, and I believe I can do it for you.”
Keep your voice messages short and sweet. Under 20 seconds is ideal. Be upbeat, friendly, and energetic in your tone. Include your prospect’s name and your full name. You should not be selling at this point. Be prepared to leave multiple voice messages over the next few days. You don’t know what your prospect is dealing with at the moment, so patience is key. I can speak from personal experience, where I received voice messages that I fully intended to call back, but it wasn’t urgent for me at that specific time.
Track your scripts and see which ones get the best results. Constantly tweak them to make them better and more impactful.
Strategy Fourteen: Persistence and the value tree
Persistence is a core trait of any successful salesperson. One of the best techniques I taught my new advisors was how to define a “win”. Too many people push for the meeting and if they don’t to get it, they chalk the call up as a loss. The key to keeping a positive attitude for your calls is setting up opportunities for multiple types of wins.
For example: When you ask for the meeting -> Two outcomes: Yes = Win, No = Fail
If we use a hypothetical close ratio of 10% booked meetings, that means 90% of your calls will be considered a failure. A 90% fail rate could make it challenging to stay positive and keep you smiling and dialing. So, why not introduce other ways to “win”?
For example: No meeting, no problem. “I empathize with your situation. We just met and you need more time to absorb what we discussed. I’m going to invite you to an upcoming webinar where you can see the type of value I provide to my clients.
Invite to webinar -> Two outcomes: Yes = Win, No = Fail. Ratio: 25% yes, 75% no.
No webinar, no problem. “It’s too bad you can’t make the webinar; you would have really enjoyed it. I will keep you in mind for future webinars. In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to join my email group. In addition to getting valuable information, you can easily get a hold of me if you have any questions by calling me or simply replying to my email.”
Email list -> Two outcomes: Yes = Win, No = Fail. Ratio: 75% yes, 25% no.
If none of these get your prospect to act, you can always ask for permission to follow up in a few months. By providing the prospect with multiple ways to say yes, you can go from a 90% fail rate to a 90%-win rate. Now your calls will seem so much more upbeat because you are still moving your prospects through your sales process. Successful prospecting is about building trust and takes time to nurture.
Your job as a sales professional has never been more important. With so many people losing their jobs and so much fear due to society’s ills, you need to fully understand the gravity of the situation. There are so many people waiting for you. Even if you don’t realize it from the initial call, there is no doubt that there are millions of people that need exactly what you’re offering. A lot of people are frightened and suffer from anxiety, so it’s up to you to be brave. When you call, your presence needs to be commanding. When you show up with your knowledge and expertise and when you speak to prospects, you are going to disrupt how they think. You have the power to replace their fears with hope. If the perception of yourself is someone with a job that needs money, you’re going to be hard pressed to inspire anyone. If the perception of yourself is that of strength and confidence, you will undoubtedly make a difference in people’s lives. Money doesn’t buy you happiness but not worrying about money can certainly place a large down payment on happiness. Don’t focus on the money, but instead focus on helping people. The more people you help, the more money you will make. It’s the ultimate win-win scenario.
Unleash your true potential, go out there and win in abundance!
When I ask Advisors "what's your biggest challenge?" The answer is almost always the same: "Prospecting"
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CONNECT | Ermos Erotocritou (yourunleashedpotential.com)