Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting Your Prospects to Return Your Calls

Getting prospects to return your calls is one of the most frustrating problems we experience. We can be 90% sure a deal will close in the next week and suddenly, silence. If you keep calling, you appear desperate and annoying, so what do you do?

Before you drive yourself completely crazy, take solace in the fact your competition faces the same problem. However, that alone won't pay the bills. Before exploring some tactics that will help you get your calls returned, first ask yourself, "Why don't prospects return my calls?"
Here are some of the more common reasons prospects don't return calls:
Fear - Most people don't like confrontation. They would rather completely avoid you, than deliver you bad news.
Too Busy - Prospects are bombarded by calls every day. Even though returning your call may only take 5 minutes, the thought of having to talk with a sales person when they have nothing new for you and a pile of work on their desk can seem like an hour. In addition, if they have 10 similar calls that day, it will take an hour.
Lack Urgency - If their problem hasn't reached their pain threshold, they will lack a sense of                  urgency to fix it. Without pain, their problem isn't a high priority.

No Value - If you are leaving messages that don't provide additional value or a specific reason for them to call you back, there is no point for them to call you. "I'm just calling to see if you got my brochure (or made a decision)," won't stimulate someone to return your call.

How do you get people to call you back?

Your first action with your prospect is to establish the ground rules and expectations. Your prospect needs to know it is okay to say, "No."
For example: "Mr. or Ms. Prospect, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. At the end of today's meeting, my goal is for us to establish if my product or service is a good fit for you and your company.
In order to do this, I'd like to ask you some questions, so I better understand your business. Are you okay with this?

If at any time during our conversation today or future conversations it becomes clear to you that we aren't a good fit, or you decide to go in a different direction, are you comfortable with telling me, "No"?
In addition, if at some time I need you to return a call or reply to an email for additional information or to determine what you want next, which method do you prefer? Great, let's get started."
By doing this, you are laying the ground rules. If they don't return your calls, politely remind them of this conversation. This doesn't mean you email or call them every other day. Give them an opportunity to respond.
I suggest at least 4 business days between contacts.

Let's say, you've laid the ground work, and your calls still aren't returned. Here are some specific techniques you can do to reach your prospect:

Use Email: Many times if a prospect can't be reached over the phone, an email is your best alternative. I'll often include the following in the Subject Line: John, regarding your request about . .

Fall on Your Sword: Don't come across as upset or demanding. Take the opposite approach: "Mr. or Ms. Prospect, unfortunately we've been unable to connect, and I'm starting to feel like I'm becoming an annoyance. I certainly don't want to be a pain in your side, but I'm feeling like your situation has changed. 

Please let me know what's changed, and how I should best follow up with you." This politely lets them know they haven't returned your calls, and they appreciate your graciousness.

Contact the Receptionist or Assistant: That's right, call the receptionist. Let them know you have had trouble connecting. See if your prospect has been out of town. They may even have information that sheds light on the situation. You may uncover some important internal politics or changes that are happening.

Fire Your Contact: If everything else has failed, it's time to fish or cut bait. Reach out one last time, to inform them you are throwing away their file. Believe it or not, this will get some people to realize it's time to make a decision. If it doesn't work, walk away knowing you're better off spending time with real prospects.

One final thought. Sometimes deals fall through. In this case, the best thing you can do is to build top of mind awareness. Create your own drip marketing campaign, so when someone is prepared to move forward, you are at the top of their list.






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