Nov 302015
Photo: Justin Brown

Photo: Justin Brown

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time on the phone with potential customers before you ever see a cent from them.  It’s time you can’t bill for and time you’ll never get back, so make it count.  Here are some things to avoid while having this type of call.  Learn from my mistakes and be all the wiser for it.

  1. Never say more than the other person does.  You’re on the phone at this stage to qualify the person as a customer,  not describe how you will land them on the moon.  Ask questions, get information about what they need and want, and let them do all the talking.
  2. Do not tell jokes.  Let me repeat this: do not tell jokes.  Even your favorite comedy may not be funny to someone else, so keep your stand-up routine for open-mic night.  You don’t want your potential customer to become a “closed, lost” entry in your CRM software before you even got a chance to pitch them your solution.
  3. Speaking of a solution, make sure you find out what problem(s) they need solved.  This means listening, but don’t forget to ask questions like what do you need, when do you need it by, and whom should you talk to next.

Here’s a bonus item, from painful personal experience, and I will not be the first person to say this.  We record our sales calls so we can go back and make sure we cover all the points brought up on the call.  It also means I get to hear what I sound like.  Try to avoid starting sentences with “so,” or “well,” and do your best to eliminate the “ums” and “uhs” and other filler noises our mouths make while waiting for our brain to send it real words.*

The more time you spend letting your customer tell you what they need,the better your next call will be when you talk to them about your solution and why they should pay your company for it and not someone else.

*Interestingly, one study found that saying “um” at the beginning of a sentence “[affects] comprehension process, facilitating understanding (Brennan & Schober 2001), and allowing the listener to amend their predictions about what might be said next (Arnold et al. 2004; Corley et al. 2007) or evaluate the speaker’s confidence in what they are saying (Brennan & Williams 1995).”