Mobile search will drive nearly 70 billion inbound phone calls by 2016 worth approximately $4.65 billion in sales according to a study by BIA/Kelsey! The vast majority of those searchers will make a call by simply taping on the click-to-call feature of a search engine result on their smart phone.
Prospects who make a call are signaling that they have a sense of urgency and are serious buyers. Phone leads close at rates 10%-15% higher than online leads.
How can you improve your inbound telephone sales support to take advantage of this trend and boost your sales?
- Coverage 24×7: If a prospect does not get a live response to their call, they often simply hang up and call your competitor. Voicemail simply won’t cut it when it comes to sales calls. Whether you handle your inbound telephone sales support in-house or outsource it, callers need to get an immediate live answer 24×7.
- Answer Phrase: How you answer the phone really matters. Don’t just bark out your company name. It is much better to answer with something like “Thank you for calling ABC Manufacturing. Are you calling for sales or service?” This accomplishes two important items. One, callers often don’t really hear the first couple of words you say. If you simply state the company name, they may reply with “Did I call (company name)?” You are already off to an awkward start which is never ideal for a sales call. The second element of your answer phrase needs to be a yes or no question. The key is to slow down and ask it clearly. Callers actually like having a clear sense of direction and as a result the call will flow more quickly and smoothly. Avoid asking an open-ended question that can make callers give long rambling answers.
- Transition: If the person who initially answers the phone is not the person who should be questioning a sales prospect, they need to have specific instructions about how to handle a transfer. They should never make a blind transfer that could go into voicemail.
- Process: You need to have a consistent process for handling inbound telephone sales support. A strong documented process does not even have to be performed by a salesperson. You need a list of the pieces of information you want gathered, the qualifying questions that should be asked, a specific goal for what you want to accomplish by the end the call and finally the expectation that will be set with the prospect about what the next step will be after the call. However, this does not mean reading someone a script. It should be conducted as a soft interview process.
- Give to Get: Remember that you are a complete stranger to a prospect. Therefore, their defenses are understandably up. They need to feel that you are sharing as much with them as you are asking them to share with you. For example, you may want to start by saying “My name is.. may I ask your name?”
- Setting the Right Tone: Prompting callers with additional questions is important, but if it is done poorly you can come across as an interrogator. Therefore, it is very important to begin by saying “May I ask you some questions to make sure I understand what you need?” Asking permission isn’t just a nicety, it is a necessity. It shows respect and instantly makes callers more cooperative.
- Designing a Funnel: Think about creating a funnel with your questioning process. You always want to capture contact information and the source of your lead first. Then, ask a simple categorizing question like “Are you calling about… (whatever your most common type of sales request is) or one or our other products/services?” Using this type of yes or no question keeps callers from launching off into a long story. Next, you should ask questions that will quickly identify unqualified prospects. Asking qualifying questions in order of importance will save you from spending tons of time talking with someone you could have disqualified in the first couple of minutes.
- Creating Understanding: Avoid industry jargon. Many callers may not understand what you mean. Worse yet, using industry or technical terms can make potential clients feel stupid and defensive. The goal is to make callers comfortable and cooperative.
- Silence: You may have to look something up during a call, log into an application, etc. During that time you can’t just leave your caller hanging on in dead silence. Avoid awkward silences by explaining what you’re doing and saying something reassuring like “I want to be as helpful as possible, so I am going to look up some information to share with you.”
- Positive Statements: Always tell callers what you can do, not what you can’t. Couch information in positive terms. For instance, if you have determined that a prospect is qualified, but a salesperson is not available to speak with them immediately, let them know how you can help them. That could be as simple as saying “I know that one of our consultants would definitely like to speak with you. May I schedule a convenient time for a phone call? I can have someone follow-up with you within 24-hours.” Make sure that whatever expectation you set with them is accurate. It is better to promise a call-back in a day than to tell a caller an hour and have it actually take 4 hours. Always strive to under-promise and over-deliver.
A little planning and few helpful phrases will allow you to have a much more effective inbound telephone sales support process. You will capture more leads, handle calls more efficiently and hand-off qualified leads to salespeople to close.
This blog was written by Laurie Leonard, the President of SUITE 1000, a U.S. based national telephone answering service, inbound call center and outsourced call center service. Her company has specialized in handling legal intake, sales leads, email lead response, appointment scheduling, customer service and help desk calls for over 20 years.