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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting your phone calls returned

Mel Lester posts some worthy suggestions in his blog entry: Getting your phone calls returned. Lester wisely points out that you won't get far cold calling with a scripted message that doesn't meet your prospective client's interests.

Yeah, coming up with a good reason for the client to return your call (what I call your "entree") isn't easy. But it works. It requires more work up front. So you can make 20 shotgun calls to prospects and maybe get 3-4 to return your call. Or you can offer your entree to 5 prospects and get 3-4 to return your call. Which seems the better strategy? By the way, your chances of eventually making a sale are substantially increased when you take the more client-focused approach, starting with that initial contact
Alas, these days, the number of "bad calls" seems to be increasing disproportionately. This is because the in the era of email, the phone is used much less for casual conversations, and much more frequently for important or meaningful connections. Almost all uninvited and scripted calls are from inept marketers, and are simply not worthy of a response.

As a good example, today, one of my top sales representatives received an unsolicited call from someone representing one of our competitors, pitching advertising in an association publication.

Alas, the caller had absolutely no knowledge of our real relationship with the association -- or, for that matter, our business, or he would have never called us -- as he rattled on in a lengthy and (for us) amusing voice message.

So how do you get calls returned, and meaningful action? Assuming you have a good reason for your call, I'll add one idea to Lester's list, especially if you are calling a senior executive or CEO of a larger company with much authority.

When you call, don't ask for the person directly, ask for his (or her) executive assistant. Better, find the EA's name first (often through the receptionist) and then call the EA.

Explain your purpose, provide whatever documentation s/he requires by email or fax, and seek her guidance on the best way to proceed.

I've never had a legitimate call to an EA shunted aside or not followed through properly. Today, for example, I received a return call, not from the company president, but the person who could really answer my inquiry -- and he was being really courteous to me because he knew the company president wanted him to speak with me.

Executive assistants know which buttons to push, and more importantly, they can handle your inquiry in the most appropriate manner for their busy executive's schedule, perhaps by forwarding an email note, faxed documentation or the like, and getting the response you need. If an appointment directly with the decision-maker is appropriate, they will set one up, but usually on a cold or initial call this is way too presumptuous.

But your stage is set for discussions with more junior employees of the organization and you have a natural follow-through with the EA if you need to communicate further at the higher levels.

EAs may be "gatekeepers" to keep uninvited intruders out -- but they also facilitate your entry if you really have something of relevance to offer. If not, why are you calling in the first place?

1 comment:

Mel Lester said...

Hey Mark,

Thanks for picking up on my post. You had some good insights to add to it. Bottom line: Invest some time up front before contacting the client so you have something of value or interest to offer. In my experience, that typically makes a world of difference in how your call will be received.