Sometimes when you telephone the receptionist at a company and ask what the name of a person is in a certain position (like the sales manager or the product manager), the receptionist may get suspicious of you, believing you are in telesales and that you are going to waste that person’s time. He /she doesn’t want to transfer your call and tells you that the person is unavailable.

I find that it is better to use this first call as an information gathering call. Pre-empt the call with: “I wonder, Mary, whether you can help me?” Nobody minds helping others. Listen for the name of the person and use it. Have your questions ready, like: “I am wondering who makes the decisions in your company on sales training?”, “How many salespeople do you have?”, “Do you have your own trainer?” You reply, “Thanks Mary, you have been very helpful. Could you tell me what time would be a good time to speak with Mr ______ on the phone?” You can even pre-empt your questions with “I want to be sure that what I have to offer will suit Mr ___ so I wonder if I could ask him a couple of questions?”

If you have smooth-talked Mary well enough and the person is there, she will be sure to transfer your call through. If not, call back later or the next day and say, with a smile and authority in your voice (stand up to get the power in your voice), “Good morning Mary, I would like to speak to Mr ____ please”. There is less likelihood that Mary will not transfer you through if you say it with authority and without putting a question mark at the end of your sentence. You may then thank Mary for transferring the call.

Building rapport quickly

The beauty of getting all the information up-front is that you can build rapport immediately with the decision-maker that you want to talk to. You are not going to waste his/her time as you have already done your homework and found out that he/she is a good prospect.

Your approach could be “Good morning ____, I understand that you have ten salespeople working for you and you do not employ a trainer, would that be correct?” “Well, the reason for my call is ________” OR you can use it as a referral, “Good morning Mr _____________ I was talking to Mary in your office and she told me that you have ten salespeople and no full time trainer at the moment. If that is correct, Mary thought it would be a good idea if I spoke to you direct about employing an outside trainer.”

When the above does not work!

If you get a really suspicious “gate-keeper” who will never put you through – here’s what you do. Salespeople are not trained to be good “gate-keepers”; they are usually friendly and helpful so you would ask the “gate-keeper” to put you through to “Sales”. The person who answers the call will just tell you that you have been transferred to the wrong department and they will be delighted to put you through to the person you want to talk to. If this technique fails, try the “Accounts Department” they are not trained to be “gate-keepers” either!

When they ask what it’s about

I don’t know about you but I get a bit irritated when people ask me “What do you want to speak to him about?” You feel like there is no point in telling them because they are not the ones who are going to buy from you. However, they are the ones that decide whether or not to transfer your call. This is where it is important to have an “interest-grabbing” statement ready which is packed with value. You would not say “I want to sell him my Time Management System!” You need to say what the benefit of your service is to the decision maker, e.g. you say you want to share an idea with the decision maker that will save him ten hours a week. The more relevant and customized the opening value statement is, the more likely you will get through to the person you want.

For example, an “interest–grabbing” statement to a “gate-keeper” could be; “We specialise in helping sales managers spend less time on paperwork so that they can have more time out of the office making sales. If this is an issue for Mr _____ at the moment, we may have the answer so I would like to ask him some questions to establish that.”

Jenny Cartwright – International Sales Trainer / Speaker / Coach
Author of “Don’t Get Hung up! – How to sell products and services by phone” and “Secrets of Top Sales Professionals.”

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