I’ve spent majority of my career in small business, helping people look and feel beautiful in Medical Aesthetics clinics and the fashion industry. Since I started at Online Image®, I’ve shifted my focus on aesthetics away from cosmetic lasers and toward websites and internet marketingThis broad term includes everything from content marketing to display ads, PPC (pay per click) ads, social media marketing, directory listing work and online reputation management..
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to engage B2B prospects over the phone. You get two seconds to either captivate your lead or turn them off. It’s a challenging task trying to interpret people’s reactions without having a visual advantage and being left with only audio to work with.
I’ve learned that literally after the first ring, my process of deduction begins as I decipher the best way to win my contact over.
Clue #1: The Number of Rings
The first thing you can do is pay attention to how long the phone rings before someone picks up. If they answer within two rings, you’re probably speaking with a company that has protocols about how to answer phones. Other clues are catchphrases such as “Thank you for calling (brand name)” or “How can I schedule you to look fabulous?” If this is the case, you’ve most likely reached a gatekeeper, and your goal is to get them on your side before you reach the decision maker.
On the other hand, if the prospect takes several rings to answer or just says “Hello” when they pick up, you have likely reached the small-business owner. You can also listen for other clues, like the sound of traffic in the background — that usually means the person on the phone is very busy and answered on a cell phone. In this case, think fast. This call is your best chance for a sale.
Clue #2: The Voice
Your next clue has to do with personality. In my experience, there are two kinds of people, and you have to shift your approach based on what you discover.
The first kind of person is bubbly and outgoing, and you can tell by how quickly they speak and how much their voice goes up and down as they talk. For these people, the best strategy is to show them they are important by asking real questions about them and their business. It can be as simple as “How’s that Florida weather” if they come across as the small-talk type, or “How has your business done with SEO in the past?” if they seem more business-minded. I try to engage by validating their feelings and input with the information they choose to provide. Figure out how to captivate them by showing that you’re a person too, so they feel relatable and on common ground rather than just a sales target.
The other type of person is hurried, annoyed and perhaps quite serious. For these potential clients, it’s important to be credible and get to the point quickly. For me, it works best to be direct and straightforward so they feel a sense of reassurance that I’m not trying to waste their time. Having a script is crucial for creating an effective lead. Until you have inside-out knowledge of the product or service you are pitching, I’ve found it helpful to have a “rebuttal” sheet listing common reasons customers say no, with key points to put you back in control of the direction of the call.
Clue #3: Which Kind of Villain Are You?
The next clue is all about you. After all, you’re interrupting whatever the prospect is doing to sell them something they may not know about or care about. That makes you the bad guy — so you have to figure out which kind of bad guy you want to be.
You might be coming across like the creepy deceptive villain – the type they can’t figure out but still puts them on edge, as if you’re trying to force your way in to cause harm. You can tell that you’re coming across this way if the prospect’s voice becomes monotone and drops in pitch or if they try to get you off the phone quickly. Sometimes I’ll hear a chirpy, feminine-sounding “Hello!” that then abruptly pauses and magically turns into a serious, manly-sounding voice after I say my name and business. When that happens, to stay positive, I have to find humor.
For these potential clients, it’s important to bring the discussion to a conversational level. Be likable, but not annoying, and you might just have a chance. Of course, if you do get in the door, don’t be the big bad wolf. Make sure you earn their trust with honesty, expertise and fairness.
With other prospects, you might seem more like a sexy mafia villain that everyone wants to secretly win (even if they have a role of a bad guy). You have something the client wants and they’re intrigued, but you seem dangerous. If this is the case, the person might tell you all about how their last SEO company failed them or might confide in you about a challenge they faced that day. That’s a good sign!
Here, think about what the customer is intrigued about and focus on that on your way to the sale. Then, keep pouring on the charm throughout the purchase cycle. If you’re a mafia villain, you don’t ever want to lose your sex appeal.
Keeping prospects on the phone is just the first part of earning a sale, but without it, all is lost. Making calls can be intimidating and even discouraging, but you can think of it as simply putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. The best way to do that is sleuthing out clues about their goals, viewpoints, priorities and personalities.