Sales and marketing budgets are designed to make the telephone ring. But while we give a great deal of thought to our target markets and how to reach them, we often fail to train techniques that close the sale.
Here are a few tips to help you and your staff do just that:
Give complete attention to the call Think about the call before you start. Stop whatever else you are doing. Tell your colleagues how you operate. When calling and receiving calls, you must be focused.
Do you have an arresting opening line? Approach each call purposefully. Believe that you own the business you are representing. People buy from people, so aim to engage them and build a relationship.
Listen to their greeting You can make their day or break into their day. Success is often a matter of timing, not whether the person wants your product or not. How do they identify themselves? Respond accordingly. Never presume you know what they want. Listen all the time to the little inflections and, if the timing is inappropriate, offer to phone back.
Always show empathy, which shows you are in tune with the caller's circumstances. Distinguish empathy from sympathy. If you express sympathy, you become emotionally involved.
Information is the key
Do your research on every prospective client. The more you know about your caller, the better your chances of success. If you have done your homework, you will be better able to customise your questions.
There are no negatives
Never assume the worst before the call. People have to buy that conference or accommodation from somewhere, so why not from you?
Some callers will offer objections as a stalling technique. Ask them to clarify, repeat or explain their objection again. If it is a legitimate one, they will provide you with the information that will help you solve it. If they are stalling, you can determine the real objection.
When they ask for a better price
When your caller asks for a better price, do not read this as an objection. Some people have to do it for their own ego and standing. Respond with confidence and without hesitation.
Ask larger all the time It takes the same number of words to ask for a £6,000 conference as it does for a £3,000 conference. As long as the company you are talking to (and you should have profiled them beforehand) can afford superior rather than standard rooms, extend the meeting for an extra night and enjoy fine dining with good wines, then ask for the business with confidence.
Ask questions You gain knowledge and build relationships through asking questions. Questions show you have a genuine interest. Remember to put the answers down on your company profile reports. Through your questions and their answers, look for other sales opportunities for the hotel or restaurant, from your existing customer or from their wider company colleagues, divisions and departments.
Closing and commitment You must always agree a next step before the end of the call. Tie in a commitment to action, for example, by saying: "I will call you on Tuesday." Discover timings and commit to calling the person back before the next decision has to be made.
And remember, no one calls for free. We have paid in a variety of ways to make that telephone ring. Treat each call as a nugget of gold that must not be allowed to slip though your fingers.
by Stuart Harrison
Stuart Harrison, formerly managing director of brands and franchising at Premier Hotels, now runs his own consultancy, the Profitable Hotel Company. He is also a visiting fellow of Oxford Brookes University.