A WEEK before last Christmas I was in the middle of a training session in Mumbai, India when my silent phone lit up with an incoming call. During the break I noted that it was from an unknown number from the Philippines. Instead of asking an impolite “Who is this please?” I sent an SMS saying, “I am in the middle of a meeting — how can I help?”
“You can help me buy a cocktail dress,” came back a prompt reply. This time, since I didn’t recognize the incoming number I responded with an irritated, “Who is this please?” “Pamela,” came back a quick response. Thinking this was someone from my family or friends, I responded with, “Right. A Hahaha, and a Hohoho to you too!”
But over the next few days the conversation stayed on my mind. Given that I am all salt-and-pepper haired and thinking that most all of my close friends are also adding a lot of salt to their hair, such kind of cheeky humor is not our thing anymore. Besides, most all my friends are from the academe, from the human capital development field and they are pretty cautious about their choice of humor. Pranks such as this one are just not their thing. Oh, okay, they are not my thing too! I let things lay low hoping to catch the prankster once I got back home to the Philippines.
A few days ago, back home in the Philippines, I called the number and, boy, was I ever so angry! It turned out that it was a cold call from someone trying to sell me telephone services. I curtly asked the person to never call my number again and also complained to my service provider of the incident. They claimed that these people were neither their employees nor their agents but individuals that purchase prepaid SIM cards and sell such services. I understand their position but I continue to be mad. I have been at the receiving end of such cold calls from several large businesses in banking, insurance, properties, etc., I understand the need of such large organizations to constantly market and sell but I don’t understand why they cannot practice permission marketing, ethical sales or simple, plain, common sense courtesy. Their agents and representative call up and start yakking away about their promotions, their packages, their pitches without considering the fact that I might be in the middle of another conversation, in the middle of driving or in the middle of a bloody bungee jump! Yep, we salt-and-pepper haired people can still jump even though we are required to surrender all our loose parts like toupées, dentures and pace-makers before we jump.
So, pumpkins, if your life and work requires that you call up and connect with a hundred prospects every day, may I offer you some suggestions which will make call recipients like me happy and probably get you a lot of good business which you desperately need.
• Send your prospects a note, an e-mail, a message stating your name, job and product seeking permission to call. Be polite, don’t plug or propose. Just state your service, seek permission and in the permission state the benefit that will occur for the recipient should she accept the call.
Surely, this will increase the number of people you will have to reach out to and you may also have increased rejections but this definitely qualifies a potential customer and makes the rest of the sales process easier.
• If straight cold calling is the thing you need to do then start with, “Hi! My name is Pamela Pumpkins. I am from Don’Tel Telecoms. Can you take a three minute call if it’ll help you save a thousand pesos on your monthly phone bill?”
The permission and the “What’s in it for them,” is important in this opening because most people are in a rush to achieve and do more in a given day, in a given life.
• Only continue if you hear a “Yeah, okay!” or a “Sure!” Follow through with, “Thank you, I hope you are not in the middle of a meeting, a sky-dive or something similar, Mr. Mandhyan?”
This is bound to generate laughter and laughter will endear you to them. It will grease the rest of the conversation and the ride to the ultimate close will become smoother. Be a bit cautious and hone up your intuiting skills before you induce humor. Generate laughter only after you assess the voice across to be informal, friendly. If not then speak in even and polite tone.
• In the next, given three minutes, make sure you get to the point right away. This is the pitch! This is something that you must know inside-out and with clarity, with conviction and with absolute knowledge that your offer is for the benefit of the client. Make sure it is not a push to increase your sale but a pull for them to benefit themselves with your increased sales as a by-product. Do not lie! Do not overstate the benefits and commit to something you cannot deliver.
• At the end of the three minute conversation whether you have invited the client to the next level successfully or not, CONTINUE being polite and proper. Listen well and stay connected to their feelings about the proposal.
If you have won yourself a client then take the next steps; follow through the paperwork and after a period of time send a thank you note.
If you haven’t won yourself a client then seek permission to be able to get back to them at some future date with other proposals. Send them a thank you note for having heard you out.
Selling is a subtle process. It takes a lot of diagnosing customer needs, building rapport, understanding needs and finding solutions that will serve your clients well. Cold calling is the first touch and this is just one of the many approaches to cold calling. It is an approach that doesn’t run chills down the spines of your potential customers. It is cold calling that is warm, careful and polite. It is for the benefit of the client and it is not just a task that fills up your day. It is subtle and genuinely caring. It is what we, in the Philippines, call the “malasakit” way.
Huh, now where’d my toupée go?
Raju Mandhyan is an author, coach and speaker.