If you’ve ever seen the film Groundhog Day, you probably remember Ned Ryerson, the persistent sales guy. His over-the-top personality is enough to make any real-life salesperson laugh … and cringe.
Ned represents everything that most salespeople try to avoid—he’s phony, overzealous, and annoying. But at the same time, he also deserves some serious props. Ned knows an opportunity when he sees one, and he’s not afraid to pounce on it.
People buy from people they like—and in Ned’s case, he wasn’t liked for a variety of reasons. But we can learn from Ned’s mishaps. And more importantly, we can incorporate a few extra techniques to shed the stereotypical sales persona and build a trust-based relationship. After all, according to an analysis by Gallup, fully engaged customers deliver a 23% premium over average customers in wallet share, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.
It Begins and Ends with the Sales Call
A sales call is an incredibly valuable relationship-building tool. Over time, sales reps can learn a lot about their customers’ needs while establishing trust, loyalty, and camaraderie. A study by Robin Buchanan and Crawford Gillies found that loyal customers don’t have a reason to shop around, and they’re less likely to switch to a competitor. However, if sales calls are poorly executed or lack customer value and/or relevance, they can quickly go awry. Consider adopting these tips to improve your sales calls:
1. Do Your Research
There’s nothing worse than sales reps who know nothing about their customers. Find out as much as you can about your clients prior to getting on the phone—follow their professional accounts on social media, and if they work for public companies, check out their 10-Ks. Better still, if you can gauge your clients’ interest in and engagement with your marketing campaigns, you can tailor conversations around what they value most.
2. Have an Agenda
Make bullet points for what you want to cover during your calls, and don’t waste clients’ time. It’s also a good practice to confirm the agenda in advance of your call. Not only does this remind clients of the meeting, it’s also a good check on whether the material you plan to cover is interesting to them.
3. Break the Ice
It’s important to exhibit a pleasant and congenial demeanor when interacting with clients. Happiness is contagious. Get yourself in a good mood—watch a short, funny video, or catch up on the latest memes. To start your call, break the ice in a natural way and try to avoid mundane weather conversation. Bring up something personal that was discussed during your last interaction, or try to find common ground.
A study by Tom Atkinson and Ron Kaprowski found that 18% of buyers are most annoyed by their sales reps’ inability to listen to their needs. To put it simply, you should always listen more than you speak during your client engagements. There’s no better way to uncover your customers’ most pressing concerns than to let them do most of the talking. Ask questions based on what your clients disclose and steer them in the right direction if they get off track.
5. Make it Relevant
You must have a solid understanding of what your clients value most. Everything you discuss needs to be tied back to your customers’ wants, dreams, and wishes. If it’s not, your clients will lose interest … fast.
6. Take Notes
Each engagement should build off the last, so make sure you take notes during each call. Bring up points from your last conversation to show your clients that you’ve been listening and that you care about their needs.
7. Lose the Business Jargon
Do you lack the bandwidth to leverage the low-hanging fruit that will move the needle forward in your business? … Did your brain just shut off? Because that’s the effect overused business jargon will have on your customers. In fact, according to a study by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people find vague verbs and nouns to sound less truthful than concrete language.
8. Follow Through
You said last time you’d get your client a reference? Make sure you’ve made progress on your promise. If you haven’t, provide a timeline on when you will fulfill it. Also, be sure to address any follow-up items at the beginning of your call, rather than the end. You don’t want clients to wonder when you plan to make good on your promises.
9. Don’t Multitask
Give clients your undivided attention. You might miss something important while you were scrolling through your social media feeds. Similarly, when speaking, don’t bounce from one topic to another. Make it easy for clients to follow your train of thought.
Prepare for Wild Cards
Sometimes there’s no hard-and-fast rule on how you should engage with your customers in certain situations. In Ned’s case, a hearty dose of common sense would have gone a long way. That said, never underestimate the power of preparation. Trust your intuition, tune into your emotional intelligence, and adjust accordingly.