The Green Sheet Online Edition
August 25, 2008 • Issue 08:08:02
Telemarketing - The horn of plenty
Many merchant level salespeople (MLSs) turn to the telephone to make deals. Maybe they don't want to drive to merchant locations because of the high price of gas. Or maybe they have just done the math and realize they can reach more prospects over the phone than in person.
While selling face to face certainly has advantages, selling by phone succeeds just as well.
The most successful telemarketing programs are those that are combined with other marketing tools, such as:
- Direct mail
- Internet campaigns
- Pay-per-click Web advertising
- Predictive dialers
- Warm call leads
- Sales support materials
Statistically, telephone marketing has been known to double, triple or even quadruple the total response from other promotional programs. So phone sales should be used to reinforce direct mail, print advertising, Internet campaigns and other marketing avenues.
Of course, if you have a telemarketing department you'll need inside sales agents. And they need to be trained in the proper sales techniques to deliver results, as do independent MLSs engaging in telemarketing.
A key component of successful telemarketing is precision. You can be friendly, warm, persuasive and convincing - and still be precise. Most important is that you don't meander on the phone.
Improvising when making sales calls will lead you astray. Since the telephone allows no eye contact between seller and prospect, your technique must be focused from the outset to gain and retain the prospect's attention.
Prior to making a call, consider just what you want the call to accomplish. In just a few seconds, you're trying to establish trust with a potential client.
So plan your opening with care. Be clear about the purpose of your call. Know exactly what you want from the prospect and the steps you need to take to get it.
Be in control of the presentation. Be prepared for a prospect who may lead you away from your main goal, which is a sale. Be alert to ways to keep them on track. Stick to your plan and always ask leading questions to maintain control of the call.
Be considerate about the time of day you call - not too early or too late. (Never call a restaurant at lunchtime.) If you happen to catch the prospect at a bad time, acknowledge this, apologize and offer to call at a better time. Then, make sure you do call back at the appointed time.
Being courteous and helpful during the call will go a long way toward making the sale. Greet the merchant pleasantly, by first name. Talk to each person as an individual. Identify yourself and your company.
Don't let your prospect guess who they are talking to. Also, be sure you are talking to the right person. It's easy for the wrong person to say no before understanding who you are and what you are offering.
Remember, your voice is you in telemarketing. Your voice must do the entire job of getting the sale. It must work for you, not against you. Be pleasant. Be interesting. Speak clearly and at a pace reasonable for the area of the country you are targeting: Southerners, for example, speak slower than East Coasters.
And, by all means, get to the point with your pitch. Clearly state the reason for your call and make sure it is understood. Talk in block statements: short statements with open-ended questions designed to gain responses.
You want to involve the prospect quickly in the presentation, so make sure the exchange is a comfortable one, devoid of pregnant pauses.
And avoid using technical terms. Take your cue from the prospect's answers as to what level of terminology he or she is most comfortable with. In most cases, technical terms don't sell.
Furthermore, don't assume the prospect understands everything you say. Repeat important phrases and major points. Use descriptive words, stories and examples during the call. Since the merchant cannot "see" what you're selling, you must help him or her visualize the benefits, savings, new technology and so forth.
Get comfortable before you dial. You don't want to be fidgeting or sending signals to the prospect that you're nervous. Consider standing up when you pitch over the phone. Speak from the diaphragm. Breathe deeply, speak clearly. Most people's voices sound higher on the phone than they really are.
Pace your speech, and come to natural stops. If there aren't natural stops in your presentation, create some, or you'll sound out of breath, or your voice may trail off. Check your speaking volume as well.
You don't need to bellow. People feel comfortable listening to a calm, low and pleasant voice, with smooth inflections. Don't ever yell at your prospects - often sales people talk way too loud.
Develop an interesting delivery. A flat, monotonous voice is boring and will be tuned out - sometimes in seconds. To work on your presentation, tape your voice and play it back.
Ask yourself what kind of image are you projecting and whether someone on the other end of the line would sense a smile in your voice. The only way to convey this is for you to actually be smiling, so keep a small mirror nearby when you're calling.
During the call, keep the prospect engaged. To do that, request an action from him or her. For example, ask the prospect to fax you a processing statement or visit your Web site while you're on the phone. The more the prospect interacts and complies with your requests, the closer you are to a sale.
Know all the features of your product or service before you make the call. Keep the script in front of you at all times, and refer to it as you talk your prospect through the presentation.
Always anticipate objections to your pitch. Very few sales calls encounter no objections, and most concerns are raised because of misunderstandings about what you are selling or poor experiences merchants may have had with other products and services.
Make sure to have answers ready to counter the prospect's objections.
Also, be prepared to ask the prospect questions. These questions should be designed to elicit positive responses regarding the features of your product or service and lead the prospect to the close.
During the call, present the benefits of your product or service. Use one in your opening hook. Here are some possibilities:
- Lower rates
- Better, faster or free equipment
- Terminals that need no printer ribbons
- Improved service and support
- Personal, hands-on representation
- Faster batch deposit times
The strongest benefit should be central to your lead; it should give the prospect a reason for listening to your presentation. Then follow up with secondary benefits, getting the prospect to agree with you along the way. Go through all of them until you sense the one that's the clincher, and then close the sale.
Always try to close the sale early. Try to get a commitment after you have thoroughly explained the features and benefits and you are certain the prospect has understood what you've said.
Then begin to lead the prospect through filling out the application. Make sure he or she understands the options available, and try to get a commitment from the prospect to move forward. If you cannot get this early commitment, you must overcome any objections, answer questions and re-explain the product.
Always be prepared to make a complete presentation, one that:
- Wins the prospect's attention
- Holds the prospect's interest
- Convinces the prospect of the value of your products and services
Lend me your ears
Learn to listen. It's not what you have to sell; it's what the customer wants to buy. Your prospect may have needs other than what you've anticipated. You will know that only if you listen. Remember, the telephone is a two-way medium. Only by giving your full attention to what the prospect is saying will you know what you must say to complete the sale.
Do not hesitate to have the prospect repeat something so that you understand it better. Asking questions is the best way to get your prospect involved with your presentation. Echo the prospect's key words and phrases. This indicates you're paying attention and heard what the prospect said.
This kind of paraphrasing leads a prospect closer and closer to a sale and encourages the prospect's involvement in your presentation. While doing this, you can listen for buying signals and feed those signals back to the prospect.
Above all, know when to end the call. Take the time to give the conversation a good ending. Thank the person for the time spent on the call.
Do your best to conclude in a way that leaves the party at least interested in your offer. Sign off once you have achieved your objectives, whether or not the prospect has bought your products or services. If possible, set an appointment for a follow-up call.
The next step
If your call ends successfully - with an application over the phone, or a face to face appointment - clearly inform the prospect of the next step in the process. Should the merchant expect a sales rep to come calling?
If so, inform your new customer of when the rep will visit and what materials, such as processing statements, the prospect will need to have ready for the appointment.
A meeting arranged during a sales call is a very good sign. If someone likes you over the phone, chances are the person will like you even more in person.
Jason A. Felts is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida-based Advanced Merchant Services Inc., a registered ISO/MSP with HSBC Bank. From its onset, AMS has placed top priority on supporting and servicing its sales partners. The company launched ISOPro Motion, its private-label training program, to provide state-of-the-art sales tools and actively promote the success and long-term development of its partners. For more information, visit www.amspartner.com, call 888-355-VISA (8472), ext. 211, or e-mail Felts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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