Getting VITO's Attention by Phone
IN THIS PART OF THE BOOK, WE'LL BE EXAMINING THE PHONE TECHNIQUES YOU SHOULD use to follow up on the letter to VITO we discussed in the previous chapter. Because the call is most powerful when it follows a letter, my preferred method of dealing with VITOs who have not yet heard about what I have to offer is to send the letter first and call as promised. For VITOs who fall into other categories, you may decide to call first.
Not Just Any Call
Just as you took a little extra time and effort to research your letter to VITO, you must work a little harder to prepare for your phone follow-up than you would if you were contacting another person in the prospect's organization. Believe me, you don't want to let 7:55 roll around, pick up the phone, punch VITO's number, hear a voice say “VITO here,” and proceed to use the standard opening statement all those sales books out there point you toward. VITO has heard it all before — and will quickly conclude that sharp letter you sent along was nothing more than an aberration.
No, your call will be different. Three to five days after you are reasonably certain VITO's office received your mail, you will, as promised and on schedule, initiate contact with VITO. If you are serious about building a business partnership with this VITO, you must be prepared for a rapport-building encounter between two professionals of Equal Business Stature. If you are serious about building a partnership with this VITO, you will be prepared for the first step on a journey with VITO's organization — a journey that begins the minute you make telephone contact with anyone in VITO's office — and will, if you are successful, have no end.
Let me be clear on one point. When I talk about establishing Equal Business Stature with VITO, I don't mean that you should try to mislead VITO into thinking that you are more successful than you are, and I certainly don't mean that you should exaggerate your organization's record of accomplishment. I mean you should present yourself as the knowledgeable professional you are! I mean you should take the leap from quota-chasing salesperson to businessperson! You are an understander of — and solver of — VITO's unique problems.
At this point in my seminar, there's usually a hand raised to ask a question: “Tony, what happens if I don't get through to VITO when [ call at the time I mentioned in the letter?” Well, if you've done your job correctly up to this point, the odds are pretty good that VITO will be expecting your call. But, truth be told, not all your calls will result in direct contact with VITO that first time.
What if you get shunted out by others within VITO's organization? In the chapter that follows this one, we'll examine the best way to handle calls that result in contact with VITO's secretary and seem to stop there. I say “seem to” because far, far too many salespeople view being “stuck” talking to VITO's secretary as the end of the road. It's not, and once I outline the simple (but amazingly effective) technique for dealing with the personal assistants and secretaries who work for VITOs, you'll understand why! But more on that, and on the sometimes trickier question of dealing with people at reception desks and switchboard consoles, a little later. For now, we're going to examine what you should do when your first call does make it through to a VITO who is ready, or at least willing, to take your call. And trust me, if you send out enough well-researched, well-constructed letters like the ones we looked at in the last chapter, you're going to run into quite a few VITOs who'll take your call the first time.
Making Your Opening Statement Stand Out
You may be used to saying something like this when you call decision makers:
“Hello, Mr. VITO, this is Will Perish calling you this morning from XYZ Associates. How are you today? Great. Hey, did you receive that letter I sent out to you on the twenty-third? Oh, well, it must have gotten lost. Listen, I'll tell you the reason for my call; we handle the world's largest widget accounts here, and I believe that in a brief twenty-minute meeting, I could show you some of the competitive advantages. Is Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon best for you?”
And so on. As familiar as you may be with that phone script or some variation of it, I want you to do yourself a favor and forget you ever used it. Toss it out the window, because it simply won't cut any ice with VITO. Once you develop your Ultimate Opening Statement, you'll be able to use a compelling, attention-grabbing statement that will remove the burden of “making” VITO do anything (which is impossible, anyway).
Here and now, we're going to break the conventional telephone habits that flash red “salesperson alert” lights at the VITOs of the world and make them disconnect from you. We'll hone and polish your current phone skills and develop the Ultimate Opening Statement — the opener that is your very best bet for winning interest and attention from a VITO.
The Ultimate Opening Statement: Definition and Goals
The Opening Statement is not the entire conversation.
It is not meant to sell VITO anything, or persuade VITO of anything, or convince VITO to meet with you.
It is what you say until the other person begins to speak. Period.
It must encourage VITO to interrupt you. You read right: that's the primary goal of the first fifteen to twenty seconds of your call. The secondary goal is to sound conversational. The opening statement must be delivered in a cordial, natural, and professional business tone. It must be said with conviction, passion, and enthusiasm — but it must not seem frenzied. Keep things relaxed, even if VITO doesn't. That means you will have to practice the statement we develop in this chapter until it sounds spontaneous and professional throughout. If it sounds canned, as though you're reading from a script, you lose. VITO will tune you out. If it sounds confrontational or abrupt, you lose. VITO will perceive you as someone who will waste precious time.
There's a fine line to walk here. Cordiality does not mean you abdicate any responsibility for participating in the conversation; being conversational does not mean that you are entitled to leap ahead to levels of intimacy with VITO that you have not earned.
Get interrupted. Keep the tone cordial. That's everything as far as the main goals of the Opening Statement are concerned. So you can forget about image-making, conveying important information, distinguishing yourself from your competition, and anything else you may be tempted to insert into this part of the call.
As a matter of fact, before we start crafting exactly what you're going to say, we should examine these goals in a little more detail — as well as what your Opening Statement must not do under any circumstances.
The Opening Statement Must Avoid, at All Costs, Pushing the Two Fear Buttons
The statement you use must not trigger the two greatest fears VITOs have about talking to salespeople. The first is that we'll waste their precious time, a legitimate concern that I think is pretty self-explanatory. The second is that we'll talk about something that they themselves are ill-informed about (and, not infrequently, couldn't care less about). When we do this, we challenge VITO's power, control, and authority, and that's something to avoid at all costs.
When we ask VITO something like, “VITO, have you considered the many advantages of a computerized de-fragmentation system for your document storage and retrieval pathways?” then attempt to close by asking something obnoxious like, “Is Monday at two or Tuesday at ten best for you?” guess what? We push both of these fear buttons. (That appointment-choice method, as you may know, is known as an “alternative close.” Avoid it like the plague.)
When we say things like this, we sound exactly like salespeople — and VITOs know from bitter experience that the single best way to punch a hole in a busy schedule is to spend half an hour or so on the phone with salespeople who know nothing about the problems piling up on their desks. And in all likelihood, VITO neither knows nor cares about the possibilities of computerized de-fragmentation systems for document storage and retrieval pathways!
How's that for a shocker? VITO has no idea about the pros or cons of the features you have to offer. VITO doesn't have time for details. VITO hires people who do know and care about such things as computerized de-fragmentation systems — namely, Seymours. To ask VITOs whether they have “considered” these things is to highlight nuts-and-bolts areas of the business about which VITOs generally know little or nothing. That's not the way to build business rapport!
The Opening Statement Must Permit VITO to Retain Power, Control, and Authority
Remember, your goals are to get VITO to interrupt you and to keep the tone conversational at all times.
To permit VITO to retain power, control, and authority, you must keep the focus on VITO's favorite person — VITO — and away from you. Of course, you will not, for any reason, interrupt VITO. But there's a lot more to the authority issue than that.
For one thing, you will never, never, never use the word “I” in your Opening Statement. And, just as in the Tie-in Paragraph of your letter, you will not begin by introducing yourself with “Hi, my name is (name), and I work for …” or anything like it.
Forget about VITO for a moment. When you get a call that begins with, “Hi, my name is …” aren't you tempted to tune it out immediately? Now imagine you have an organization to run and a big staff meeting coming up in five minutes. How much time and attention are you going to give the call?
Let me be honest with you about what I'm proposing here. It's quite difficult. We're all human, and humans tend to focus on “I” first and others second. Eliminating the instinct to open with some form of “I” takes practice!
It's common practice for us to begin a call with “I'd like a few moments of your time,” “I was just wondering,” “I'd like to introduce myself,” “I just wanted to know if you'd be interested in,” “I'd like to tell you about,” or any of a thousand other “I, me, mine” formulations. But you can't do it with VITO. I've said it before, but it bears repeating here: VITO doesn't care about you. So do whatever it takes to keep yourself from falling into the habit of opening with an “I” statement.
In addition, letting VITO maintain control means that you have to fight another salesperson's instinct: asking for an appointment. In your Opening Statement, you will use your time to provide solid business reasons for VITO to tell you to come in for an appointment. VITOs like to tell people what to do. That's what they do all day long! Fine, then. You're going to let them!
People may tell you to ignore my advice about avoiding the alternative close. After all, dozens of sales training books tell you to ask a question like, “Would Monday afternoon at four be a good time for us to meet, or would Tuesday morning at eight be better?” Is this really the kind of question you ask someone who enjoys telling people what to do? Of course not. But VITO hears it again and again. Offer a change of pace. Don't say anything of the kind. By the end of the conversation, VITO will have either decided not to work with you, told you to come in for an appointment, or pointed you toward someone else in the organization. (The first outcome is going to happen now and again, and if you've had any time as a salesperson that won't come as a huge shock to you; the second and third outcomes, of course, each represent a golden opportunity.)
Letting VITO maintain control means that you won't ask stupid questions like, “You are interested in raising revenues, aren't youT You must never try to force a “yes” out of a VITO, or back VITO into a corner, or hold VITO hostage to an earlier remark.
The Opening Statement Must Help You Transmit an Unforgettable First Impression
You'll do this by focusing on measurable benefits, just as your letter di...