If a voice mail doesn’t generate a callback, has anyone listened to it?
If an e-mail doesn’t inspire a response, has anyone read it?
We just don’t know, and we might never know. We can feel ignored, frustrated, and discouraged. Does a “no-response” mean: no interest, too busy, spam-blocker extreme, technology glitch, no longer at this address, or . . . ? And not knowing whether your voice mails or e-mails have been received can cause real, practical problems.
Unanswered voice mails and e-mails waste our time. They distract us. They create extra work for us. They stay with us, taunting us. Why didn’t I hear back? Doesn’t he want to know how “our company is different”? Doesn’t she want to know “about a creative solution I have for her company”?
What to do? The answer isn’t to get angry or get even. The answer is to get through.
There’s no shortage of how-to “tips and techniques.” Maybe you’ve tried a few and even found you get responses, though it’s not clear why. Here are typical examples from voice mail, but they crop up in e-mails, too.
Mysterious: “Hi, this is Bob from . . . Please call me when it’s convenient.”
Matter of Fact: “We met at the trade show last month. I’d like to schedule a time for us to get together.”
Over the Top: “My name is Sally and our company is the best in the industry. We . . . and we also . . . and here’s how we . . . .”
What’s missing from each of these typical (and too-often taught) approaches? It’s a key element that we’ve watched, time and again, greatly increase the chances of getting a response. (No guarantees here. We’re just trying to improve the odds.)
None of these callers even attempts to offer something of substance, something the prospect might benefit from hearing or at least be interested in. Each call focuses on the caller: “Call me,” “I’d like to schedule,” “We are the best.”
Consultative selling, as we define it to our clients, is delivering value during the sales process. To receive a response, e-mails and voice mails must earn the right to receive a response. In other words, give value in your voice mail or e-mail and then ask for a response.
Stephanie Fonda, formerly a sales manager at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, needed to fill 110 exhibitor spaces in five months for a new trade show. At first her prospect calls went into voice mail and never came out again. So she turned to us for coaching in how to deliver value during the sales process. The change was dramatic: “We had a huge increase from one in 20 call backs to one in five.” That’s an increase of 500 percent.
Once she was actively talking to prospects Fonda kept them engaged by applying consultative selling principles from our FOCIS® course. She then followed up with more targeted e-mails and other communications.
The result was that she oversold the show by seven exhibitors.
Here’s a generic value-added version you can adapt to your company and industry.
“This is Bob from . . . Our customers in your industry are experiencing Problem X right now. Is that affecting your business? Do you think it will? We’d like to know your opinion. Please call me.”
In an e-mail, the subject line must spark interest in a similar, provocative way: “Is Problem X Coming Your Way?” And the message must be clear, brief, professional.
How does that approach create value?
Well, first, you’re providing useful information about the marketplace, maybe even important information. Maybe your prospect hasn’t heard about this problem or is concerned but doesn’t know what to do about it.
Second, by asking questions about your prospect’s business, your prospect is now thinking about what could already be a problem for his company or could become a problem. Once headed down that path, the odds are he’s going to start looking for a solution, if not now, then further on. And, hey, you’re right there providing directions.
Even if your prospect doesn’t call back, you’ve differentiated yourself by focusing on your prospect’s business instead of yours and by asking questions that show your expertise.
That means the right follow-up communications can keep your value-delivering approach top of mind via e-mails, newsletters, white papers, special reports. Those communications can pull your prospects into your Website so they can “learn more” about your company on their own schedule.
There are many questions you can ask about the problems your prospects and customers face in their specific industry. Nearly all can be used to deliver value in an e-mail or voice mail.
Your time is valuable and your prospect’s time is valuable. Don’t waste it by leaving voice mails or sending e-mails that haven’t earned the right to be answered.
If you’d like to learn more about getting through and staying top of mind,, please give us a call at 847-446-0008 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. If we don’t pick up, be sure to leave a message. We’ll call you back no matter what.
Terry Franke is a senior consultant at Productive Strategies, Inc. He is a strategic, certified executive coach, and proven business developer with expertise in building relationships within large corporations and selling services to C-suite executives. He can be reached at email@example.com.