Following up with a sales phone call

People never respond to the mailshot letter itself, but they may remember getting the letter or postcard when you call soon afterwards.

People who say “I’ve sent out loads of letters and heard nothing” just need to get on the phone and do the proper follow-up.

If you simply can’t bring yourself to make the calls, try asking someone else to do it for you. Offer a small amount of money for each appointment made. Some people just have the knack.

It is often possible to find out contact names by phone, to send the letters to. If you call a company and ask politely for the person in charge of purchasing courier services, you may not get a chance to actually speak to the buyer, but you will usually get their name. However, some receptionists are trained not to put through cold calls. In this situation, ask for the contact name/email address so that you can send some details, as receptionists will sometimes give out a name for mailing information to. You can then send an email or a letter, and call back the following day and hope to be put straight through, saying “I wrote to him yesterday”.

The only way to sell is by speaking to the M-A-N. That’s someone who has the:

Means (to pay you)
Authority (to give you the work)
Need (for what you are offering).

If the person you speak to lacks one of these you will not make a sale.

Call during the day, 1000hrs to 1200hrs and 1400hrs to 1600hrs are the best times.

Plan to do your sales. Set aside a days in your diary. Prepare yourself to do it. Sit down, clear your desk, turn your mobile phone and email off, close the door, and do it for the full two hours.

It’s a numbers game, and you just have to put the time in. The more you time you spend phoning, the more likely you are to come across someone who wants to buy what you’re trying to sell, ie who is looking for a courier company to use.

Sales effort in difficult economic times may take more phone calls per appointment, but it offers opportunities such as to offer to save money on courier bills. You can offer to do a free review of their current courier spend, for example.

Once you have the contact name, it is worth calling them and trying to establish a relationship straight away. Ask:

  • Who they are using at the moment. ! What service they require, ie what size vans, what they havedelivered, what problems they are currently experiencing.
  • Where they need collections done
  • When and how often they might need you, and when the current courier contract, if any, is up for renewal.
  • Why they use couriers instead of overnights or vice-versa. You can point out that overnight parcels are priced by weight so it is often cheaper for to send pallets with you than by using an overnight carrier.

Use only open questions, never ask closed (yes/no) ones. “Are you completely satisfies with your current courier?” invites the answer “yes, thank you”. Whereas asking “How would you feel if I said I could save you 15% on your courier spend?” invites the answer “I’d be delighted”.

If they don’t answer straight away, never break the silence even if it is uncomfortable, they will eventually speak first and give away more than they wanted to.

Write everything down in a disciplined way.

While on the phone, always ask your prospects for referrals, ie who you else you can talk to, within their organisation. People will often recommend you to colleagues if they think you can solve their colleagues’ needs. It also gives you credibility if you can say something like “Dave in Finance suggested I call you”, especially if Dave is quite senior in the company.

Ask existing customers for referrals too, if people are happy with your service, they will be pleased to help you out.

Keep a diary so that when someone says to call back in a week, you don’t forget. You can do this using Microsoft Outlook, or with a paper diary. Write down everything they say, so that next time you call them you can say things like “when we spoke last month you said you were thinking of reviewing your courier suppliers this month”.

Set yourself targets of numbers of calls you will make each day and write down how many you actually do make to ensure that you have kept to the target. This is really important.

Always start each day’s call with follow-up calls from your diary. Otherwise you’ll waste many of leads you find, as you won’t follow them up.

Eventually, everyone is looking for a courier company, so you need to keep in touch regularly. That way, you give yourself the best chance of calling just at the moment when they are reviewing their courier arrangements. Once you’ve made the first call, if you get a “not interested at the moment” answer, put it back in the diary three months ahead, noting who you spoke to, and what they said, to be called again.

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