"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said" –Peter Drucker
Those of us who use the phone to successfully generate sales leads have picked up an essential trade secret. While what we do for a living is talk, a more important part of our job is to listen.
Think of those annoying robo calls. During the last election, I seemed to get one an hour. Once the cold automated voice spoke, my mind would shout, “Hang up!” Why do they bother me so? Because it didn’t matter what I said, or what my situation was—no one was listening (literally).
Even when callers are live, they can fall into that same robot mode: Seemingly reading from a script, often talking too fast because they expect you to quickly exit the conversation and hoping against hope that you’ll stay on the line for their sake (not the person’s on the receiving end).
How do my colleagues at PointClear and I keep from falling into this trap? One simple trick. We listen.
The moment a phone contact is made, we’re all ears. The tone of the prospect is generally clear almost immediately. Once we recognize it, we respond accordingly. We accommodate their preferred communication style (as we perceive it based on our experience) with as much care as we do to their questions and objections.
Is the person I’m talking to relaxed and slow talking? Is she all-business with no patience for chit chat? Does he come across as rushed or reluctant or aggravated? One thing I’ve learned over the years is the closer my style is to the person I’m speaking with, the better chance they will accept me. This isn’t meant to be a form of dishonesty, but rather form of accommodation and respect.
I am asking this person for their time and attention so that I can present my (client’s) case and do my job. I want to be attuned to the way they are telling me, non-verbally, how they want to be addressed. And I do it by being receptive to their needs.
Empathy is important and must be paid attention to. If the person I’m calling answers in a seemingly hostile way, it may be because of things happening around them. I may have just called at a bad time. So I respond to their tone with an apologetic one and to, hopefully, quell their negativity. Sometimes, this leads to a future appointment, often it neutralizes their attitude and allows me to continue.
I want to clarify to those reading this blog that I am not apologizing for the purpose of my call. After all, the product or service that I represent can be of great value to them. Instead, my sincere words “I am sorry to catch you at a bad time,” can lead to a productive conversation. I say “Other executives in your position have been excited to hear about (describe solution with short potential benefit). Would later today or early tomorrow be a better time?” Because I heard them, and responded to them as a person, I greatly increase my chance at getting time with this prospect.
My PointClear peers and I have learned as lead generation professionals that adapting a prospect’s style of communication is helpful for immediate acceptance.
We also know that recognizing and responding to tone can increase the presentation rate on behalf of our clients.
People like my coworkers and me have scores of conversations each day. The most successful among us realize that it’s often what’s not said, but what’s understood, that makes the difference. The subtleties communicated in non-verbal ways help buyers and the sellers alike, and lead to satisfying, mutually beneficial professional experiences.
The PointClear team would like to hear from you about your sales lead generation best practices.
Jim Hall joined PointClear in 2014 with over 20 years of experience in consulting, sales, and business growth. He is also well-versed in coaching, sales management, and team-building, as well as marketing and public relations. Jim is a published author, and enjoys writing, spending time with his daughters and grandchildren, and ballroom dancing with his wife.
Topics: Inside Sales