Getting Past the Gate Guard


Over the years, many prospects have hidden behind their well-trained secretaries to prevent interruptions from persistent salespeople. But in today's electronic world, voice mail systems have frequently replaced the human gate guard.

In surveys we have conducted, we have found that salespeople's inability to get busy prospects to return their calls ranks just behind "not enough time in the day" among the frustrations salespeople face.

Biggest mistake: Leaving either a voice mail recording or a message with a secretary that contains nothing more than a number for the prospect to call. After all, if prospects believed that it was in their best interest to return your call, they would have already gotten back to you or else they would have taken your call in the first place.

Remember that at this point you're not selling a product, you're selling a return phone call, so after a few unreturned phone calls, you have received your first clue that you need to try a different approach.

Try this: Don't get frustrated. Write out the equivalent of a powerful 20-second radio commercial that contains one to three reasons why the prospect should return your call. Then tell your prospect what action you want them to take. All salespeople must remember that when buyers receive their message, most of them ask themselves, "What's in it for me?" So your message must answer this question.

The reference approach. References are people who think so highly of you that they will say nice things about you when prospects call them to check you out. Good references are worth their weight in gold. Make sure that you have a lot of them. If an existing customer actually suggested that you give a friend of his a call, this approach is often effective, "Hello, my name is Wilson Gomes with XYZ Supply. Mike Kincaid at Quality Fabricators asked me to give you a call and I promised him that I would?"

The advocate approach. Advocates are people who think so much of you that they will take the personal initiative to call one of your prospects on your behalf. With enough advocates on your team, your close rate will soar. When advocates make calls for you, always take time to thank them and provide feedback.

Pre-condition the prospect. There are several channels of communication: Letters, cards, postcards, faxes, E-mail messages, personal visits and telephone calls. You'll find that prospects will be more willing to return your calls when you use one or more of these channels to communicate information that your prospect will perceive to be of value.

Show your prospects how to make more money, save time, reduce waste, solve their most pressing business problems or be more successful and they will beat a path to your door.

Bill Lee is author of Gross Margin: 26 Factors Affecting Your Bottom Line. $29.95 + $5 S&H.


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