Build Better Customer Relationships through Telemarketing
Face-to-face versus the telephone
Remember that speaking to a person on the phone is very different from speaking to the person face-to-face. It is a different form of communication and you have to compensate for some loss. This makes building a successful relationship on the phone considerably more challenging.
For example, telephone communications mean you can't see the other person's facial expressions, gestures and body language. Since sight is the most dominant of our five senses, communications experts estimate that these visual 'unspoken' impressions account for around 80% of all communication.
On the telephone you have to compensate for the loss of these visual elements, and it is your voice and phone manner that have to convey the all-important 'first impressions' and build rapport.
The telephone smile
The telephone smile does work. Some businesses actually encourage employees to install a small mirror next to the phone as a reminder to smile. Try smiling before you pick up the phone and you'll find it will automatically improve your tone and attitude, and this will come across in the phone conversation.
Sitting up alertly or standing while you phone rather than slouching in a chair will also help. Because the person can't see you, you have to project the correct physical posture and attitude, and adopting both before you dial does help this projection.
Observe common courtesies. Make sure that you return calls and keep promises. If you say you will call back with information before 3:00pm then ensure that you do this. It is always more impressive to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around. Your task is to build credibility and a reputation for reliability.
Courtesy and appreciation are the most important attributes. Always thank people for their time in speaking with you. If it is a toll call or you suspect they are speaking to you from a mobile phone, be aware that the cost to them is mounting.
Keep the call brief, offer to phone them back, or suggest they use your free phone number if you have one. Most people will really appreciate you saying something like; "There are a few more points I'd like to discuss with you. As you're on your mobile/as this is a toll call for you, may I call you back straight away?"
The formality or informality of your language will depend upon how well you know the customer. As a general rule, formal but friendly is far better than too informal.
Never swear on the phone and avoid telling jokes to people you don't know. Avoid jokes on taboo topics: sex, religion, politics, race and gender. It's alarmingly easy to offend the person on the other end who may have beliefs or prejudices you are not evenly remotely aware of.
Even crowing over an All Black victory might backfire if the customer turns out to have strong overseas connections! Avoid any hint of sarcasm or irony ("So the cheque's in the mail then?") as these do not come over well on the phone and are likely to be misinterpreted.
Timing of the call
Develop a sense for good times to phone versus inconvenient times. For example, most people don't want interruptions at 5:25pm on a Friday afternoon, or early on a Monday morning.
Always ask people: "Is it convenient to talk right now?", and if you sense even a slight hesitation, arrange a more suitable time. It makes sense for you to complete a block of calls at the same time, rather than scattering them through the week, so work out a suitable time for this task.
Tips on building a relationship
Here are some relationship-building tactics that work well:
Use the person's name
Use the person's name (correctly!) and continue to use it during the course of the conversation. Make a note of the name and its pronunciation (if it is a difficult foreign name) and try to get it right.
Asking them politely to spell and/or pronounce the name for you again is better than making a hash of it.
Keep records of conversations
Create a system (e.g. card index file) to keep notes on what is discussed and, more importantly, what action is needed or will happen next. Don't rely on your memory to post off that information pack later in the day - write the task down and tick it off as completed. Your aim in business is always to build an image of credibility and reliability. If the decision is that you should phone the customer in 10 days’ time, diaries it so that the task will be accomplished.
Absorb personal details
There's always some ice-breaking chit-chat at the beginning of a phone conversation. Rather than ignoring what is said, pay more attention and jot down some notes. For example, the person might be suffering from a cold, or is just back from holiday.
These details might seem trivial, but in fact they offer you an excellent opening on the next call to ask: "Have you recovered from that cold you had yet", or: "You seem to have been so busy lately, you've probably forgotten your 10 days in Fiji - I hope you were able to bring back some good pictures to remind you of the beaches."
Note that this tactic is not 'insincere', it is instead excellent training in listening carefully and responding to the whole person rather than just the person you want to sell goods and services to.
Remember that people prefer doing business with people they like or have a good relationship with, and by building up more knowledge about the person, you can successfully deepen the relationship.
Ask about the customer's needs
Focus on the needs of the person you are speaking with first. Find out as much about these needs as possible first. If you're tempted to (or invited) to launch immediately into a description of your own products or services - don't.
Respond instead: "I'd be happy to tell you about that, but I can do that best if I know a little about your problem. So tell me…" and ask a question.
Remember, even on the phone with a person you've never seen, you want to make a connection and establish a relationship first. The more you know about customers the better placed you are to satisfy their needs.
Be honest, direct and quick
Respect the value of the other person's time and avoid long-winded explanations. You are intruding on their time, so compensate by being businesslike.
Telemarketers will tell you that the most effective calls follow a script. If you are making the same kind of calls to many people it makes sense to develop a suitable script that ensures:
• You do not forget to cover the essential points
• You develop them in the most successful way
• You are consistent in your delivery and therefore more likely to get a consistent response.
The most basic form of telephone script is simply a list of points you work through as you speak.
Writing a successful telephone script takes some practice and is covered in more detail in the related Solution Guide: 'Build your sales through successful telemarketing'.