You spend time, effort and money putting together your online and offline marketing materials: ads, emails, offers on your website, fliers, etc., and you give people a phone number they can call to respond to your promotions.
The phone rings, your receptionist states your company’s name and adds something to the effect of, “How may I help you?”
The caller says he saw your ad or website or promo piece and asks for more information to be sent to him. The receptionist says, “OK, I’ll get some right out to you. What’s your name and mailing address?”
Now if you just left it at that, you would have at least obtained a name and mailing address. But why just settle for that? A better approach would be something like this:
“Jim, I can definitely send you some information but, frankly, I can probably tell you faster than it would take to read our printed information. Either way, let me ask you this… if you were to hire us to build your deck, when would you need it by… How soon do you want to be using it for relaxing outdoors, having friends over for barbecues or what-have-you?”
In other words your receptionist restates the benefits of having a deck that were punched up in your ad or website, and checks to see how “hot” this prospect is and handles accordingly.
If he’s truly a hot prospect, chances are you can finalize a sale right on the spot or, depending on what your product or service is, schedule an appointment with the prospect.
If the person insists he wants some information sent to him, get a specific time to call and follow up and the best phone number for reaching him.
And then DO follow up. Hot leads can cool off quickly if not followed up.
You could even enclose a time-limited offer in the material you send your prospect offering him a better than normal price if he responds quickly, or perhaps an added feature or accompanying product. People will often respond faster if they get some added perk. And it really doesn’t have to be a BIG perk.
The point being: If you don’t give him a reason to act NOW, he may not do anything for another 3 or 4 weeks or even months. Why settle for this if you don’t have to?
Naturally, you would have to practice this type of approach until it seemed as natural as rain to both you and your callers. Bottom line: It works once you “own” it through practice and just doing it.
Over time, how you handle your incoming phone leads can make the difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on what you are selling, the price involved, and the size of your company. The handling of incoming responses and reaches is often the weakest link in a business’s marketing efforts (see earlier blog on “The Weakest Link.”)
Far too often, “sales people” will settle for just sending out more information, when with a little more courage and persistence they could be “closing” some of those leads right away or scheduling some appointments right away.
A Lesson from Some Marketing Pros
There’s a large, national catalog company that trains the people who handle its incoming calls for ONE ENTIRE MONTH before letting them anywhere near a phone.
I’m not saying you have to go to those lengths, but you DO need to train your people who will be taking these incoming calls. And you need to spot check periodically to make sure they don’t slip back into old, ineffective habits.
You have too much at stake to treat this subject lightly. Killer promo, ads, web pages are only half the story. Handling those incoming leads EFFECTIVELY is the other half – however you do that.
You have to think like this, “Why is this person responding? Is it really because he/she just wants more information, or does he/she really want the BENEFITS we are promoting or offering in our ads, fliers, web pages?”
Obviously, you have to work this all out so it makes sense for your company, what you are offering and how it will be delivered or fulfilled.
But remember this: Many sales can be “lost” by ineffective handling of incoming responses to your promotion. And that can also include a poor online shopping cart – one that is too confusing, too complex, too slow, too ambiguous or requires too many hoops to jump through to finalize the sale.
A Real-Life Example of How NOT to Handle Marketing Inquiries or Reaches
I was once training some sales reps who were selling jewelry at trade shows to boutique owners as well as professional buyers from large, national chain stores.
While observing these reps at some trade shows where buyers would come to look over the merchandise and place orders, I was amazed to see that many of the reps were very quick to just hand out brochures and info, instead of getting into a selling situation.
Giving out the brochures and info materials was simply postponing a sale, or worse, completely losing a chance to make the sale, period.
In this scenario, handing out brochures right away acts as a substitute for the real thing – the merchandise itself – and gives the potential buyer an excuse to go off and “think about it.”
The jewelry company spent a lot of money to be in these trade shows, and a lot of sales were being “lost” by reps who were ineffective at handling the potential buyers coming to their booths.
I re-trained the reps to give out the brochure only if the person was going to move on without placing an order. We also scripted and role-played how to handle the buyers at shows.
Result: Sales increased by 2.5 times over the previous trade shows, and went up from there. FACT.
So look over your marketing process and see if you have this very common weak link: Ineffective handling of incoming leads, reaches, inquiries for what you are offering. If so, fix it and watch your sales climb.
Written by Bob Nelson
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