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How to Get People to Answer Your Call

The first step of any sale is getting someone to actually take your call. The trick is to become the kind of person that people enjoy speaking with. Sales guru Tom Searcy explains how.
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I love Jean. She's a salesperson extraordinaire employed by one of my great clients. Every call or email from her is a double shot of espresso to my spirit. We all have a Jean in our lives--the opposite of the "soul sucking oxygen vampires" I wrote about in a recent post. They give so much more than they take--and that's why her call gets answered or returned no matter where I am or what I am doing. And I'm not the only one. Jean usually gets responses from whomever she contacts. Her approach is simple, but it is so effective. Over the course of dozens of contacts, I think I have figured out why. Here are the things Jean does well:

  1. Set time expectations--"Do you have just 3 minutes for a quick one, I really need your help on this." Now I know it won't be three minutes, but I do know that I can tell her I'm slammed and need to connect later, or I can take the call always being able to tell Jean that we have to wrap it up.
  2. Re-connect first and fast--Every call starts with an "I was thinking of you the other day when I was at..." and a very short story putting me in the picture with Jean.
  3. Give before you ask--She then gives me a boost to my spirit, "Something you said in the past stuck in my mind, and it was....." and then she tells me why it was important and helpful. A compliment, genuinely given, is always a boost.
  4. Know what you want specifically--Here's where Jean gets what she wants. "I am trying to figure out what to do... I could do this, that, or the other thing" is generally how the ask goes with the finishing point, "What do you think I should do?" These requests are always specific and a selection from options. I may choose to generate other options based upon what she has told me, but the conversation is always tighter because we are choosing rather than brainstorming.
  5. Thank and exit--She finishes with "That's exactly what I needed. Thanks for taking the call. It really helps."
  6. Close the loop--I always get an email in a day or two thanking me for the time and telling me the result.

Like I said, simple and effective. Top executives, busy buyers, and your boss all want to take calls from people like Jean because they know what they are getting and they like it. Your ask may be for an intervention on a problem, assistance in connecting with someone, or insight on a challenge. It doesn't matter.

A couple of cautions:

-       Plan before you call. Starting with the end in mind keeps your call tight.

-       Be positive. The call that gets answered comes from a person who lifts your day, not weighs it down.

-       Simple and fast, not complex. If your issue is complex, then write it up and send it. Use your phone call as a way to let the person know it is coming. You can still make the ask in the call of what you want the other person to consider, just don't spell out all of the details. If you are seen as that person, then your call goes to voicemail.

-       Gratitude is the attitude. You want to let the person know your appreciation. Express your gratitude so that the person feels valued.

Developing relationships through regular contacts in this way is great and you become the caller who gets answered.

IMAGE: Corbis
Last updated: Jan 9, 2014

TOM SEARCY | Columnist | Founder, Hunt Big Sales

Author, speaker, and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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