Secrets of Phone Prospecting – with Jeb Blount, CEO of Sales Gravy
It’s no secret – phone prospecting is one of sales development representatives’ least favorite activities. It’s one of their biggest fears, and one of the most stressful parts of their day. This is because it involves a lot of objections from prospects, and because the main activity, don’t we all know it – involves interrupting someone in their work day to sell them something. Jeb Blount, CEO of Sales Gravy and author of the book “How to Be a Fanatical Prospector”, sales expert with years in the industry, gives us a few secrets of phone prospecting.
Jeb Blount was a speaker at the XANT Sales Acceleration Summit and he spoke on the Playmakers Podcast, in episode 45: “How to be a Fanatical Prospector.” You can hear the podcast below:
The Myth That Cold Calling is Dead
Cold calling is dead, proclaim some. However, thousands of top salespeople use the phone daily to successfully qualify prospects, set appointments and open sales conversations. The cold call itself is changing and morphing into a diverse mix of sales and marketing activities. But for Jeb Blount, the myth that the phone doesn’t work because people don’t answer the phone anymore is just that – a myth.
“You’re getting the information about the phone not working from the same people you say won’t make calls. […] If you lack the managerial courage to sit in on phone blocks, to coach your people and to hold your people accountable for results, your people will snow you into believing that the phone doesn’t work,” said Jeb, during the Playmakers podcast.
Statistics show between 15% – 80% contact rates on the phone depending on industry, product and the role level of the contact, says Jeb. Regardless of industry, engagement rates when using the phone are higher than response rates on email – and light years higher than those social selling.
Prospects Are Answering the Phone MORE, Not Less
Statistics offer even better news for salespeople, shows Jeb – prospects are actually answering the phone MORE, not less. Research on phone prospecting going back to the early 90’s show that there is a clear trend in rising contact rates via the phone – they are now around 5% higher.
“We don’t know the exact reason why more props are answering their phones more, but we suspect there are three drivers of this. First, phones are anchored to people, not desks. It’s common for prospects to answer their mobile phone when you call them. This is either because mobile line is their only line, or because their office line rolls over to their mobile phone,” says Jeb.
“Number two, no one is calling. So much sales communication has shifted to email and social inboxes. Phones are not ringing nearly as much as they did in the past. Those sales people who are calling are standing out in the crowd and getting through”, he adds.
“And finally, prospects are burned out by impersonal irrelevant and automated prospecting emails. The fact is that your prospect’s email and social inboxes are getting flooded with spam. Prospects are hungry for something different – a live, authentic, human being,” he explains.
The 5-Step Process for a Perfect Sales Prospecting Call
The simple prospecting call is sometimes over-complicated by sales reps, shows Jeb. He advises using a simple 5-step framework for creating the perfect prospecting call, detailed below:
- Use the prospect’s name to get their attention
- Introduce yourself and tell them why you are calling (what you need)
- Give them a reason why they should give you more of their time
- Ask for what you need and then offer them the opportunity to respond.
The 5-step framework makes you agile and adaptive because you can leverage it in different situations. This way, you have more time to focus on the message rather than rethinking your process each time.
You need a consistent and repeatable process, that doesn’t sound like a script and focuses on the prospect’s needs and is respectful of their time.
Example of a Telephone Prospecting Call Script
Here’s an example of a telephone prospecting call script, as given by Jeb Blount in the Playmakers podcast:
This is Jeb with Acme Kitchen Supplies.
The reason I am calling is because I read in the paper you are building a restaurant over on the 44 bypass. I wanted to learn more about your process for purchasing kitchen equipment supplies.
I know I am calling early in the game. However, I found that when we get our design team working with your team before you make critical decisions about kitchen layout, you’ll have more options in layout. You can often save a ton of money in construction costs and future labor costs with a more efficient and streamlined kitchen.
Can you tell me how you make those decisions and when selection process will begin?”
Secrets of Telephone Prospecting
Having a script is just one part of the ecuation. Jeb Blount further offers some phone prospecting tips and tricks that are sure to make your execution perfect, increasing your chances for a positive response from your prospect.
1. Make Your Call Quick and to the Point
When you pick up the phone and call a prospect – cold, hot, follow up, referral, inbound lead and even a customer – and they are not expecting your call – you are an interruption in their day, shows Jeb.
Prospects who are interrupted will want the caller to get right to the point and get off the phone quickly.
“Think about your prospects, because they are people just like you. Your goal is to make the call quick and to the point so that you can achieve your objective and they can back to what they were doing,” shows Jeb.
“With shorter, more impactful calls, you make more dials during your phone blocks and have better conversations with prospects,” he adds.
2. Don’t Pause During the Conversation
There are no pauses during the prospecting conversation, shows Jeb. The moment you pause, you lose control of the call.
“As soon as my prospect answers the phone I walk through the five-step framework without stopping. The goal is to respect their time by getting to the point and get an answer: yes, no or maybe – fast,” shows Jeb.
If you pause, ask them how they are doing or leave any awkward silences, the instinct to hang up the phone or give you objections kicks in, he adds.
3. Be Transparent with Your Prospect
Telling your prospect who you are and why you called is a powerful tool to bring down their defences, shows Jeb. The transparency has two benefits: it shows you are a professional and you have respect for your prospect’s time.
“By telling them why you are calling, you reduce their stress. People are more comfortable when they know what to expect. One thing I know about prospects – they don’t want to be tricked, manipulated, or interrupted. They want to be treated with respect. And the best way to show respect is to be truthful, relevant and to the point,” explains Jeb.
4. Give Your Prospect a Reason They Need You
During step four of the prospecting telephone call, we need to give our prospect a reason why they should continue the conversation. Think about the obvious benefits of your solution and how it applies to that particular prospect.
Prospects don’t care much about products, services or anything else the salesperson is interested in. So, it’s a good idea to have your message pinned down before making the call, shows Jeb.
“Message matters. What you say and how you say it will generate resistance or it will pull the wall down and open the door to a “yes”. So a voice saying things like “I want talk to you about my product“ or “I’d love to get together to show you what we have to offer” or “ I want to tell you about our service “, these statements are all about you and the words talk tell and show send a subtle message that what you really want to do is pitch,” shows Jeb Blount.
5. Use Words That Convey Powerful Emotions
A short compelling message that connects emotionally with what is important to your prospect goes a long way, adds the sales expert.
“Use phrases and emotional words like: “learn more about you and your business”, “share some insights that have helped my other clients”, “share some best practices that other companies in your industry are using”, “gain an understanding of your unique situation”, “see how we might fit”. Use words like “flexibility”, “options”, “piece of mind”, “save”, “frustrated”, “concerned”, “stressed”, “waste”, “time”, “money”. These statements and words are all about them. Prospects want to feel that you get them and their problems,” adds Jeb Blount.
He adds that the most effective way to craft the right message is to simply stand in your prospect’s shoes. You need to use empathy to sense their emotions and consider what might be important to them.
6. Give Your Prospect the Opportunity to Respond
The most important step in the telephone prospecting call is asking for what you want, shows Jeb. It is crucial to allow your prospect to respond, if you want to have a successful call.
“The single biggest mistake that salespeople make on prospecting calls is they keep talking, instead of giving their prospect the opportunity to respond to their request. This increases resistance, creates objections and gives your prospect an easy way out. So, shut up and let your prospect respond,” advises Jeb.
Phone Prospecting versus Email, Voicemail or Social Selling
Sales representatives who ignore the phone deliver mediocre results and they cheat themselves out of cold, hard cash, says the CEO of Sales Gravy. However, he opts for balance when it comes to communication channels. He advises anyone to use all of them, to increase the chance of fast pipeline generation.
“I believe in a balanced prospecting methodology, in which you are leveraging all prospecting channels: email, phone and social selling, text, networking, chat, networking, in person prospecting and the phone. By balancing your prospecting across all channels, you give yourself the best statistical chance to keep your pipeline full of qualified prospects,” says Jeb.
The phone is more effective than email, social and text. When you are speaking to another human being there is a higher probability that you will set appointments, gather pertinent qualifying information or move to directly to a sales conversation that will potentially close the deal, adds Jeb.
“The telephone has always been, is and will continue to be the most powerful sale prospecting tool. […] There is no other tool that will deliver better results, fill your pipeline faster and help you cover more ground in less time than the phone,” concludes Jeb.