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The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Ten: Handling Objections, Part Two

By Kathy Sisk

Here are six methods to deal with objections. Pick the ones you feel comfortable with and that are appropriate for objections you may get from your prospects. The key is to use a method not often tried by your competitors. This helps to set you apart and impress your prospect with your unique style of presentation.

1) Restate or Agree and Probe: You can find the real issue by restating or agreeing and then probing. For example:

Objection: I have no money. Restatement: “What you’re saying is that if it were cost-effective, you would consider it. Is that correct?” (Make this an assumptive statement.)

Objection: Send me information. Agree: “I would be happy to…”

Objection: I’m not interested. Probe: “What are some of your concerns?”

You won’t use all three; you will either restate and probe or agree and probe. By using the restate method, you can get a confirmation from your prospect. This identifies the real issue quickly. You can then proceed to your probing questions. Otherwise, agree and then probe to draw out real the issues. Agreeing helps defuse the objection quickly so your prospect will actively listen and respond to your probing questions more openly. Let’s consider the two examples and demonstrate how they work together.

Restate and Probe: “What you’re saying is that if it were cost-effective, you would consider it. Is that correct?” (Make this an assumptive statement.) “Other than affordability, what other concerns do you have?”

Agree and Probe: “I would be happy to send you information. What information would be most valuable to you?”

Once you have either restated and probed or agreed and probed, then you must outweigh the objection with features and benefits, get reaction, and, if your prospect’s response is positive, you can then close.

2) Keep Selling: Your second method of handling objections is to keep selling. This works best when you have previously received a “yes” response. You can refer to the “yes” response your prospect offered when you get a reaction in Step Eight. Using this technique makes your prospect accountable for what they have agreed to earlier in your presentation, when you asked: “How valuable would this be for you?” You need to remind them of their positive reaction. Here is a format to follow – just fill in the blanks to fit your prospect’s response.

“I understand, Mr./Ms. Prospect. We talked about many benefits. You liked the fact that _____________, and the idea that we can give you ____________. One of the areas we haven’t talked much about is ______________. Mr./Ms. Prospect, how important is that to you? [or] How valuable is this to your company?”

This gives you an opportunity to do additional selling. However, there is some flexibility when using this technique. If you don’t want to go into something else and risk pushing another hot button, you can change the format slightly:

“I understand, Mr./Ms. Prospect. We talked about many benefits. You liked that __, and the idea that we can give you __. What other concerns do you have in allowing me the opportunity to validate this further?

3) Reflect: The reflect method is similar to the keep selling strategy. The only difference is that you do not add additional selling points or get a reaction. This is more readily used when you get a “no” response when you get a reaction in Step Eight. You need to refer to what your prospect said “yes” to in your restatement in Step Six. This will remind the prospect of what his or her needs are. For example:

“We talked about many issues. You mentioned that your company sees the value of__, and you have a concern with__, and you feel that conducting a competitive analysis would help you to determine (pause) the cost-effectiveness of your current product. What other concerns do you have about receiving this information?”

4) Feel, Felt, Found: This technique is another excellent method for handling objections, especially if your prospect is skeptical, unsure, or sounds irritable. Defuse the objections with feel, felt, found statements, and then offer solutions with your features and benefits. One drawback when using this method is that many salespeople tend to use it; it may sound too familiar to the prospect, which could cause a negative reaction. Therefore, when using this technique, be sure to use verbiage that is unique and unfamiliar: Do not say, “I understand how you feel, and others have felt the same way until they found out that…” Below, are some alternatives to the feel, felt, and found words to help you be a little more creative.

Feel = Empathy (put yourself in your prospect’s place)

“I respect what you’re saying…”

“I appreciate your concern…”

“Thank you for letting me know that…”

Felt = Relate (get them to understand that their concerns are not unique)

“Many people I speak with share the same concerns…”

“It’s not uncommon today…”

Found = Offer Solutions (give your prospect objective answers)

“Until they discovered…”

“Until they had an opportunity to…”

Try not to sound canned when using this technique. You must be sincere so the method comes across naturally. Again, you do not necessarily have to use the words feel, felt, found. Instead, be more creative in your statements by using variations. To put this into a better perspective:

“I appreciate your concerns about the cost factors, and it’s not uncommon in today’s market. It’s unfortunate that, for a company such as yours that desires to upgrade, what usually is standing in the way is the financial affordability. Once a company has an opportunity to evaluate and compare our competitiveness in the marketplace, and compare our guarantee and pricing structure, they see that we are able to reduce (pause) their bottom line by 30 percent. If you could accomplish this same savings, how important would that be to you and your company?”

5) Ask the Prospect for the Best Solution: This is helpful when you have done everything possible to overcome your prospect’s objection. Don’t use this in the first two rounds. However, you have nothing to lose when you use this as your final resort. This method is known as the bottom-line objection technique. When you really want prospects to see your position, this helps put them in the position of selling themselves.

“What would you suggest?”

“What can I do that will help you see the benefits?”

“What would you recommend?”

“What would be of interest to you?”

“What can I do to validate this further?”

“What would it take to earn the right to do business with you today?”

6) If I Could…, Would You…? This method is popular with many salespeople. It can be extremely effective when used with the proper verbiage so it sounds more original:

“I appreciate what you’re saying. If I could show you how we can (describe), would you agree that this would be valuable information?” [or] “…Would you allow us the opportunity to service your needs?”

Note that these are closed-ended trial-closing questions. You can also use an open-ended approach, such as, “How valuable is this information?”

Use the six objection-handling methods as your model when entering into Step Ten. Choose the method that is best suited for the type of objection you receive. By first interpreting the objection, you will be able to select the most appropriate means of handling it. Remember: Always outweigh the objection with benefits, then get a reaction—“How valuable would this be for you?” —and finally close.

In the next issue, we will conclude the discussion of objection handling methods.

Kathy Sisk is founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc., located in California. Kathy is a trainer and consultant, contributing thirty-five years of her expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.

[From Connection Magazine March 2013]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Ten: Handling Objections

By Kathy Sisk

In previous issues we have covered the twelve steps to successful telemarketing, with the exception of Step Ten, the objection step. Provided you have followed the steps closely, objections will typically occur during your trial close, Step Nine, when you ask for a commitment. An objection during this step is not a rejection; assume objections will surface during some of your presentations. In most cases, an objection means that the prospect needs more information.

Interpreting, Narrowing, and Overcoming Objections: Objections give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your prospect – another way to continue selling your products, services, company, and ideas. It is a chance to listen, probe, and understand your prospect’s needs. There should not be any feelings of personal rejection. Your prospect’s objections are not necessarily directed at you, so don’t be defensive or react negatively. More importantly, don’t attack the objection immediately with more selling. This is a time to remain in control and impress your prospects with your persistence and professionalism.

Let’s Review: Early in your presentation, prior to Step Five, when a prospect behaves in a negative way, it is usually the result of a concern they had prior to your contact. If your prospect seems rude during the beginning of your presentation, try to release these barriers. Ask, “What are some of your concerns?” This statement invites dialogue, and your prospect will be more likely to tell you the real issue. If this approach is unsuccessful, conclude your presentation by using the “Easy Close.”

You can always try approaching the prospect at another time. Never close the door permanently. Don’t allow a prospect’s resistance to affect your future prospecting efforts. Instead, continue with a positive attitude. Resistance may indicate that the prospect is not ready at this time, so your best option is to use the easy close technique. This will give you another opportunity in the future.

Whenever you get objections, the following provides you with ways with which you can regain control and effectively close (depending on where you are at within your presentation).

Defuse a Negative Statement: Acknowledging and agreeing with your prospects is one effective way to get on their good side, especially if your prospect is angry or upset. Defusing your prospect’s anger will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. You can defuse many negative situations with statements such as:

“I understand your concerns.”

“I know price is important to you.”

“Of course you need to think it over.”

“I’d be happy to send you information.”

“Thank you for making me aware of that.”

“I appreciate your concerns.”

“I respect that.”

When objections surface during Step Nine, your first step is to interpret what the real issues are. To make this determination, you need to establish precisely what your prospect is really saying. For example, “I’m not interested,” “Call me back in six months,” or “I’m not ready now” are not real objections. The prospect’s disinterest may be superficial and mask unidentified concerns. By determining what the real concerns are, you will be better able to overcome the objections. When receiving objections, here are three questions to answer:

1) Where do you stand with your prospect? Analyzing at what point in the twelve steps the objections arise will help you to know where you stand with your prospect. When using the twelve steps as instructed, objections most likely will surface during the trial close. Therefore, you stand strong with your prospect. In Step Nine, you have completed most of your presentation.

Think about what you have accomplished so far. You established rapport in the first four steps by stating who you are, the company you represent, and your location. You told your prospect how you acquired his or her name, respected his or her time, and stated the purpose for your call. Then, in Step Five you qualified your prospect, established what the prospect’s wants were, and created a need for your products or services. Your prospect confirmed those needs when you restated them in Step Six, and then you fulfilled those needs (by telling the prospect what he or she wanted to hear) in Step Seven, the selling step. In Step Eight, you got a reaction; you gained a positive yes response confirming that you fulfilled the prospect’s needs. Therefore, by the time you entered into the trial close in Step Nine, you were in a strong position. Now you just need to regain control as you have throughout your presentation.

Without the twelve steps, objections usually occur early on, within seconds of your initial presentation. Now where do you stand with your prospect? In an extremely weak position. This is the primary reason for the first four steps. Each step is designed to eliminate your prospect’s resistance before it occurs. In this way your position is stronger when you enter into the trial close. You now have more ammunition to outweigh and overcome your prospect’s objection.

If the objection occurs within the first four steps, you know that your rapport-building process was not effective. To determine what went wrong, you need to analyze during what step the objection occurred.

Remember, approximately 10 percent of your prospects will say “no” to everything, and that is not through any fault of your own; it is a statistical reality. Should you get more than 10 percent resistance early on within your presentation, it is because you are not properly implementing the steps.

Unless you record yourself and evaluate your presentation, it will be difficult to determine what went wrong and where you need to improve. For example, if you get resistance when stating the purpose of the call (Step Four), then you are probably raising your pitch on the word “mind” when you say, “…if you don’t mind.”

If resistance occurs after you have introduced your company name, you are pausing too long instead of quickly going into your fifth function, the landmark or location. You need to say, “…and we’re located (pause).” Be sure to use the word “and” immediately after you state your company name; this will help you not to pause. Pausing at an inappropriate place gives the prospect an opportunity to interrupt your presentation. Interruptions usually end on negative notes rather than positive ones.

When objections occur during the trial close (Step Nine), you have greater confidence in overcoming them, since by this point you have built rapport and credibility, and you stand firm with your prospect.

An objection occurring in Step Nine indicates that your prospect needs additional information. This information should have been provided in your selling step. Consider this objection as an opportunity to progress in your selling efforts.

2) Was your prospect listening? You have assurance that your prospect was listening to your ideas when you ask for and receive a positive reaction in Step Eight (“How valuable is this to you?”). Your prospects are not going to readily respond positively unless they were truly listening. Therefore, an objection during the trial close indicates your prospect was listening, and this second question is not the issue.

Should you get a negative response during Step Eight, any one of the following might have occurred:

  • You did not satisfy your prospect’s needs in Step Seven: Selling Features and Benefits.
  • Your prospect wasn’t listening to your ideas during Step Seven. This suggests that your prospect was not impressed.
  • You did not create the need in Step Five, the probing step, and yet you continued with your presentation.

The solution is to ask the right questions and listen to your prospect’s responses during the probing step so when you enter into your selling step you will ensure that you touch the prospect’s hot buttons. Once you have accomplished this, you will be able to encourage a positive response in Step Eight, when you get the prospect’s reaction. This is important, since you cannot move to your next step until this happens.

If you have completed all the steps and you still receive a “no” during the trial close, you’ll need to determine what the real issue is. Consider the following points when beginning to handle objections (Step Ten):

  • Attempt to determine if the objection is the result of a preexisting issue or a misunderstanding of the product’s features and benefits.
  • When you hear an objection, consider it an invitation to provide additional selling points.
  • Draw out your prospect; try to understand his or her needs.

You will find the best approaches in the article, “Six Methods of Handling Objections,” which will appear in the next issue.

3) What is your prospect really telling you? When your position is strong with your prospect and he or she was listening to your ideas, your only alternative is to consider this question. When faced with an objection, you need to interpret the objection. For example, when the objection is about price, your prospect might say, “It’s too much money,” or “I can’t afford it!”

You don’t want to agree with your prospect’s objection, nor do you want to assume it is what the prospect actually means. Agreeing with the objection decreases your opportunity to close. First, interpret the objection by thinking, “There must be a misunderstanding or a misconception about the products or services.”

Second, assess what that misunderstanding or misconception is. If you were to gather all the possible objections you would ever receive, they’d fall into six categories. Using these categories to handle an objection enables you to interpret the objection more clearly and customize your rebuttals to your prospect’s specific needs. The six types of objections are:

  • Money: “Too much money” indicates that there is a misunderstanding; “Not enough money” indicates a misconception of the cost.
  • Time: “Not now, call back” shows there is a condition standing in the way.
  • Information: “Send me information” is a hint to confirm if the prospect is actually interested, whereas “I have to talk it over with my partner” is something you need to qualify to see if it is true.
  • Competition: “I know someone in the business” or “I like ABC Company” indicates a need to better educate the prospect.
  • Customer Service: “I don’t like salespeople” or “I never do business over the telephone” suggests that the prospect has had a bad situation or experience.
  • Silence or Guttural Utterances: “Yes,” “No,” “I don’t know,” “Don’t care,” or “Maybe” means you’re losing control. You need to break through undetermined barriers, take control of the situation, and get the prospect to open up.

Once you have categorized and interpreted your prospect’s objections, the next step is narrowing down the real issues and beginning to overcome or outweigh the objections. Your interpretation enables you to select the most effective objection-handling method.

Kathy Sisk is founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc., located in California. Kathy is a trainer and consultant, contributing thirty-five years of expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2013]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Twelve: Post Close

By Kathy Sisk

Once you have received a commitment from your prospect, you need to reinforce or strengthen that commitment with a post close. Many agents are instructed, “Close and get off quickly.” In reality, what they’re being told is, “Close and get off quickly, before your prospect changes their mind!”

Provided you have followed your presentation as instructed, you do not need to be concerned. If you have received a “yes” response in Steps Six, Eight, and Nine and you were able to close effectively, remaining on the telephone and gaining additional information is just a part of your presentation, and your prospects will continue to be receptive.

The post close step will decrease cancellations, rescheduling, or no-shows. The post close serves to overcome the third fear point (“What have I done?”). Wouldn’t you rather have this surface now as opposed to later when you no longer have control? The following is a checklist of what you need to do in your post close:

  • Highlight points that are in the prospect’s best interest.
  • Offer motivating words of encouragement to bring excitement to the idea.
  • Ensure that all decision makers will be present for the appointment.
  • Ask open-ended questions that will further your direct presentation.
  • Remind the prospect of his or her commitment to you.
  • Go over scheduled appointments or delivery dates.
  • To end your conversation, add any other ending in your close that would fit in at this point.
  • Thank the prospect for their time and consideration.
  • Never hang up first.

The following is an example of a post close:

“Thank you for your order. To ensure that your product arrives to you in a timely manner, I need a little more information.

  • To whose attention should I send it?
  • What is the correct spelling of your last name?
  • What department should I direct this to?
  • What is your billing number?

“Thank you for the additional information. I will process your order today, and you should expect your package within the next three weeks. Should you have any questions or concerns, ask for me, Debbie Smith, and I will be happy to assist you. Is there anything else we need to consider before I finalize your order? Have a terrific day!”

Congratulations! With the exception of Step Ten: Objections, you have completed the rest of the twelve steps. In the next issue I will begin teaching you on how to overcome objections.

Until then I encourage you to spend time daily studying, learning, and applying each of the twelve steps. Within thirty days of a committed effort, you will notice a marked improvement in your prospecting and selling efforts. Don’t be interested in merely learning the information – make a strong commitment to get good at using the steps on the telephone. Besides your voice, this is the most valued tool you have.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.

[From Connection Magazine November 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step 11: The Close

By Kathy Sisk

An effective close is the natural conclusion to all the previous steps. Whether you do close, however, will depend on how successfully the preceding steps were performed. You should have confidence in your close, provided you received “yes” responses in getting reaction during Step 8 and in the trial close in Step 9.

By avoiding tricky, slick, or fast-talking techniques, the close should simply come down to asking prospects to buy or to make a commitment to see you. (Research reveals that the majority of sales calls end without ever asking the prospect to say yes!). Learning when to close is very important. The right time to ask is when you think prospects will say yes! You will know when a prospect is ready to say yes by asking one of the trial-closing questions found in Step 9. For example, “Does that sound fair enough?” or “Would that be all right with you?” (Remember to use the assumptive approach in your trial closing question.)

The twelve steps have guided you through your presentation while increasing your ability to effectively close. Once you have created the need for your products or services by using the probing questions in Step 5, the balance of your presentation will be pretty much on automatic pilot. However, don’t be overzealous. You still need to fulfill your prospect’s needs in your selling step, gain your prospect’s reactions in Step 8, and then trial-close your prospect in Step 9. Although these steps don’t require as much thought as the probing step, you still need to incorporate them precisely as instructed into your presentation. All the steps work uniquely together, so bypassing one or more of the steps will hinder you from executing a smooth close.

Four Action Guides: Here are four action guides to a successful close:

  1.   Get opinions and elicit a positive response during Step 8:

“How valuable would that be for you?”

  1.   Summarize the benefits and give a positive reinforcement; ask a trial-closing question to get a “yes” or “no” response:

“Would that be all right with you?”

“Does that sound fair enough?”

  1.  If you receive a negative response in your trial close, narrow down the real issues and outweigh them with benefits that will overcome any issues your prospect may have; be sure to get a positive response before closing (see dealing with objections in Step 10).
  2.   Reinforce your prospect’s commitment in this step – the close; then pause and wait patiently for a reply.

Whenever you are unable to close effectively, it means you did not complete a prior step – something went wrong in your presentation. Be sure that you have done the following in the order listed below:

  • Establish rapport (Steps 1 to 4). Earn the right to conduct your presentation.
  • Probe (Step 5). Create the need for what you are offering.
  • Restate (Step 6). Reinforce your prospect’s needs.
  • Sell (Step 7). Fulfill your prospect’s needs through discussion of features, functions, and benefits.
  • Get reaction (Step 8). Encourage a positive response.
  • Trial-close (Step 9). Summarize and ask for a positive commitment.
  • Handle objections (Step 10). Negotiate and outweigh your prospect’s resistance and aim to get a positive response. (If the first nine steps were done correctly, you won’t need  this one, but we’ll cover it in a future issue in case you need it.)
  • Close (Step 11). Assume your position.
  • Do your post close (Step 12). Finalize the order or appointment.

The following are points to remember:

  • A trial-closing question asks for a commitment; the close reinforces that decision.
  • You should begin asking a trial-closing question after you summarize the features and benefits.
  • Ask a closing question only after you receive two or more positive answers during restating in Step 6, getting reaction in Step 8, or trial-closing in Step 9.
  • Help prospects make decisions by pointing out how the benefits outweigh the costs. This occurs during the first function in your trial close, when you summarize the benefits.
  • When you close, expect prospects to say yes! Anticipate a positive response. Use proper voice inflection to create increased confidence in your projection. Assume your close will be positive.
  • When you ask prospects to commit, be quiet until they respond.

Once you have accomplished these action guides successfully, use one of the following closes that best fits your closing objectives.

Three Popular Closes: As you have discovered, it is the right time to close by the time your reach Step 11. You probably have heard that there are over a hundred ways to close. In reality there are only three closing techniques to remember. There may be many different ways to express it, which is a choice you can make on your own. The important issue is to close!

The examples below offer ideas for you to be creative with your own style of close. Choose a close that not only feels comfortable to you but also correlates with whom you are prospecting. For example, you would not want to use the direct close with someone who is an easy-going prospect; the direct close would be more useful with strong personality types.

The Assumptive Close: Ask for a decision, assuming your prospect will make an affirmative, major buying commitment. For example:

“In addition to the benefits that we’ve discussed, is there anything else we need to consider before we schedule delivery?”

“In addition to the benefits that we’ve discussed, is there anything else we need to consider prior to our meeting?

The Contained-Choice Close: Ask your prospect to select one or two proposed delivery or appointment dates:

“What about a delivery on the first, or would the fifteenth be better for you?”

“I can schedule an appointment for you on Tuesday, or would Thursday be better?”

“What time of the day is better for you and Mr./s. Green – the morning, afternoon, or evening?”

Direct Close: Simply ask prospect to take the appropriate closing action. You do not ask prospects to buy, but you specifically ask them to take a closing action. For example:

“Who, other than yourself, do we need to okay the agreement?”

“I need a requisition from you so I can get a purchase order.”

“How would you like to process this?”

“A letter of agreement would expedite your order today!”

“I would like to schedule delivery for you. Would Friday meet your needs?”

Be creative! Combine your closes. A combined close, for instance, could be an assumptive close and a direct and contained-choice close. An example of an assumptive and contained-choice close might be:

“I’m going to process your order today. How would you like the product delivered, COD or credit?”

A direct and contained choice might be:

“Who, other than yourself, do we need to consider when scheduling our appointment?”

“Would you prefer mornings or afternoons?”

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine October 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Nine: The Trial Close

By Kathy Sisk

We’re nearing the end in learning the skills of successful telemarketing, but don’t rush things. The next step in is the trial close.

The trial close has two functions. The first allows you to summarize the product or service benefits for the prospect. The second asks for a commitment; this is called a trial-closing question. This question must be close-ended (able to be answered with a “yes” or a “no”) and assumptive in nature – that is, it assumes that the prospect will agree with you. Because you are seeking either a “yes” or a “no” response, a trial-closing question allows your prospect to inquire about any missing pieces.

If you follow the twelve steps precisely, you should not receive objections until the trial close, which is meant to encourage objections. If objections do arise, you want to address them during the trial close rather than in your close. An outstanding presentation in Steps One through Eight should elicit a positive response during trial close, preventing objections from surfacing. This will eliminate the need for Step Ten (Handling Objections) and should make Step Eleven (The Close) the simplest of your twelve steps.

Here is an example of a trial close:

“Our Objection Hotline membership will allow you unlimited training support over the telephone. Our trained consultants will coach and role-play with you while offering words of encouragement to keep you motivated. In this way (pause) you will have greater success in achieving the results you are anticipating. Your membership investment is only $1,299 per year, and each call you make to the hotline is completely toll-free and should increase your production by a minimum of 10 percent. Does that sound reasonable?”

The following trial close is aggressive and should not be used as a first option, except when you’re faced with a prospect that has a bottom-line or controlling personality. This type of trial closes is also very effective when used after certain objections where you need to trial-close again.

“We have a challenge for our prospective clients. Try our products once and allow us the opportunity to serve you at our best. If we are unable to impress you with your first order, we simply don’t deserve any of your continued business. Does that sound fair enough?”

Whether you are closing for an appointment or a sale and what your product or service is greatly affects the wording of your trial-closing question. The rule-of-thumb is to summarize your benefits and ask for an attempt to close. If your prospect is receptive and her or his needs have been satisfied, you should be ready to close. Otherwise, objections may surface, and you must be prepared to handle them.

In many scenarios, an objection during the trial close may be an indication that your presentation needs further improvement. You’ll want to review how you executed each of the previous steps and where you need to strengthen the process. However, some prospects will interject an objection only to test your persistence, in order to see how far you’re willing to go to get their business.

Should your prospect object during your trial close, go directly to Step Ten: Objections. However, let’s assume your prospect gives you a positive response in your trial close; your next step then is Step Eleven: The Close.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.

[From Connection Magazine September 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Eight: Getting Reaction

By Kathy Sisk

Once you have completed Step Seven: Selling, you’ll want to encourage a positive response. This is accomplished in Step Eight: Get Reaction. This serves to test whether you have successfully satisfied your prospects’ needs. Did you tell them what they wanted to hear? Your prospects’ responses enable you to encourage and motivate them to respond positively to the benefits. This positive response will help you confidently move on to your next step, the Trial Close (Step Nine).

Getting a positive response in Step Eight assists you later on should your prospect offer any resistance (raise objections). Because you will gain a positive response now, if the prospect resists later, you can refer to the positive things your prospect agreed to in this step. This technique is called “keep selling.” Getting your prospect to agree with you now is crucial to successfully completing your presentation.

In Step Eight you must not ask for a commitment, since that would likely result in a negative response. For a positive response, here are some examples of good “get-reaction” questions:

“With what I’ve shared with you so far, how important is this information?”

“Understanding all the benefits you are entitled to, how valuable is this to you?”

These examples are generalized; you will need to create your own questions that are relevant to the product or service you are selling. When doing so, it is critical to keep the get-reaction questions open-ended and nonthreatening. Don’t push your prospect. You can have confidence that your prospects will put themselves in a position to sell themselves, provided you have fulfilled their needs in Step Seven by telling them what they want to hear.

How do you know what your prospects’ needs are? Go back two more steps. In Step Five, the Probing Step, you established their wants and created a need. By successfully performing Step Five, you were able to continue with your presentation. (If you hadn’t accomplished getting positive responses during Step Five, you wouldn’t have been able to get this far.)

The open-ended question in Step Eight is designed to elicit the positive response you need to get to continue on to the next step, the Trial Close. A positive response now will lessen the chances of receiving an objection during your trial close.

If you should get a negative response in Step Eight, refer to the “reflect method” in Step Ten: Objection Handling. This method will teach you how to effectively overcome a negative response. Whenever you receive a negative response in Step Eight – such as, “No, it’s not important” – this is an indicator that you did not create a need during the probing step. Instead, you chose to continue with your presentation with a prospect that really wasn’t interested.

However, if you felt you did create a need, then perhaps you made no impact during the selling step. You may need to work on your voice inflection, strategic pausing, your variable speeds, and your selection of emotionally charged words.

Otherwise, assuming you have gained a positive response during Step Eight, you’re now ready to proceed to the next step, the Trial Close, which I will cover in the next issue.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article  or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Seven: Selling

By Kathy Sisk

There are four necessary elements in an effective selling presentation, which we will cover in Step Seven. Learning and customizing these steps to meet your prospect’s specific needs will greatly enhance your success with the other eleven steps. These four elements are features, functions, implied benefits, and stated benefits.

Features: Introducing features is the first approach in promoting a product or a service. Features tell your prospect which specific product or service you are promoting. This will assist you in customizing your presentation to meet the individual needs of your prospect.

Examples of “feature” words include: consultation, ABC company, XYZ services, competitive analysis, telemarketing training, evaluation, and 123 computer.

Functions: Step Five helped you to identify your prospect’s needs. Describing the functions will help you to highlight your prospect’s needs prior to describing the benefits. The functions are what the product does, how it works, and the different needs it will address. You will want to identify which functions are the most important to your prospect by evaluating the responses you got from your open-ended questions in Step Five.

Examples of function phrases include: provide information, twenty years in the business, provide a second opinion, offer objection-handling training, ideas are provided that, define financial needs, analyze existing programs, 480 megabytes of memory, and twenty-four-hour service.

Implied Benefits: Prospects do not purchase a product based on its features or functions. Their decisions are based on the benefits they will receive from the features and functions. The implied benefits tell your prospects what “good” they will derive by using the product or the service. There is a tendency to pass over this all-important element, but it should not be ignored. If the implied benefits are not included with the other elements of your presentation, you may end up losing the prospect altogether. Mentioning the implied benefits will help push your prospect’s hot buttons, because this appeals to the emotional aspect of the sales process.

The implied benefits justify the cost in the customer’s mind. Words and phrases associated with implied benefits include: confidence, success, satisfaction, self-improvement, increased knowledge, peace of mind, improved performance, quality control, and customer-oriented.

Stated Benefits: The stated benefits are the bottom line. Most likely your prospect will be thinking about the bottom line throughout your presentation. The stated benefits relate to the money or time made or saved by using the product or service. However, all too often this step is overemphasized. Many salespeople believe that the money issue is the only thing the prospect cares about, and so this benefit is expressed by the salesperson throughout the presentation.

It’s essential to state the benefits when you’re trying to accomplish your primary objective, which may be to bring the prospect in, send a representative out, place the order today, or create a favorable enough impression so that your prospect will remember you and your company. However, remember that the implied benefits are what justify the cost – stated benefits tell the prospect how they will save their time and/or money by saying “yes.”

Words and phrases associated with stated benefits include: profitable, cost-effective, productive, timesaving, faster speed, reduces downtime, affordable, increased value, lowers overhead, and increased income.

Key Points of Features and Benefits: The prospect buys benefits, not features. It’s important that you identify and continue to evaluate the differences between the two. There is a tendency to become absorbed in stressing the features of a product over the benefits a prospect will receive. This can be detrimental when you try to get a reaction (Step Eight) and conduct the trial close (Step Nine). Time spent talking about size, weight, shape, durability, and performance all serve to detract from the overall objective of the call, which is to sell. It is critical to translate the features of your product or service into the benefits your prospect will receive.

Translating Features into Benefits: The four functions must be used in order to make Step Seven effective. The following is a model to follow. Simply fill in the blanks with information related to your products or services.

“Mr./Ms. Prospect, from what you have told me I recommend (features). I recommend this because (functions). What this will do for you is (implied benefits) and, more important, (pause) you can (stated benefits).”

In actual use, it might sound more like this:

“I recommend (pause) a consultation. I recommend this because it will provide you with information about other services you’re entitled to. What this will do for you is (pause) update your information and provide you with more options to choose from. This information will increase your knowledge and awareness, giving you more confidence when you’re ready to upgrade. Most importantly (pause) you will save time in researching the information on your own, and you may be able to reduce your cost.”

As you describe the features, the prospect may be thinking, “Why should I buy this product?” By directing your prospects’ attention to the benefits, they are able to answer this question themselves. As a rule, people don’t want to be sold, but they will eagerly help sell themselves.

Don’t Forget: Always describe the features, functions, implied benefits, and stated benefits in this order. By doing so you stress your selling points in an order your prospect will be able to recall. Don’t mix them up; this will only confuse your prospect. Also, limit yourself to no more than two features during this step. Otherwise, you run the risk of overselling your prospect.

It is important that all four of these elements – features, functions, implied benefits, and stated benefits – be implemented in the selling step. Skipping one of them makes the presentation incomplete and increases the risk of an unsuccessful close. However, remember that one of these four functions is often neglected during most presentations: implied benefits. Implied benefits appeal to the emotional side of the sale. They are the sizzle in your presentation.

Without including implied benefits, you are only addressing issues related to money or time – that is, stated benefits. Why do you think consumers patronize higher-priced stores when the same products can be obtained elsewhere for less? Because of the implied benefits. They outweigh cost almost every time.

In the next issue I will share some specific selling tips and techniques to help successfully complete this step.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine June 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Six: Restating

By Kathy Sisk

In the last two issues, we learned how to qualify our prospect in Step Five: Probing. For what happens next, there are several options to consider, depending on the type of marketing you are doing:

  • If you are generating leads only, you can end after Step Five by thanking them for their time and telling them to have a great day.
  • If you are generating an appointment, you will not need to follow the entire twelve steps, but you will need to proceed to get the prospect to say “yes.”
  • However, most of you who are reading this will want to use the remaining steps to generate sales. Therefore, the examples given here will be to focus on how to sell.

The next step is Step Six, the restating step. Step Six is the bridge that leads to the selling step.

How It Fits In: During Step Five: Probing, your prospect is actively answering your questions. Once you have completed the probing step, most prospects don’t remember exactly what they have said. Therefore, in the restating step you summarize the prospect’s responses and emphasize the important ideas he or she gave you, reflecting them back to the prospect in a more dynamic way. This way prospects can see their own expressed wants and needs from a fresh, objective perspective. This puts your prospects on the outside looking in at their needs. Later in your presentation – during the trial close – should they respond negatively, you can redirect them back to the restating step and help them to hold themselves more accountable.

Restating the information your prospect shared with you reinforces the prospect’s own sense of what is important. Prospects will generally agree with the points you found most valuable to them. From this information, you will be able to begin determining what direction you should take during the next step (Step Seven: Features and Benefits).

Two Functions: There are two functions in Step Six. The first is to summarize what the prospect just said, but in a more positive way. The second function is to get a confirmation from your prospect. This will give you a “yes” response, which you may need later during the objection-handling process – this is when accountability comes into play.

Here are some examples of restating:

“Thank you for sharing this information with me. Based on what you’ve said, Ms. Smith, your company sees the value of XYZ product. Unfortunately, you have not been given the opportunity to conduct a competitive analysis to determine (pause) the cost-effectiveness of your current supplier. That comparison would give your company a competitive edge in the marketplace. Is that correct?”

“Thank you for sharing this information with me. I want to be sure I understand everything correctly. You’re currently working with XYZ company, and you were motivated to select that company because of its competitive rates. However, you expressed a concern that you haven’t heard from your representative for some time, and the firm’s rates are not as good as when you initially acquired their service. Customer service and quality are important to you, yet you have not made a recent comparison to determine (pause) how you can get the service you’re entitled to while still meeting your needs cost-effectively. Is that correct?”

When you begin by saying, “Thank you for sharing this information with me,” you let the prospect know that you are finished asking questions. This eases the prospect’s mind. The rest of the restatement qualifies and summarizes the information your prospect has given you during the probing step.

By restating the information, you encourage your prospect to agree with what you’ve just said. This is called indirect selling. Be careful not to over-exaggerate your restatement. It must be closely correlated to what your prospect said, but your rendition should give a more positive emphasis of the prospect’s views.

Make it a priority to become good at restating. It is a crucial part of prospecting, it allows you to remain in control, and it will prove extremely effective in handling objections. Once you have completed the restating step, you can then move into the selling step.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine May 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Five: How to Generate Quality Leads, Part Two

By Kathy Sisk

The fifth of the twelve steps to successful telemarketing is generating quality leads. During Step Five, you will need to decide where you want to go with your prospect. You do this by asking probing questions, which are designed to accomplish three functions: qualifying your prospects, establishing their wants, and creating a need for your product or service. These functions were covered in the last issue and must be addressed in order. Here is some important additional information about successfully implementing this step.

Keys to Probing: The following keys can help you during your probing stage:

  • Ask open-ended questions that qualify your prospect. Establish wants and create needs.
  • Listen to and mentally paraphrase all points. Write them down. Be sure to use the listening techniques discussed in “Setting the Stage” in the March, April, and May 2011 issues.
  • Assure prospects that you want to help them select the right product or service by the type of questions you ask.
  • Identify dominant wants or needs. Later on, you will get the prospect’s agreement (Step Six).

Additional Ideas: Some important ideas to keep in mind for effective probing are:

  • People buy what can satisfy their own needs, not what you want for them.
  • Selling is determining and satisfying needs, fulfilling wants, and offering solutions.
  • Focus on the prospect’s needs, not your own.
  • Probe with open-ended questions that contain the words who, what, where, why, when, how, explain, describe, or share.
  • During the probing step, let your prospect talk approximately 80 percent of the time. Spend 20 percent of the time asking open-ended questions. Remember, the prospect’s problems and needs are the keys to your success.
  • Do not act or react as a salesperson by responding to your prospect’s answers. This is crucial. Respond only with another probing question. Use this time to get to know your prospect by actively listening. Later on, prospects will get to know you (Step 7).
  • There is no need to persuade your prospects to buy your product or services. By using probing, open-ended questions, they will talk themselves into it!
  • Never begin selling, telling, or demonstrating your product or service until your prospects have adequately established their needs.

Do Not Pass Go: One very crucial guideline is that you cannot continue past Step Five unless you create a need for what you have to offer. Continuing without doing so will encourage unnecessary objections and reduce the likelihood of later closing the sale. Remember, prospecting is planting seeds for a future harvest. Once you’ve planted a seed, keep in touch by watering it and feeding it, and eventually you’ll reap the fruits of your labor.

Formulating Questions: Remember to start your questions with who, what, where, why, when, how, explain, describe, or share. Also, make sure your questions are nonthreatening. Base each question on the prospect’s responses.

Being able to think quickly on your feet is a tremendous advantage when prospecting. Asking the right questions at the right time is a skill. Like most skills, the ability to probe effectively must be learned. Once you are aware of the differences between open-ended and closed-ended questions, you will have taken a significant step.

However, knowing the difference and implementing it are not the same. You must make a point of practicing open-ended questions; this will be helpful in evaluating others, listening to the types of questions they use, and analyzing their techniques. Try to turn your prospects’ closed-ended questions into open-ended ones. You will benefit from developing this skill.

The Two-Call Close: You’ve asked open-ended questions and have received information that qualifies your prospects and establishes their wants. You’ve created a need for your products and services. Now, what do you do with that information? You restate it and conduct a “two-call close.”

Remember, when you slow the process down, this impresses your prospects; they are taken back that you aren’t “pouncing” on them or “going for the throat,” as many agents and salespeople do. Your close at this point is similar to the easy close discussed during Step Three. For example, you might say, “Thank you for sharing this with me. I would like to send you more information about our company and the products and services we offer. Would that be all right with you?”

Once your prospect agrees to receive your information, you can qualify their interest level by saying, “Once you have had the opportunity to review the information, I would like to gain your feedback. Does that sound fair enough?” When your prospect agrees to receive a follow-up call from you, you now have a “healthy” callback. You have increased your opportunities in closing for a sale or securing an appointment on your next call.

(Should you encounter that 10 percent of prospects who are in the market today, don’t use a two-call close. Conducting a two-call close is a judgment call on an agent’s part, and the decision is usually based on how the prospect responds during the probing step.)

The Post Close: If you are going to conduct a follow-up call, you need to first do a post close now in order to further stabilize your prospect’s agreement to receive your information and establish his or her willingness to allow you to conduct the follow-up call. Your post close would sound something like this:

“To ensure that your information gets to you in a timely manner, I need to verify my information. Your mailing address is 312 Merry Lane—is that correct? What is your fax number? Should I send this information to only your attention? Thank you for the additional information. You should receive this information by Tuesday; I can follow up with you on Thursday. Would you prefer that I contact you during the morning or afternoon? Is 9:00 a.m. good, or would 10:00 a.m. be better? Okay, great! I have you on my calendar for Thursday at 10:00 a.m. In the meantime, are there any other questions you might have at this time? Again, thank you for taking my call, and I look forward to gaining your feedback on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. You have a pleasant day!”

Conclusion: This establishes the basis for a healthy callback. The prospect is fully aware of your intent, but you have presented yourself in bite-size pieces. You might worry that some of your prospects will talk themselves out of the follow-up call because of “post purchase remorse” (as in “What did I just do?”). However, because you have prequalified them, successfully established their wants, and created a need for what you have to offer, it’s unlikely you will lose them. Actually, you have increased your opportunities to have greater control during your follow-up call. And, should you encounter resistance, you will have an easier time overcoming it.

Take time to learn, practice, and implement the first five steps. Remember that if you have been doing things a different way, it will take time to unlearn it first. Be patient; it will be worth it. Monitor your results before, during, and after. In this way, you will see a marked improvement in production and attitude and less turnover and burnout in your telemarketing department!

Next time we will cover how to continue your presentation with Step Six.

Kathy Sisk is president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine April 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Five: How to Generate Quality Leads

By Kathy Sisk

The first four of the twelve steps allow you to reach the point where you can begin to uncover your prospect’s wants and needs. Step Five is the open-ended question-and-answer – or probing – time. In this phase, your prospects can communicate their personal wants and needs to you. Aside from eliciting needs, you will also be able to create wants and needs for your prospects, while qualifying them in the process. Later on, you will learn how to adapt this step to take control of your prospect and narrow down any objections that may arise.

Through probing, you will obtain information that will enable you to better determine the specific needs of your prospect. This will allow you to promote your ideas and information in a manner that will appear to be tailor-made.

Ask Open-Ended Questions: In the probing step, you must ask open-ended questions and be ready to offer solutions or answers quickly, but without taking up too much of the prospect’s time. You cannot communicate effectively if you do not create opportunities for your prospect to speak freely. Do not ask closed-ended questions that limit responses and sound like an interrogation. The prospect can become irritated quickly. A closed-ended question might be, “Do you provide your people with training?” An open-ended question might be, “What type of training do you provide?”

An answer to an open-ended question is more than a simple yes or no. You can gather insightful information from your prospect’s response that allows you to highlight individual concerns and needs in your notes. You can later sell your prospects’ own ideas back to them when you begin to promote your products or services.

Keep in mind that not all open-ended questions are productive, and some might even sound threatening. A threatening question would be, “Why are you not interested?” A more positive way of drawing information from your prospect is to ask, “What are some of your concerns?” The art of asking questions doesn’t come easily, but once you are aware of this, you will be more careful in your phrasing.

An open-ended question contains one of the following words: who, what, where, why, when, how, explain, describe, or share. Open-ended questions allow your prospects to do most of the talking, which gratifies their egos (who doesn’t like talking about themselves?), satisfies an important need to express their wants, and helps to break through the fear that tends to develop during the course of prospecting.

Probing with open-ended questions helps you to learn about your prospect, which will later allow you to customize your descriptions of features, functions, and benefits (Step Seven) to the prospect’s needs.

Limit Questions: How many questions are too many to ask? Your initial call objective – whether you are conducting market research, sending information, or making a one-call close (setting an appointment or making a sale in one call) – will determine how many questions you should ask.

A good rule-of-thumb is to ask three to five questions, designed to lead you into sharing features and benefits. Asking prospects more than five questions increases the risk of irritating them and creating further barriers, especially if you are trying to close on your first contact.

If, however, you are conducting market research or calling with the intent of sending information, you can ask up to ten questions, provided that your Purpose (Step Four) indicates this intent. Use your listening skills to better determine your prospect’s patience level.

Qualifying Questions: By asking probing questions, you accomplish three functions: qualifying your prospects, establishing their wants, and creating a need for your product or service. The first one or two questions you ask should be qualifying questions, such as, “What are your company’s primary methods of marketing your products and services?”

In the qualifying process, the prospect’s status is identified, and a determination is made about whether the prospect is a candidate for your products and services. Based on the prospect’s response, you can determine what your next question will be. This strategically allows you to individualize each presentation.

Establish Their Wants: The next set of probing questions is designed to establish their wants. This is essential to determine the level of motivation of your prospect. This will give you the ammunition you require to fulfill the needs of your prospects in Step Seven, Selling. Here are some examples:

  • “How effective is your outbound department, and what would you like to see improved?”
  • “What motivated you to select that particular product?”
  • “Now that they have been servicing you for some time, how do you feel about their products, their service, and their rates today, compared with when you started?”

When you have firmly established your prospect’s wants, you need to strategically plan your final probing question. This is where you create a need that moves your presentation into Step 6 and allows you to continue with the balance of your presentation.

Creating a Need: When creating a need, you’re offering prospects something they haven’t yet considered. You can create a need simply by asking the right qualifying questions and asking an establishing-their-wants question. It’s more effective, however, to ask a creating-a-need question that cannot be answered by your prospect. This serves to arouse interest and allow your prospects to look at their situations in a different light.

A different perspective, perhaps something the prospects might have missed, might be the incentive they need to redirect their thinking to you and your company. For example, you might ask, “What steps have you taken to evaluate your current supplier to determine [pause] that you’re getting the quality you are entitled to and at the most competitive rate?” Choose only one creating-a-need question, and it must be your final question.

Be sure to ask the questions in order: first, qualify; then, establish wants; and last, create a need. You will not be able to create the need without establishing their wants, and you cannot establish their wants unless you’ve qualified your prospects. Creating-a-need questions are a bit lengthy. However, with proper pacing, voice inflection, and strategic pauses, they have a powerful effect. The power of this question is one reason that you want to save it for last.

If you’re unable to create a need, it will be difficult to continue with the rest of the steps. However, if this occurs, you have other possible options, such as sending information and then following up to try again to create a need. You may also determine that a particular prospect is not a viable candidate for your product or service.

Go Deeper: It is possible that your prospect may respond to your create-a-need question in a negative manner, such as, “I just evaluated our training department this week,” or “We just finished conducting an analysis of our production methods.”

How do you approach this response? This is an opportunity to try to create a deeper need for your product or service. You can do this by continuing to ask probing questions. To create a deeper need you first need to qualify the prospect’s answer and then ask another creating-a-need question for which the prospect may not have a viable answer. For example:

Agent: “What were the results of your evaluation?”

Prospect: “We determined that our department was functioning just fine.”

Now ask a create-a-need question for which the prospect may not have an answer.

Agent: “What steps have you taken to secure (pause) a second opinion from a company that would offer you additional information from a fresh perspective, to ensure (pause) that you are maximizing your efforts in the most profitable way possible?”

Your prospect is now most likely to respond with, “I haven’t.” This approach serves to reinforce the need for your service, allowing you to continue with your presentation.

One very crucial guideline is that you cannot continue past Step Five unless you create a need for what you have to offer. Continuing with your presentation when you haven’t created a need will encourage unnecessary objections and reduce the likelihood of an opportunity to close the sale.

We will cover more about probing next time, before moving on to Step Six.

Kathy Sisk is president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine March 2012]