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Is Phone Sales Skill a Lost Art? By Jeff Hardesty

A Little Phone Sales Training Will Go a Long Way. Here’s a Real example…

We all know ‘sales’ is full of slippery slopes and if something can go wrong, it probably will. After all, the sales process consists of sales prospecting, sales presenting, closing the deal, sales paperwork, order provisioning and order fulfillment.

All of these elements have an opportunity for a breakdown of sorts that will always come back to us; the sales person. If we could just sell and not have to deal with all the other albatross’s life would be better; right?

Well, maybe. That is if you want to leave a bunch of money on the table at the end of the year. So, what do I mean?

Here’s an example that happened just today. And it happened to me. I picked out a permission-based e-mail marketing company to market my new SalesSpeakerPro.com web site. I thought I’d test the waters with a small e-mail blast to beta the overall results and determine how this SEO company will partner with me in line with my strategic company goals. Because as Popeye says, “I yam what I yam what I yam”.

If they fulfilled their service promises and I received a return on my marketing investment, I’d expand the campaign and spend more money with them. “Business 101”.

In my first career as a professional Pilot, I came to understand that it’s not just one human error in the flight mission that will cause the plane to crash, it’s a series of human errors and miss-judgments that lead up to the aircraft’s ‘Sudden Stop’. And 98% of airplane accidents are directly caused by human error, not mechanical failure.

As professional sales people, here’s what we know to be true. Any product or service implementation has a finite number of scenarios that can and will arise. A percentage of them are not good. Things like bad cutovers, faulty installations, mechanical bumps, network outages and software spikes to name a few. But understanding that, you might think service providers would have contingency plans in place to identify problems as they arise and communicating to the customer a pro-active internal process to remedy the situation. You would think.

In my case, my sales rep sent me a contract that stated I would have a web-based admin panel to view the results of my e-mail campaign; because if you don’t measure it… you can’t improve it. The standard result benchmark for e-mail campaigns is measured in e-mail ‘Open rates’ and ‘Click-through’ rates to the web page URL you wish the e-mail ‘Call to Action’ to take your prospect. And the results should be viewed over 24-48 hours to campaign completion.

For my industry and my type of target prospects I was told I could expect an e-mail open rate of 15-25% and a Click-through rate of 7-15%. Based on a test campaign of 35,000 targeted permission-based e-mails that should bring 367 sales and HR executives to my new sales speaker website at a minimum and at a maximum I should expect about 1312.

So here we go. Here’s the blow by blow sequence of events that led to the ‘Sudden stop’ of the airplane.

* Monday, 1 Day before the E-mail Marketing Blast
Me: (E-mail to rep; 2:57 PM)
Good to go for tomorrow (Tuesday).
Send me the password for tracking. Jeff

* Tuesday, 1st Day of the E-mail Marketing Blast
Me: (E-mail to rep;11:31 AM)
Send me the password for tracking; 2nd attempt.

Rep: (E-mail to me; 11:40 AM)
I’ll have it within 24 hours …thanks.

* Wednesday, Final Day of the E-mail Marketing Blast
Me: (E-mail to rep;1 2:31 PM)

Rep: (E-mail to me; 1:37 PM)

Here we are:
Login: jdhgroup
Password: 1414

Me: (Phone call to rep; 2:00 PM)

“This link to the Admin tracking panel does not seem to be working. Can you go over this with me?”

“It’s working fine from here.”

“Do you think you should consider why it’s not working for me from here?”

“I’m stepping into a meeting right now.”

“I see. What about tomorrow morning first thing, so I can see what’s going on with my investment?”

“That’s fine.”

* Thursday, 1 Day AFTER E-mail Marketing Blast
No call back from sales Rep… ADMIN tracking link still not working

* Friday 2 Days AFTER E-mail Marketing Blast
Me: (E-mail to rep; 9:05 AM)
Jim, give me your President’s name and direct phone line please. Jeff

Rep: (E-mail to me; 9:52 AM)
Are you going to call me so we can discuss the tracking?

Me: (E-mail to rep; 10:03 AM)
Please supply the number and name for now.

Rep: (E-mail to me; 10:12 AM)
Jeff, All correspondence is to be handled by me, so let me know your concerns and I will address them…thanks.

Me: (E-mail to rep; 10:03 AM)
Call me. 740 881 1691

Phone call from rep to me; 10:35 AM

“Jim, have you ever been to the outer islands in the Bahamas?”

“Yes, I have in fact.”

“What did you think of the service; good or bad?”

“It was kind of slow, I guess.”

“That’s what I thought also. In fact, I left with the impression that if they had it their way, they’d prefer that I just sent my money and not even shown up.


“The reason I mention it is that’s the way I’m feeling about my experience with your Company. Kind of like; ‘Just send us your money and don’t show up’. Do you feel that’s fair?”

“The server has been down and I’ve been dealing with all that. Besides, I assumed that you were going to call me.”

Do you want the word ‘Assumed’ on your career Tombstone?

Now, I can’t make this stuff up folks. And it happens out there all the time. My point is this young man was leaving ‘money on the Table’ and he did not even know it.

Here was my advice to him pertaining to the plane crash anecdote consisting of series of human errors and miss-judgments before the ‘Sudden Stop’ occurs. And in his case, the plane landing was no ‘Walk-a-way’!

Error 1: Promising something you may not be able to deliver for Conditional reasons and not having a contingency communication plan in place in line with all possible scenarios and remedies.

Error 2: Not following through on a contracted service component to the customer in time for the intended service, in this case, the ADMIN tracker. Simply put, not having all your Ducks in a Row.

Error 3: Not training the customer to a critical service component

Error 4: Not following up with the customer as requested

Error 5: When addressed, not ‘Hearing’ the customer’s concerns

Error 6: Not ‘Picking up the phone’ and pro-actively communicating to the customer there is a technical problem

Error 7 (The ‘Sudden STOP’): Not honoring a customer request for direct communication to a higher authority within your company

I gave this sales person my best advice for his career. It goes like this:

“When the stuff hits the fan, and we know it will, pick up the phone and talk with the customer. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think it will all go away. And have a ‘Crisis management’ game plan. It goes like this….”

Here’s a pro-active process for customer experience and future sales for you.

* Let them vent

* Show empathy: “I understand what you’re feeling. If it were me, I’d feel the same way.”

* Thank them for bringing this to your attention: “I’m sorry I missed this before you had to call me, but I’m glad you did, because I need to know.”

* Paraphrase their main points and concerns: “Let me take a minute and repeat back to you what I hear your concerns are.”

* Reassure the customer you will do everything possible to resolve their concern: “At the end of this conversation, you’ll go back to work and I’ll start my work for you.”

* Document the facts: “I’m picking up a pen to list all the pieces and parts of our situation. Please go ahead, one by one.”

* Communicate the steps you will take internally to remedy the situation, one by one.

* Set accountability and follow-up timelines by telephone and e-mail and make sure it’s done (Even if you pass it off to another division)

When situation is remedied, follow-up personally and ‘close the loop’ by telephone again. Recap all the issues and ask if everything has been completed to their satisfaction. Then ask them directly if they will consider doing business with you in the future. And if not, what you can personally do to change their mind.

By following a few steps of solid business process, you can re-route the ‘plane crash’ and gain a loyal long term customer that will add revenue to your company, provide future referrals and put more ‘jingle’ in your commission pocket.

So next time… have a ‘Safe landing’.
Jeff Hardesty is President of JDH Group, Inc. and the Developer of the X2 Sales System®, a blended training system that teaches sales professionals the competency of setting C-level business appointments. Jeff can be reached at jeff@convertmoresales.com.

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