Why does something as lightweight as a phone feel like a ton of bricks when you pick it up to make an outbound call to a past, current or prospective client?
Why is it easier to default to texting or emailing clients to “check in….” rather than calling them directly via telephone?
Is the telephone becoming an outdated mode of communication, or are we allowing technology to mask our fear of cold calling and the potential for rejection?
I found this entertaining quote on ThinkExist.com, by an unknown source.:
“If E-mail had been around before the telephone was invented people would have said “hey, forget e-mail – with this new telephone invention I can actually talk to people.”
I love the telephone for business because….
It allows me to connect with someone on a deeper level than simply emailing someone. I can hear their voice and garner more information about them and their current state from their vocal tone and quality. By the sound of their voice, I can quickly tell if they’ve had a bad day or are feeling motivated.
I believe that telephone networking is the next best thing to meeting in person. I can share more of myself and my business in less time. And if I focus my attention on the phone call and resist the temptation to multi-task, I can make incredible business strides using the old fashioned telephone.
I prefer shorter phone calls to longer ones. I can get a lot done in 15-20 minutes on the telephone, whereas if I meet in person, I’m more likely to “shoot the breeze” and find myself spending more than an hour trying to accomplish something that I could have achieved on the telephone in short order. (Read my networking tip from last week – how to apply the 15-minute rule of productivity, featuring advice from productivity expert, Neen James)
Calling all clients
Most business owners and organizations that I serve have sufficient current capacity to handle more clients. Even so, it is a struggle to attract, engage, retain, and leverage them. We are so busy trying to figure out how to use social media and create internet marketing presence, we forgo the simple, effective marketing and sales tools, such as the telephone. Clients are the conduit to our business success and prosperity. Doesn’t it make sense to call them?
Who should you call?
I am not a fan of cold calling. I always prefer a “warm introduction,” made by people who know me, like me, trust me and are willing to extend their social capital on my behalf. If you’ve spent energy, time and effort networking, relationship building, and helping other people accomplish their goals, then you’ve created Karma that you can cash in on to build your business. You just need to pick up the telephone to make the magic happen.
Who could you be calling right now to help you grow your business?
- Clients – past, present and future clients who have problems that you can solve.
- Referral partners – people who know and trust your work and are willing to recommend you to their past and present clients.
- Networking colleagues- people who know you and like you and are willing to connect you to their contacts, which can lead to new business for you.
Jump start your business by dialing your past clients
We often overlook the value of our past clients. We make assumptions that if they are not calling us back, they probably don’t need us. So we move on to more exciting prospects and seek NEW clients. Acquisition is compelling and feels like the means to fast-track your business growth. So it may be, but we often overlook a much more obvious and lucrative source of business – that with past clients who have experienced our work and with whom we have a relationship.
- Dial them now….
If you have submitted a proposal or estimate in the past that they have not responded to, call them to see if the need is still there. Determine what the roadblock is and how you can help them clear it. Even if it has been years, call them and re-engage them via telephone. Your call may be received at just the perfect time for them. They may be sick and tired of their status quo and have reached their tipping point. Your telephone call might result in landing new business with an old client!
Reach out via telephone and reconnect. If you get their voice mail, leave a message that prompts them to call you back. Keep your voice mail message short, but create some curiosity – some reason to call you back. Remember to leave your contact information; don’t assume that they have it handy. It may have been a while since you were in touch.
Safeguard your business by dialing present clients
You may be in the middle of a project with a current client and so the tendency is to be efficient and focus only on the project at hand. Picking up the telephone and touching base with your clients can be extremely helpful in early detection of problems, issues or concerns. Also – the best time to ask for referrals and recommendations is DURING the engagement, not after the project is done.
Build your new business pipeline by dialing future clients
Don’t wait for people to find you. Identify new companies and people that you’d like to become your clients, and begin your outreach. No doubt, there are people that you have networked with who could be clients or conduits to new clients, but no business has transpired yet. Dial these people and move the relationship along.
What should you say?
I have never used a sales script, but I do believe in setting intention and having a guideline as to what I would want to cover on the phone call. I also plan for the likelihood that I may get their voice mail. I want to be ready to speak with confidence in leaving a succinct message, rather than leaving a rambling, off-the-cuff response. Learn to leave a compelling voice mail message. Get them to call you back!
Here are things to think about as you plan your telephone agenda to call past, present and future clients.
- Client. Ask how they/their organization is doing? Find out what has changed or is changing in their business. (Hint: do a little advanced research on their company/industry, before you ring them) Discover if there are any disruptions (positive or negative) in their industry or in their organization. Are there any new players/leaders/decision makers at the company? What kind of new initiatives are they personally working on now? Are there any specific challenges or projects or problems that you could help them with?
- You. Describe the kind of work that you have been focusing on lately. Share the kind of client problems that you have been resolving. Let them know your availability and if you are accepting new clients/projects.
- Us. Is there opportunity to work together? Based upon what they share with you, explore specific ways in which you could be of service to them or others at the company or in their network. Find out who at their company would make the best connection for you to get things going. Of course, be willing to open up your network and make referrals and connections to help them with problems that you are not well suited to solve. Be a resource to them, even if it doesn’t result in immediate new business for you.
- Action. Propose a logical next step. Offer to submit a proposal or estimate, or to meet in person, or to book a work engagement. Gain permission to stay in touch in the next few weeks/months. Thank them for their time on the telephone. Let them hang up first.
The all-important followup
After the phone call, follow up swiftly on any open items or promised actions. For example, email them a relevant article or link with content that pertains to the information you discussed during your phone call. Introduce them to other people who can help them resolve their specific business challenges. Send them a handwritten card with an encouraging note, and include your business card. Invite them to an event that they would be interested in. Here’s where email and texting and social media can serve you. Once the telephone re-connection is made, you can use other communication channels to follow up and to stay in touch.
Dialing for dollars can be fun and empowering. Active outreach will accelerate your business and distinguish you from other, more passive communicators.
Your Networking Goal for this Week
Using the “analog way,” that is with a pen and paper, draw two vertical lines to create three columns. Annotate the column headings as Past Clients, Present Clients, Future Clients.
Do NOT use the computer or other electronic device for this exercise. The reason for this suggestion is to prevent distractions and scope creep. You will, as I just did, spend way too much time formatting the page, inputting data, and doing anything else you can to postpone the all-important action of DIALING these people on the telephone.
Once you populate this rudimentary spreadsheet, add up the number of total clients on this list (past + present + future) . Divide by 5 (five days per workweek, Monday-Friday) and this becomes the number of phone calls you need to make each day, starting TODAY.
Do not get discouraged if you reach their voice mail. You are still creating action and value for your business by making phone calls, leaving voice mail messages and connecting. Keep on dialing…
People need to hear from you. Your clients (past, present and future) need to hear from you. The art and discipline of daily phone calling will help you grow your business. That’s right, you are dialing for dollars.