The Most Vital Link in Your Marketing Chain

July 1, 2010

By Adams Hudson

Is your telephone a part of your marketing mix?  It’s the largest single source of incoming leads for your company, and it’s the largest single means of personal customer contact.  Therefore, the wise contractor understands that using the phone effectively  pays handsomely.

One trouble spot with the telephone, however, is its association with the dreaded word  “telemarketing”.  So put telemarketing out of your mind and instead shift your thinking to “Customer Service.”  And the first step in service is planning the call…

Preparation is the single most important factor in the success of the call, regardless of its ultimate purpose. Most people place a call (or answer a call) and then try to ad-lib their way to maximum results.

When planning a call, or series of calls, remember that you should be “helping the customer to buy,” not just selling. Customers will buy the benefits they receive from your product or service, not the features that provide those benefits. Plan to identify which benefits appeal to the customer’s buying motives, and how you will present them.

Outbound Calls
With outbound, you’re making the call – often to remind or set up an appointment.  These calls are extremely targeted.  You’ll be calling high-level prospects in a defined area with a high probability of closing the sale. 

Follow the “5 Outbound Call Commandments” and watch your sales go through the roof:

1. Introduce Yourself – Your introduction will satisfy the first thing that will occupy their mind when they pick up the phone, “Who are you?”

2. State Purpose – Being able to skillfully present your company’s offer will make the difference between a successful telemarketing venture and one that does not perform well, or does not perform at all.

3. Ask Questions – You will guide your customer through a short series of open-ended questions to further qualify him, establish what the customer needs or wants , and to plant the seed that he needs what you are offering.

4. Present the Benefits – Create an interest for the customer by presenting a picture of what he’s going to get through benefit statements.

5. Schedule an Appointment – When setting up the appointment, use the Alternate of Choice Close as you schedule the appointment time. "How about 9:00 am Tuesday, or 7:30 am Friday?" OR "How soon would you like to have it installed?”

You can also use the phone to follow-up on a mailing.  In fact, response rates can jump by 2.8 times when mailings are followed by a telephone call.  Use the phone to follow-up on non-closed presentations, trade show leads, “happy calls” after service or install, and much more.

Inbound Calls 
I speak to many contracting companies in a week, and my phone calls are handled with everything from 5-star hotel quality service to salvage-yard rudeness. Please be warned that your $x per hour “person” may be costing you $150 an hour in sheer attitude, ineptitude or ruditude (I made that last one up, but I’m sure you know what I mean).

So, how are your incoming calls handled at your company?  The results can be surprising.  A research firm made 2,000 calls to businesses asking, “How much is your (product) or (service)?” just to see what type of reaction was elicited:

  • 79% never asked for the caller’s name. (A fast way to bankruptcy!)
  • 86% never asked for the phone number or address. (And how did you plan on re-contacting them? Do you care where your leads are coming from?)
  • 38% gave out some prices and hung up after the caller said “thank you.” (If you want to change your service from “price-driven” to “value-based”, you’d best inform your call handler how to do this!)
  • 44% gave the price and other information, but made no effort to arrange an appointment. (These call handlers apparently felt this was the customer’s responsibility!) 
  • 52% took more than 6 rings to answer the phone, and a full 28% put the caller on hold for more than two minutes. (Truly, truly disappointing.)

Just remember, if you want to use the phone wisely, then you must use it to talk with the individuals on the other end of the line – all of whom want their individual needs and concerns addressed.  Whether the call is inbound or outbound, each contact with your customers represents an opportunity to serve, which becomes your means to sell. 

In my experience working with contractors, I’ve found that a simple shift in telephone technique here or there has helped quite a few increase appointments by 80% and more.  So why not join their success?  After all, it’s your call!


Want more solutions to these and other customer service challenges?  Get the free report called “Can You Name the Most Important Link in Your Plumbing Sales Chain?” just by asking. Email to phcc@hudsonink.com to get your copy.

Adams Hudson is the president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. You can reach his company at 1-800-489-9099 or visitwww.hudsonink.com for more marketing solutions.

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