Most of the sales staff I have worked with could use the telephone more effectively. I guarantee you there are hundreds of prospects in your territory who may never have heard from you and could quite easily have a need for your product or service. Alternatively they may have heard from you or your company a long time ago and it’s time for a follow-up call. Here are a few simple tips:

1. Have the purpose of your call perfectly clear in your mind
In B2B selling most of the time the call is used to qualify if there would be some value in you either meeting with the prospect or alternatively sending something through to them. Do some homework prior to the call. Has anyone else in the company spoken to this prospect before? Check your CRM. Maybe a quick website visit or a look at the Fin Review. Don’t procrastinate though.

2. Know what you will say when the gatekeeper or prospect answers
Your first 10 words are normally more important than the next 100. Try and listen closely to the gatekeeper’s name and use it during the call.

3. Listen closely to the way the customer speaks
Notice their pace, their choice of words, their tonality. Get into rhythm with them as quickly as you can. We tend to like people who are like us.

4. Acknowledge the fact that they are not sitting there waiting for your call Chances are they have other priorities. I like to start with the following: “Hi Mark, I’m sure you’re fairly busy, so I’ll be brief…” If they are not there, don’t leave a message. Listen closely to their voicemail.

5. Be prepared to set a time to make a follow-up call
Ask the prospect if it would be easier if you called them back at a more suitable time. You might confirm the call-back time via email.

6. Always check you are speaking to the right person
This can be a challenge. A big trap for new players is spending far too much time speaking to the wrong people. The best way to find out if you are speaking to the right person is to ask them. For example, “Are you the person responsible for client entertainment?” They may lie to you, but it is important that you ask. If they are not the right person, ask them whom they would suggest you should speak to.

7. Start by clarifying the reason for your call.
For example, “The reason for my call today is to find out if you are interested in some creative ways of strengthening your key customer relationships?”

8. Get permission to ask a few brief questions
For example, “Is it OK if I ask you a few quick questions? How would you go about making a decision like this? Would there be a number of people involved? Do you have an existing relationship with another company? Would you consider other options? How often do you need to…?”

9. Listen to everything they say
This maybe the most important point. Try and take a few notes when they are talking. Give them back a mini summary of what they told you – “So, what you’re saying is you do attend some events from time to time, but it’s rather just on the spur of the moment.”

10. Always try and end the call with an agreed action
Either a qualified meeting, agreement to send them something they would value or confirmation on a suitable time to call them back. I recommend a short email following the call confirming the agreements made.

11. In general keep the calls relatively brief
You are qualifying. Don’t waste their time. Use their website to gather more data if need be after the call. I prefer shorter, sharper initial calls for most prospects.

12. Make lots of calls
You’ve probably heard it many times before – it’s a numbers game. Get on a roll. Block the time out in your diary to make the calls and go hard. Stand up, smile and enjoy it. Track all the outcomes, update your data and make your call-backs.

I cannot understand why more salespeople don’t have their customers’ telephone numbers in their mobiles or blackberries. Don’t miss an opportunity to call a customer because the customer’s number wasn’t in your phone. Keep updating your phone with your contacts. You won’t regret it. Try and make more calls than anyone else in the company. Have the highest mobile bill for three months in a row, based on customer calls, and I’m confident you will be selling more than the other reps (all things being equal). Now, go on, hit the phones. Those prospects aren’t about to call you now, are they?