The best salespeople have a plan. The customer always feels like there is momentum in the relationship, and knows where things stand at any given time. Some of the best salespersons that I've had the pleasure of working with always ensured that each piece of communication had a stated purpose for occurring.
A phone call might confirm an upcoming appointment or may provide follow-up information from an earlier face-to-face meeting. E-mail can also confirm a meeting or reinforce information, but may provide more specific details than a quick phone call. With an identified purpose, I know the salesperson is not going to waste my time.
Imagine two voicemail messages that the customer picks up one morning.
Message number one:
"Hey, Bob. John from Acme Tools here. Sorry I'm calling after hours but I've been on the road the past week and phone time has been hard to find. I wanted to catch up when you have a minute, so...give me a call tomorrow when you get a minute, OK? I'm at 212-555-0909. See you!"
Message number two:
"Hi Bob. This is Tom Johnson from Baxter Tools. When we spoke last week I promised to check on the price of some components on the R-17 for you, and I just got that information late today. Call me anytime tomorrow and I can go over the details with you. I'll e-mail you the information, too, before I head out this evening. You can reach my direct line at 211-555-7754. Thanks, Bob."
If I'm returning one of those calls, Tom has my attention. It's brief, tells me why he called and also provides an e-mail to confirm his message. John might get a call back, if time allows, but I really don't know why he called and I may easily decide to wait for him to call me back instead.
Let's not forget that some salespeople like a personal touch-it doesn't always have to be all business. If a customer is a baseball fanatic for his local team, throwing in a game comment in a voicemail or e-mail won't derail your purpose in calling--as long as that purpose is still clear and the message brief. If Tom added this to the above message, has he fouled out or still likely to get to first base? (No second base jokes; I don't know Tom that well yet.)
"Hi Bob. This is Tom Johnson from Baxter Tools. Did you catch the Phillies last night? That was a great game-wasn't sure they could pull it out in the ninth, but they did it! Anyway, when we spoke last week I promised to check on the price of some components on the R-17 for you..."
If Tom knows his customer likes baseball, the comment seems reasonable--quick, and it relates to the customer but doesn't bog down the message with an instant replay of the game. (Writing from the home of the Kansas City Royals, I rarely have salespeople dwell much on recent games so please note these are purely hypothetical examples based on ancient memories of a team with a winning record.)
What buyers want is a reason for your communication. Whether it is a face-to-face meeting, a phone call or e-mail, have a point and get to it. Your customer will be much more receptive to your next call when he knows you respect his time and can keep to the designated point.
About the Author:
Mark Bishop is the President of What Buyers Want and author of The Trusted Seller. Mark Bishop has a training philosophy that teaches salespeople the behaviors buyers are looking for in salespeople; focusing on the relationship development strategies and on longer sales cycles involved when selling to business professionals. This philosophy was developed while serving as the SVP of Purchasing for a National Buying Cooperative.