Inbound Marketing matters, to your top line revenue and your client list. Other than “selling” Girl Scout cookies to Mommy and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, there’s no better sales opportunity than a prospect who dials your number and asks about what you sell. Do not even think about flubbing this. But without simple yet skillfully designed response guidelines, you are in danger of dropping the ball.
Inbound Marketing begins when a prospective customer who either met you somewhere or was referred to you by someone finds the motivation to contact you and ask if you might answer a couple of questions about your products or services. Consider that outreach to be your Hollywood screen test and close-up. If you want to call yourself a business person, then you will learn to confidently and competently handle Inbound Marketing calls (or emails) and emerge with an appointment to meet the caller in person to discuss specifics.
Let’s start with some basic observations about your marketing plan, the carefully choreographed activities that you implement to inform potential customers about your products and services. Marketing can be divided into two types:
- Outbound Marketing, which encompasses traditional, time-tested marketing strategies and tactics such as advertising, networking, speaking engagements, teaching, writing a book, sponsoring a community or business event, nonprofit board service and other activities that broadcast your business brand and marketing message “outward” to the public.
- Inbound Marketing, which consists of activities designed to encourage potential customers to develop a level of interest and interaction with your company that “pulls,” i.e., persuades, them to do business with your company as a result of the trust and confidence developed through the ongoing engagement. Online activities play a dominant role in Inbound Marketing, including social media, newsletters and blogs. The Inbound Marketing audience is self-selected, as there is always the ability to opt-out of the communication and theoretically this cohort is more likely to do business.
The purpose of creating and executing an Outbound Marketing strategy is to generate Inbound Marketing inquiries by potential customers. If your business fails to encourage Inbound Marketing, your venture most likely will not achieve the financial success that you would like. Inbound Marketing is where the money is made.
An Inbound Marketing call can lead to billable hours or a sale that makes your month, or leave you kicking yourself because you mishandled an objection or forgot to ask an important question. Let’s see how you can design successful response guidelines. Grant Cardone, selling skills guru and author of If You’re Not First, You’re Last: Sales Strategies to Dominate Your Market (2010), breaks down his very useful Inbound Marketing call technique:
How you welcome the prospect who has chosen to reach out to you, rather than your competitor, is all-important. Ace the first impression by answering the telephone politely at all times, no matter how annoyed you are by other matters. When you realize that you’ve been gifted with a prospective customer’s call, i.e., an Inbound Marketing call, slide into character by smiling as you speak and adding a (realistic) dose of enthusiasm to your voice. Smiling as you talk and imagining that the prospect is in the room with you has been demonstrated to make selling over the phone more successful. Give your name, title and a cheerful, helpful attitude to your caller.
“Who am I speaking with, please?” Obtaining the name of the caller is an easy Step One of the trust-building that is the foundation of every sale. Grant Cardone recommends that you resist the temptation to ask for more information because if the caller is really interested, s/he will happily volunteer that information to enable the sale. What you DO want to learn early on is what prompted the call:
- What the caller would like to know about what you sell and how that information relates to what s/he would like to achieve or resolve?
- Which, if any, product or service has been used regarding the issue before and what was the outcome? Why does the caller want to investigate something else?
- Determine the timeline and any deadline “Do you need to make a decision today, or this week?”
As you discuss the features and benefits of the product or service that may provide the solution that your caller needs an objection may abruptly spring up and make your caller suddenly lose confidence. Objections can be skillfully handled through a method I learned many years ago, called “Feel, Felt, Found:”
“I understand why you might feel this issue (or perceived shortcoming) might prevent you from achieving results. There have been a few others who at first felt this situation could possibly become a problem. Over the years, my staff and I have found that when you (make this adjustment, or whatever), it’s possible to bring about the results that you want. Does that sound reasonable to you?”
To help you organize your thoughts during any part of your unexpected Inbound Marketing call, Grant Cardone suggests that you press the hold button to give yourself 30 seconds or so to plan a response. Making certain that you are able to successfully handle an objection seems to me like the right time to hit the hold button!
While you might get lucky and sell your Inbound Marketing caller on the first contact, chances are your prospect will require more information to develop adequate trust in you and your company and make him/her feel confident enough to close the deal. Suggest to your prospect that you would be happy to come to his/her office to discuss how your customized product or service solutions can benefit his/her organization and its business goals (alternatively, the caller can come to your office).
“Since you don’t need to make a decision immediately, it would seem to make sense for us to sit down together for an hour and discuss what you need, your short and long-term goals and how I can customize a solution for you that respects your budget and time line. What does your schedule look like? What is your company name and address and what is your call back number and email?”
Happy New Year and thanks for reading,
Photograph: Doris Day (left) and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk (1959) Directed by Michael Gordon for Universal Pictures