Today’s salespeople are afraid to pick up the phone. Yes, phone anxiety is real.
ValueSelling recently conducted a survey on B2B sales teams’ top prospecting challenges and found that 50% of sales people surveyed feared making cold calls. Half of the respondents surveyed had anxiety about this essential part of their jobs.
Maybe it’s a generational issue … after all, how many millennials choose to make a phone call instead of texting or using social media? In reality, it all comes down to sales people not being sure how to initiate a discussion that will add value.
If their prospect answers, the person is afraid they won’t know what to say. If they get voicemail, they’re afraid they don’t know how to leave a concise and compelling message. As a result, they’d rather not put themselves in the position of getting stuck and sounding irrelevant to the prospect in those situations.
They’re afraid of looking inept or feeling uncomfortable.
To justify the lack of phone calls, they’ll rationalise not calling … “No one answers the phone anymore, so I’m not going to call.” But that’s a huge and expensive mistake!
5 Tips for Overcoming Phone Anxiety
Does this phone anxiety translate to missed opportunities when prospecting? Absolutely. Respondents in the ValueSelling survey said the phone was the second-best method for reaching new prospects, with 46% selecting phone calls as an effective prospecting method. (Gaining referrals was the most effective method.)
So, if you’re a sales person feeling some phone anxiety, start with these tips for overcoming it:
1. Start by picking up the phone.
The phone is still an incredibly powerful tool for communication. Believe it or not, some people still answer their phones … even in today’s age of caller ID. Once you get through to your prospect and talk in real-time, you’ll stand out and have the chance to build rapport, provided of course that you add value. Even if you leave a voicemail message, they’ll hear your voice and this provides a different level of connection than just an email or LinkedIn InMail.
2. Plan for multiple touches in multiple ways.
Of course, the phone is only one method of contacting prospects. Phone calls are powerful, and should be part of an orchestrated approach to gain access to your prospects. But you’ll need to leverage multiple means of communication over time to successfully reach your prospects. Online connections such as social selling, email, and webinars should be balanced with offline (in-person) methods, such as trade shows and networking events. It’s important to be present and show up at the places where your buyers might be.
3. Dedicate a calendar block each day, and be persistent.
The ValueSelling research showed that, overall, 54% of initial meetings require more than five touch points to set up — and that 10% require 11 or more touches. The one thing that we know for sure is consistency is key in prospecting. Calendar management and calendar blocking are key to success. So, block out times in your calendar for calls and and then stick to it, each day.
The study also revealed that most people underestimate the number of touches required to get through to a prospect. At the same time, sales reps over-report the number of times they actually reach out, by about 50%. In tandem, this diminished effort will deliver diminished results.
4. Make your interruptions valuable for prospects.
At the end of the day, we need to realise that when we are prospecting, we’re interrupting people. We hope it’s a value-added interruption, but it’s considered an interruption nonetheless. As a sales professional, your goal is to get the prospect to engage with you, and ultimately, to buy from you. You want to meet their needs and add value to their businesses and to them personally.
It all comes down to valuable content; not just information on your product or your company, but how you can help successfully solve your prospect’s business challenge.
5. Deliver content that’s relevant to your prospects.
We all get emails or phone calls from sales reps … I certainly do! Although they’re asking for my time, very rarely is the content of those messages relevant to me. It’s usually, “Let me tell you about my company. Let me tell you what I do. Let me tell you how cool our new program is.” But this doesn’t entice me, and it usually doesn’t convince me to get back in touch with them.
You need the business acumen to confidently have a business conversation with an executive. If that’s a skill gap for you, it is something you should work on getting the training to resolve.
You should continually ask yourself, “What is the value I can add to this prospect?” Once you get that thought process refined, it’s much easier to create those value-added messages and become a value-added interruption. That is, once you pick up the phone.
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