Don’t Be Afraid to Call

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The response to the COVID-19 virus has turned everything as we know it, upsidedown. Communities are on “stay-at-home” orders. Some businesses have closed their doors—a record number of people filed for unemployment. If you still have a job, you’re dealing with how to be productive from home. And to top it all off, your boss wants you to get on the phone and call your customers!

I’m getting lots of emails and phone calls asking me if I have any scripts to use or advice for what to say. My initial response is to send you back to the basics and tell you to freshen up your Customer Needs Interview skills. You need excellent interviewing skills now more than ever before because Telling Isn’t Selling!

Despite how cloudy your future may seem to you right now, there is always opportunity in adversity, but only if you are clear-headed enough to look for it. Here is the opportunity in calling your customers now, during a pandemic, they are very likely to tell you things they wouldn’t ordinarily tell you in more relaxed times.

Let’s script a call.

“Hi there, My name is Spike, and I work here at the local Radio station WXYZ. How are you?” (You should always introduce yourself as being from the local Radio station.)

Wait for a response. Let the person express how they are feeling about everything. Remember, you are calling to find out how they are doing, so let them talk, AND YOU LISTEN. You must listen because Telling Is Not Selling!

The person on the other line is likely to express some form of frustration, anxiety, and even fear. Let them talk. It will make them feel better. Psychological science tells us that people feel better when they can express themselves. It feeds our self-esteem to have someone listen to us. After the person has expressed themselves, they may even ask you how you are doing. You should acknowledge with something like, “Yes, I understand. We’re dealing with that too.”

WARNING! You may feel the need to express yourself and tell your story but STOP. That is not the purpose of your call. You are calling to find out how they are doing. Instead, ask the person another question about what they just said.

Possible questions:

  • “How is that working out so far?”
  • “What are you going to do about that?”
  • “Do you have any ideas?”
  • “Have you heard what other flower shops (fill in any business type) are doing?”

Then just listen to where the conversation goes. Your main goal is just to listen to the person’s story. Pay attention to what the person says. Try to learn what the person is doing. You might be able to use that story when talking to someone else with a similar issue. “I was talking to Joe down at ABC Shoe Repair, and here is what he’s doing….”

After your finish talking about THEIR business, you can transition into your message:

“This is not a sales call. I’m calling local companies to let them know what the Radio station is doing for the listeners.” Don’t talk in terms of what your Radio station is doing for local businesses. That is going to make your call sound like a bait and switch sales pitch.

Ask your Radio station’s Program Director what she is doing on the air to help the listeners. Make a list of the programming elements she has put on the Radio station. Use this list of station activities when you are talking to your customers on the phone. You won’t sound like you’re selling anything. You’re just calling to let them know what the Radio station is doing to help the listeners.

It may be too subtle to see how psychology is working in this call. But let me try to explain. Instead of saying, “I can put your menu on our website so people can order takeout.” You could say, “We are letting our listeners know which restaurants are open for carryout on our website.” Describing how your Radio station is helping the listeners may prompt the business owner to ask how much it would cost to put her menu on your station’s website. They brought up spending money, not you! That is a buying signal!

Don’t worry if a selling opportunity doesn’t come up. You will most certainly learn more about the customer by getting them to talk about their feelings and what they are doing to survive the impact of the COVID-19 virus. Take lots of notes because you can use it later when a direct selling call is more appropriate.

Before you wrap up, bring your CRM records up-to-date, “While I have you on the phone, could I get your email address?” Don’t forget to look them up on LinkedIn and make a connection.

Then when the call is over, just say, “That’s what’s going on here at the Radio station. I hope you tune in and listen. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”

Don’t get discouraged if the first person you call blows you out of the water for calling. That person is really stressed out. Just pick up the phone and call the next person. I’ve been making calls to business owners all around the country, and believe me, they want someone to talk to. They would prefer it to be a customer, but maybe that will lead you to a conversation about buying some advertising.

Let me know if I can help.

Spike SanteeDon’t Be Afraid to Call

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