Below is what I gave to the franchisees of the $20 million elderly mobility equipment company I work for, to help them combat this very problem. I say that not to brag, but to demonstrate that this is legitimate and proven methodology...not somebody's "maybe this'll work" idea. I was well paid to write this down, and this afternoon my corporate trainer and I are filming a vid about it for training purposes.
Don't worry about copying the exact wording--get the intention down, and play the music your own way.
**Fair Warning: technical details will probably not make sense, but you'll get the idea.**
When you receive an incoming call, what can you do to increase your chances of making a sale? Of course the first action is to answer the call. But once you’ve done that, what should you do next?
I’m sure you’ve had calls go like this: a retail prospect calls and you answer. They immediately say what they want and ask for the price. You respond by giving them the price. They thank you and hang up. You never hear from them again.
What happened here? The prospect viewed what you offer as a commodity—like a bag of oranges or a department store couch—and went off to find it at the lowest price.
To get a different result we need to behave differently. The result we want is for our prospect to view us as a problem-solver, not as a commodity provider. So when a call comes in, the steps we can follow to achieve this result are to:
• Interrupt the Pattern
• Get Contact Info
• Set Expectations
• Uncover Pain
• Check Budget
• Propose Solution.
Review this list and note a couple of things. First, we need to Interrupt what they are trying to do, and put our process in its place. Second, the discussion of any Solution goes last—not first.
The prospect is not the “doctor”; they are not the person with the knowledge or experience to determine the best-fit solution. We are. This is why we need to take control of the process and the call.
Step 1: Interrupt the Pattern
The typical incoming call involves a prospect phoning and briefly saying what they want, and that they want pricing for that product. The problem with this is that the prospect is not, unless they are an expert in adaptive technology, qualified to determine the right solution. What if the prospect says they want a stairlift, but a perch lift or IPL would actually be the best fit? If we let the prospect do what they want, we may never find this out.
When you answer your phone, ensure your greeting identifies your company and yourself. I have heard many recorded calls in which the person answers with their name only. “This is Bob.” The prospect does not know they have reached your business or the right person. (This is very, very common.) A complete greeting, such as:
“Thanks for calling The Company; this is Jason. How can I help you?” informs the prospect they have gotten ahold of who they want to talk to.
The prospect will likely start to talk and continue with the aim of having you divulge a price for a specific product. At the first opening, you will interrupt their pattern.
Just because a prospect asks a question does not mean we have to answer it. To ensure we offer them the right solution and the right price, we need to take control of the call and run our own process. We accomplish this by saying in a nurturing tone:
“Well, hold on a sec. I appreciate what you’ve shared so far. Let’s back up a moment.”
This interrupts their pattern and starts to put us in control of the call.
Step 2: Get Contact Info
Calls do drop and people do accidentally get disconnected. So the next step is to get the prospect’s contact information:
“Just in case we accidentally get disconnected, could I take down your name and phone number?”
This is an important yet often-ignored step. Odds are if you are accidentally disconnected and don’t have the prospect’s name and number, you’ll never be able to speak with them again.
Step 3: Set Expectations
The time has come to educate the prospect on how we do business. People like it when someone says there is a process to follow. It shows them confidence, consistency and experience. Also, when you explain what is going to happen before it does, you make your prospect feel more comfortable.
“Okay. I understand that you’ve had a look into (whatever product they’ve been talking about, eg. stairlifts). Now the way we work is first we talk about your specific situation. We help people with this equipment every day, and by learning about what’s going on in your world, we may find that there’s a different product that will better match your needs. So I’d be a lousy doctor if I didn’t find out what you were experiencing before talking about any kind of a solution, wouldn’t I?”
Pause for the prospect to confirm.
At this point the prospect may insist that they want a price for the product they called about and that’s it. You can be sure they have recently had a bad experience with a pushy salesperson. This kind of experience has a strong negative effect upon people, and makes them mistrust anyone in a sales capacity. Do not take it personally. Give the prospect a price range. For example:
“Well sir, without knowing the details of your situation, I can share that the investment for a stairlift can range anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 or more. “
If the prospect agrees that you both should talk about their specific situation now, continue with:
“Now, the process that we’ll go through is first, we’ll talk about what you’re going through. That way, I’ll be able to figure out how I can best help you. Second, we’ll talk about the investment for these solutions. Third, I’ll share my recommendation on what would best fit your needs. If it turns out that we can help you, we’ll figure out what the next step looks like then. Does that sound fair?”
If the prospect wants to add anything to the process, they can at this point. Then continue by uncovering pain.
Step 4: Uncover Pain
Pain is an urgent, emotionally-driven problem that we can help solve. It’s what is keeping your prospect up at night. If you can uncover pain, this is what will make you different in the prospect’s mind from any other vendor. While the rest are selling on features & benefits and price, you will be solving a real problem in their lives…and that has real value to your prospect.
Pain can be uncovered quickly, but you need to ask probing questions to do so. A prospect will not usually talk about pain, because they are afraid of getting ripped off. Everyone behaves this way. We don’t share how bad the problem really is, because we’re afraid the salesperson will jack up the price. So do not get upset with your prospect—we would do exactly the same thing in their shoes. Expect the prospect to begin by talking about things rationally. Only through questioning will we get to emotional reasons for buying. For example:
You: “Now, John, can you tell me a little about your diagnosis?”
Prospect: “Well, I was hurt in a car accident and am having trouble getting into and out of my house. Also, I want to get upstairs and downstairs more easily.”
You: “I understand. How long have you been having this trouble?”
Prospect: “It’s been about three months since the accident.”
You: “Okay. Now how big of a yard do you have outside of the door you most commonly use to go into and out of your home?”
Prospect: “Oh, it’s a pretty big yard. I’m not sure. “
You: “And inside, is your staircase a straight one, or is there a landing with a turn?”
Prospect: “The second one. With the turn.”
You: “And does it turn and go up in the other direction, like a 180 degree turn? Or is it a 90 degree turn?”
Prospect: “90. Does that make a big difference?”
You: “Well, it tells me what kind of product might be right. So what has been your biggest frustration with getting up and down the stairs so far?”
The conversation so far has only taken about one minute. We’ve found out that a ramp will likely fit in the prospect’s yard. You have just asked an open-ended question designed to bring out some pain.
We don’t know how the prospect will respond. They may tell you that they are extremely uncomfortable sitting, and from that you can determine that a perch lift is a better fit than a stair lift. Or, they may say that it would be a real help if their wheelchair could make it up and down the stairs with them—and now you know that an IPL is an option to discuss.
Continue to ask open-ended questions to uncover pain. These will usually include words like frustrated, concerned, upset, irritated, aggravated, afraid…negative emotional words. For instance:
“Just out of curiosity, is there anything to do with the installation of a stairlift that you’d be concerned about, in regards to your home?”
If your prospect responds that they’re afraid a huge mess will be made and they’ll be left to clean it up, you have pain on the table. You can let them know your installers are professionals and will make sure the area is left nicer than they found it—and be a step ahead of your competition, who will hardly ever take the time to ask this type of question.
Step 5: Diagnose
Once some pain is on the table, you will be able to figure out what product(s) are the best fit for this prospect. With the product(s) in mind, you can ask:
“We do have a solution for you. Before I go into that/those possibilities, can I ask you if you’ve talked with anyone else about your situation?”
This simple question will uncover whether you have or will have competition. You probably will. If the prospect shares that they have talked to anyone else, or will, you can ask if they’d be okay sharing who. With this knowledge, you can determine how you’ll stack up against them. With pain on your side, it’s not always about price and features; however, it can be useful to know this information.
It is not yet time to share your solution(s)—there is one more step to follow.
Step 6: Check Budget
Taking a moment to find out whether your prospect has the money to pay for your solution. There is no sense in wasting time with tire-kickers. You can use a range to begin discussions about money.
“John, before I share with you the details of a possible solution for you, I’d like to talk about budget. What kind of a budget have you set aside for this project?”
The prospect may share a figure with you. Compare it against the actual investment range and let them know, nurturingly, whether it is a fit or not.
If the prospect insists on a price (“I don’t know; you’re the expert—you tell me!”) then give them a range:
“Investment in the kind of products I’m going to discuss with you range in the $2,500 to $5,000 range. Now, I’m not sure if this is in the budget range you’ve been thinking about…”
The prospect may qualify themselves out by loudly exclaiming how much that is, and telling you they cannot afford it. At this point, it’s up to you whether you want to continue educating them for free, or politely say you’re sorry that’s beyond their budget and end the call.
If the prospect replies that this investment range fits in their budget, you can continue.
Step 7: Propose Solution
At this point, we:
• understand the prospect’s situation
• know their pain points
• are aware of our competition
• have determined what solution(s) best fit the prospect’s situation
• have learned that the prospect can afford our solution.
You can now explain how the solution(s) get rid of the prospect’s pain. Rather than competing on features, benefits or price, you stand out as different.
At the conclusion of this explanation, you can ask for the order:
“All right. I’ve answered all your questions and you’re happy with everything, right?” (Wait for the response and give further info if necessary.) “Okay. Now if you want to go ahead, we can come and take some measurements and get started on the process. Would you like us to do that?”
Transitioning from the Call to On-Site Evaluation
This process is one that allows you to do the full sale over the phone. However, at the end of Step 4: Uncover Pain, you may want to transition to an on-site evaluation. The way to do this is to say:
“I appreciate that. What would be best for us to do next is come by and take some measurements. We can continue to talk about your needs, and you can show us things in person that we can’t see over the phone. We can be there __(day)__ or __(day)__. Would you like to do that?”
At the appointment, you can continue through the steps. Remind the prospect of your phone conversation by beginning with:
“Now on our phone call last ____, you shared with me that you were ___(pain)____...”
and trail off. The prospect will continue talking about the pain and you can proceed through the remaining steps.