Okay, so you’ve gotten past the gatekeeper, and the key decision maker has picked up the phone. You introduce yourself, and now they want to know why you’re calling. Even if the gatekeeper already gave them some version of the reason for your call, it’s likely that the decision maker will still ask, and usually for one or both of two reasons. Sometimes the gatekeeper didn’t communicate the purpose of the call clearly. This happens more often than you might think. In other cases, they’re checking for hesitance or uncertainty in your voice, or they’re just feeling you out to see whether it’s worth their time to speak with you.
This is where a lot of otherwise good closers lose a lot of prospects. Even when they don’t make the mistake of hesitating, or they speak with confidence, all too often salespeople will be so eager to force their pitch on a prospect that they charge ahead without first doing the one simple thing that will often make the prospect more likely to listen to you and give you a chance to screen them so that you don’t waste your time pitching someone who’s not a good fit for your product or service.
At this point in the process, while you’ve won access to the decision-maker, you haven’t quite earned the right to speak with them just yet.
Going straight to your pitch is just going to make you sound like every other salesman. So how do you earn the right to their attention and immediately build a little bit of credibility, possibly enough to get them to be willing to listen long enough for you to make a strong impression? Ask them for permission, with seven words that will almost always open the way for a productive conversation.
“Is this a good time for you?”
Yes, it’s that simple. If they answer with a ‘yes,’ I’ll usually let them know very briefly the gist of my services, and that all I’d like to do for now is set up a time when we can have a brief conversation about how we might be able to work together, and even if we do not, I’d still like to get a chance to see if they”d be a good fit for my some of my other clients who need their products or services. At this point, I’ve usually got their attention, because I’ve gone from being just a salesman to being a potentially valuable resource who’s genuinely interested in the prospect’s success. It also gives me a chance to get them to open up a little about their own business, and I can begin gauging whether or not I want to work with them.
If it’s not a good time, at this point they’re usually willing to set aside a block of time to speak in further detail. If they’re genuinely not interested, I don’t waste my time chasing down prospects who don’t want or think they need my services. It’s far more productive just to move on. If they like what you’ve said so far, they’ll definitely find time to speak with you, and they may even stop the presses and want to hear everything you have to say right now.