Why is the number twelve so significant? It's an interesting question. If you go back over history, Jesus had twelve Apostles, the Romans created twelve months in a year, Alcoholics Anonymous has twelve steps to sobriety, and there are twelve doughnuts in a box. There seems to be some real magic in the number twelve. You might even say there is a Rule of Twelve.
So much of my business happens over the telephone. Initially, an executive director of an association or a company president will reach out to me by e-mail, LinkedIn, Twitter, or text to set up a telephone conversation. These days that may mean a Skype conversation, but 90 percent of the time it means the old-school, Alexander Graham Bell invention, the telephone. (I wonder if Al ever imagined the catch phrase "Can you hear me now?") The nature of my business in sales for the last 25 years has forced me to learn how to "Do Good Phone". A client recently asked me in a seminar to offer up some tips. Here is what I said:
12 Telephone Tips to Build Relationships and Close More Business
Invest the time to list your questions. Put them in order of asking. Rehearse them with a friend or associate. Do your homework: Research your prospect in advance and, at the very least, take a look at their company Web site. Chance favors the prepared.
Limit how much talking you actually do. It's NOT about you! It's about the prospect. Let them talk. When you have the urge to trade stories, simply say to yourself, W.A.I.T. That is an acronym for Why Am I Talking? Silence is golden and profitable.
Take notes. Pay attention to what you hear. Eliminate distractions. Don't do anything else. Give your prospect the gift of your total and complete focus. Occasionally say "Uh-huh" and "Whoa, then what happened?" or "Really?" or "No way!" Trust me, it matters and your prospect will notice.
Put yourself in your prospect's or customer's shoes. Make a sincere attempt to understand their point of view, their needs, and their concerns. Empathy is a muscle that grows with use. It's a vital business skill.
Open-ended questions truly do open up a conversation. Open-ended questions are the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How variety. I am fond of "How did you get started in this business?" and "What keeps you up at night?" to open the conversation. The key is to combine open-ended questions with active listening. Listening is the number one business skill to master and it's also the hardest. Most people don't listen well. Set yourself apart. We all love to talk about ourselves. Resist the urge to do so. Ask and listen.
Wait three to five seconds before offering an answer. As you master this habit, you will find 80 percent of the time your clients or prospects are still thinking. Momentary pauses are often simply gaps in thinking. Wait. Count to five silently when you think the other person has finished a thought. You will be amazed by how often he or she has more to say.
I like to ask "How do you mean?" or "Can you give me an example?" These are terrific questions to clarify the other person's position, ideas, concerns, or frustrations. Try it. They end up telling you a story to help you understand. Then you are ready for Rule Number Eight.
Paraphrase is simple. It sounds like this: "So in other words...." or "If I am hearing you right..." or "It sounds like..." When you have hit the nail on the head, you will hear a magic word, "EXACTLY!" It simply means understanding exists and you have done your job of listening to understand.
This drives me crazy. I have worked really hard for the last twenty years to NOT do this, period. Under no circumstances do you finish someone's sentence or interrupt them in mid-sentence. This adds insult to injury. Be patient. Your turn is coming. Listening builds trust. People need time to process their concerns. Bite your lip and listen.
10) SEE the BIG PICTURE
Focus on the big picture, the whole message, and the emotion behind the words. We usually only understand the tip of the iceberg, but not the two-thirds below the surface. Ask yourself What is the fear behind this situation? What is really going on? What are their doubts, concerns, and issues?
NOW it's your turn. What I will do, more often than not, is ask THEM what is next: "Where do we go from here?" or "What is your next step?" Occasionally, I will tell a story about a client who went through something very similar (third person) or how I dealt with a similar issue (first person).
From time to time, clients will ask me directly, "What should I do?" My response is, "I can only tell you what I would do if it were me." All this sound like a lot of work and can take a great deal of time, doesn't it? You're right. It does. However, the juice is worth the squeeze. Your clients and prospects will love you; moreover, they will like how you make them feel.
If you follow these 12 Steps, you will KEEP more customers, GET more business, MAKE more friends, and INFLUENCE more people. It requires a kind of dying of self, a death to your ego and pride.
I hope this helps you. I know it has helped me clarify my thinking and future actions. Drill the fundamentals. There are no secrets because success leaves clues. We have to A.S.K for what we want. A.S.K. is an acronym: Ask, Seek, Knock! Now it's your turn. What will you DO differently? What got you HERE won't take you THERE. Now get busy and keep me posted. Remember the Rule of Twelve. As I look at my 12-month calendar, I pray to Jesus that I won't eat the whole box of doughnuts. Maybe there is a twelve-step meeting I can go to...
A few final thoughts to consider:
Those who stand out are those who want to! How do you stand out? What is your UVP (Unique Value Propostion)?
No one wants your product or service. They want THEIR problem solved. Do your telephone skills solve problems?
People respond to those who challenge the status quo. People respond to receving WAY more than they thought they would get. (Think Bruce Springsteen live!) How can you add value? What can you do to go the extra mile? Always offer the lagniappe. A lagniappe is a Cajun term for a little gift, like a thirteenth doughnut for the customer who is expecting only twelve.Give your clients more.
Write out your sales goals on paper and put your number one goal on 3 x 5 cards. Post them everywhere: the dashboard of your car, on the mirror in your bathroom, as a bookmark, and in your planner. It's true, "We become what we think about!" Can you hear me now?