There are two ways in which you interact with a client: by taking an inquiry (where the client calls you or comes to your place of business), or by making a sales call (where you’re the one calling or visiting the client). In this article, we’re focusing on how to start well when taking an inquiry.
Let's look at this from the customer's point of view first. Imagine the situation where you need to plan a meeting and there’s this hotel across from your office where you’ve been a few times for lunch but never attended for an event. You give them a call to ask if they have a room that could fit an all-day strategic meeting with your sales team of fifteen. I wouldn't be surprised if the first words that come out of the sales person mouth were: “For what date...?”
When a conversation starts this way, the sales person is not allowing him/herself time to establish a relationship. It feels like the staff is driving on autopilot, thinking: "Oh boy, here we go with another caller..." And, you can imagine the tone.
How can you show to your potential customer, within the first few seconds of your encounter, that you are interested in this potential business? That you have what he/she is looking for, or that you will at least explore the possibilities?
The moment you are taking an inquiry, you open the door and create interest. We call it the Magic Minute, taking place in three steps.
Three-step approach to conversation
It all starts with your greeting. All you need is to add more structure to how you carry on the conversation after the greeting.
First, add a service question in your greeting such as: “How may I help you?” This should be said in a sincere tone that demonstrates your interest. After getting a response from the clients, you need to ask them detailed questions to gain more information about their reason for calling and to find out how you can assist them.
Example of questions the hotel, in our above example, could have asked to start the conversation:
“What type of event?” (Function)
“Are you familiar with our company?” (Familiar)
“When was the last time you stayed with us?” (Familiar)
“How did you hear about us?” (Familiar)
“Which dates did you have in mind for your event?” (Dates)
“Can I please have your name, position/title?”
Now that you better know your clients’ needs, you can build the relationship by assuring they called the right place. We call it an Opening Reinforcement Statement. It is a sentence that reinforces the client’s inquiry, based on the information provided by the prospect’s response. It lets the clients know you can, and want to, help them.
Example of an Opening Reinforcement Statement: (based on the scenario seen earlier)
Finally, to ensure you are really leading this conversation, use what we call an Immediate Follow-Up Open-Ended Question. This will allow you to control the conversation because you are asking the questions. The key is for the questions to be on an open-ended format so they have to elaborate.
Example of an Immediate Follow-Up Open-Ended Question:
“What do you look for when hosting a meeting like this one? Tell me more about it!”
... and then, let the conversation flow. No worries, the transaction will soon follow!