I work for an organization that sells industrial equipment, farm equipment and recreational products. Our buyers are generally not shoppers but customers that have a product solution need: they need to get the crop off and are looking for a grain cart to move it.  They need to haul a skid steer to the job site, […]


leo-cold-callsI work for an organization that sells industrial equipment, farm equipment and recreational products. Our buyers are generally not shoppers but customers that have a product solution need: they need to get the crop off and are looking for a grain cart to move it.  They need to haul a skid steer to the job site, they need a flatdeck trailer to move it. They have four snowmobiles and need to get them to the mountains.  The point is, the customer is calling looking to buy because they believe they need to.  There is not a want; there is a need.  Many organizations have the same buying behavior.  In today’s digital world, the phone call is often the first human-to-human contact and is so very important. Yet, all too often, the incoming call is mishandled as follows:

Sales Person:  “Sales, how can I help you?”

Customer: “I’m looking for product Z.  What do you have?”

Sales Person:  “We have it in this color with these options in stock.”

Customer: “What’s the price?”

Sales Person “We have that one for $XX,995”

Customer: “Hmmm,  I will think about it.”

Sales Person: “Ok perfect, thanks for calling, if you need anything else call back and ask for Greg.”

While the above transcript is an abridged version of an incoming sales call, the framework is unfortunately all too true for a lot of lead management in many retail locations.

Some might wonder what is wrong with this call? The customer called in, they requested information and were provided the answer. This is good customer service, right?  Actually, it is not. It ultimately does not serve the customer and the organization and here is why:

  • Marketing creates attention to cause incoming leads.
  • The job of the sales team is to convert the leads to sales.
  • The above handling of an incoming lead is not converting a lead to a sales opportunity.

The steps to follow with an incoming phone lead are simple:

  • Capture the lead
  • Qualify the lead
  • Advance the sale
  • Set the next action

Sadly, these steps do not occur with consistency in many organizations.  The outcomes of following this simple four-step process is transformative.  Sales can double and an organization’s customer service will increase significantly due to the professional process of the sales team.

So, let’s define the steps and review the old way versus the new way of what can be done:

Capture the Lead

 Definition:  In this step, the focus of the sales person is to capture the customer information so that they do indeed have a lead.  Without the customer contact information the phone call is just a conversation with the hope that the customer will follow up to become a true lead.  Hope is not a business strategy.

Old Way – not capturing the lead

Sales Person:  “Sales, how can I help you?”

Customer: “I’m looking for product Z.  What do you have?”

Sales Person:  “We have this in this color with these options in stock.”

New way – capturing the lead

Sales Person:  “Sales, how can I help you?”

Customer: “I’m looking for product Z.  What do you have?”

Sales Person:  “Sir, just in case this call gets dropped can I get your name and phone number so I can call you back immediately.”

Customer:  “Sure, Bob Johnston 612-345-4455”

Sales Person: “Thanks Bob,  my name is Greg Smith nice to meet you, so you are looking for product Z….”

While this will not work 100% of the time you will be surprised at how often it does work due to the amount of mobile phone usage.  The ask accomplished two things: it captures the lead and lets the customer know you are serious about customer service as you want to ensure if anything happens during the call you can re-establish contact immediately to continue helping them.

Now the sales person has a lead.  Without getting the customer name there is no lead.

 Sales Tip: Having a customer’s name at the start of the process allows the sales person to build rapport faster, by immediately using the customer’s name.

Qualify the Lead

Definition: In this step there are two tasks: Qualifying the product or service need and qualifying the buying intent.

First the sales person gets to put all the product training they have received to use to explain to the customer the best product offering to meet the customer’s specific need.

Secondly, while doing this the sales person needs to prompt for or listen for buying signals that will indicate the time line of when the customer is looking to buy.  The customer can be buying today, next week, next month or six months from now; it is the sales person’s job to figure out how hot this prospect is.

Old way – not qualifying the lead

Customer: “I’m looking for product Z. What do you have?”

Sales Person:  “We have it in this color with these options in stock.”

Customer: “What’s the price?”

Sales Person “We have that one for $XX,995.”

New way – qualifying the lead

Customer: “I’m looking for product Z.  What do you have?”

Sales Person:  “Sir, just in case this call gets dropped can I get your name and phone number so I can call you back immediately”

Customer:  “Sure,  Bob Johnston 612-345-4455”

Sales Person: “Thanks Bob, my name is Greg Smith nice to meet you. So you are looking for product Z.  Well Bob, do you mind if I ask you a few questions (this is where your product and industry knowledge come into play) such as what you are needing to do with product Z and the frequency of use, this will help me qualify what the best product solution for your need is.”

Customer:  “Well I am looking at moving X once or twice a month.”

Sales person: “OK thanks Bob, so you need to do this (moving X) but not often.  Do you have a budget in mind?”

Customer: “Ya, since I am not going to use it much I just need something as cost effective as possible to do the job when needed.”

Sales Person: “Got it, and when do you need this by Bob?”

Customer: “Next week.”

Now the sales person has qualified the customer product or service requirement and qualified the lead as a hot one that needs immediate attention.  There is also a clear buying signal: “Next week.”

When compared to the old way when a sales person simply answers the question asked of them, the sales person may be misquoting the customer as they have not qualified their need. The customer may think they know all the options but the sales person is the expert and it is the sales person’s job to help the customer understand the best options for their need.   The risk is that the customer calls a competitor and asks for product Z and is quoted a lower price without any qualification. The customer simply thinks company B is less cost and they go with that company, and the sales person never receives a call back. Lastly, the old way gives you no indication of time sensitivity.  In the new way the sales person knows Bob needs this product next week.

Sales Tip: When qualifying the above conversation, it could have easily gone the other way in which the customer has a need of high use and thus high quality required to stand up to commercial application – price may not be the deciding factor.  Determining the customer’s need helps with understanding price sensitivity and what the customer objections may be.

Advance the sale

Definition: In this step the sales person has one requirement: Move the sale forward toward a buyer commitment.

Old way -just answering questions

Customer: “What’s the price?”

Sales Person “We have that one for $XX,995.”

Customer: “Hmmm,  I will think about it.”

New way –creating a buyer commitment

Customer: “Next Week.”

Sales Person: “Well Bob based upon what we have talked about we have a number of options in stock ready for next week, the range in price is XXXX to XXXX (from high to low).

Can we set a time for you to come in to review the products?”

Customer:  “Sure I will come by today.”

There are also many ways in which this conversation may have gone.  The customer may not want to come in or they are looking for a custom quote.  In that case the sales person needs to advance the sale by making a commitment to the customer.

Alternate way

Sales Person: “Well Bob, based upon what we have talked about we have a number of options in stock ready for next week, the range in price is XXXX to XXXX (from high to low).

Can we set a time for you to come in to review the products?”

Customer:  “No I am still just gathering information right now.”

Sales Person: “I understand Bob, can I send you some product literature and a quote to help you with your process?”

Customer: “Yes that would work.”

While the sales person has not got the customer to the retail location they have advanced the sale.  Which leads to….

Sales Tip: There is always a way to advance the sale, whether through setting an appointment, sending information, or acquiring an email for newsletter sign up.  The key is to get the customer to commit to another action. This continues to build on the customer relationship and provide service towards meeting the customer’s need.

Set the next action

Definition: Never lose control of the sales process with a weak ending. Even without a clear buyer commitment, maintain control of the sales process by setting the next action and thus planting an expectation in the customer’s mind.

Old way: –not setting the next action

Customer: “Hmmm,  I will think about it.”

Sales Person: “Ok perfect, thanks for calling if you need anything else call back and ask for Greg.”

New way: –setting the next action

Customer: “Sure I will come by today.”

Sales Person:  “This morning or afternoon? I just want to make sure I have everything ready for you.”

Customer: “This afternoon.”

Sales Person.  “Thanks Bob I appreciate you taking the time.  I will expect to see you this afternoon and if I do not see you by 3:30 I will give you a call to confirm. Does that work for you?”

Customer: “Yes it does, I will see you then.”

Sales Person: “Thanks for your call Bob I will have the product ready for you this afternoon.”

Sales Tip: Most people will honor their commitments, if the customer has committed to coming and viewing the product they will likely show up, and now the sales person has an opportunity to wow the customer with an amazing customer experience and  product knowledge.  If the customer has objections the sales person can deal with them face to face.  Lastly, being grateful and polite is free, so always thank the customer for the opportunity.

Alternate way

Sales Person: “I understand Bob, can I send you some product literature and a quote to help you with your process?”

Customer: “Yes that would work.”

Sales Person: “Can I get your email address so I can send you files, additionally I can drop a brochure in the mail.”

Customer: “My email is bobjohnston1@gmail.com and my mailing address is….”

Sales Person:  “I will get the quote emailed to you today and drop a brochure in the mail.  I will give you a couple of days to review and then I am going to call you on Thursday to see if you have any questions.”

Customer: “Thursday will not work.”

Sales Person: “No problem can I call you Friday morning?”

Customer: “That will work.”

Sales Person: “Ok I will call you Friday at 9:00 am at 612-345-4455 to review the quote.  I will also have list of products we have in stock that we can review. Does this work for you.”

Customer: “Yes.”

Sales Person: “Bob thanks for calling in.  I will send this information to you today and I am looking forward to reviewing any questions Friday.  Talk to you then.”

Conclusion

While no process is flawless, and individuals personalities will shine through, consistently following this four step process will increase the effective management of incoming phone sales leads and spike close rates.

By following the process you have nothing to lose and customers to gain.