What’s the Purpose of This Call?

I received a call last week from a local number that I did not recognize and decided to answer the call. It was a person who I had originally spoken to a couple of weeks ago that was building a new business as a financial advisor for a well known company. In the first call, this person had asked if he could send me some information. Although I was not looking for a financial advisor I did speak to him for two reasons: first, he and I share the same alma mater, and second because as a former Real Estate Agent and current consultant who uses the phone to find business, I understand what his experience is.

My interlocutor rapidly went through some information that was largely incomprehensible because he was speaking so fast. That was probably due to a bad case of nerves because I had actually answered the phone. He was most likely expecting another voice mail (they never call back!). I interrupted him and asked the dreaded question that anyone who makes calls for a living often hears, “What’s the purpose of this call?”

My purpose was not to cut him off, but to actually offer some guidance, if he would be willing to listen. He told me his purpose; to offer his services as a financial advisor. I then asked him whether or not he knew if I needed his services. He was a bit taken aback, and admitted that he did not. I then proposed to him that perhaps he should first find out if I did need those services, before offering them to me. This was a novel concept to him. It had not occurred to him that he needed to know anything about me at all in order to propose his services.

Many small business owners and entrepreneurs use the telephone to find business. Many more do not, because it is a difficult and time consuming activity. You must speak to a lot of people in order to find the few that might need your product or services. Given the prevalence of gatekeepers (voice mail being the greatest gatekeeper of all), if you are going to use the phone to find business, you want to maximize the potential of every conversation that you actually hold.

A bit of preparation about the person that you are calling can help. Granted, you cannot do a lot of research on every person, but if you know even a little bit of information (their industry, geographical location, or business size for example) then you can craft a good question to ask that might lead to a meaningful conversation. For example, in my case, I have more than a bit of gray hair attained through experience (and age). If all my caller knew about me was when I graduated from college, he could craft a question that might be appropriate. For a financial advisor the question you would ask a 2000 graduate would probably differ from one that you would ask a 1973 alumnus.

The point that I am trying to make is that in telephone solicitation, like any other sales avenue, you must open up a dialogue focused on the potential client’s need, not on what you do. If you cannot focus on the need of the person that you are talking to then you have no chance of success in making a call. From my own experience, it is a difficult way to find business, but not impossible. Keep in mind that a well-targeted question, and the persistence to make hundreds of calls can produce success.

8 thoughts on “What’s the Purpose of This Call?

  1. Kevin,

    You make some good points. I think if you ask most people if they need a service they say no and hang up. Perhaps his purpose was to expose some type of problem or highlight a benefit of his service and just failed miserably. I think in a lot of cases we become voicemail robots and it sounds like this guy definitely falls into that category. I like the point you make about your graduation date and the types of questions that can be made from small information/clues. I let sales people pitch me too its good training.

    Continued Success,

  2. Nice article Brian. I appreciate that you were nice to that young man.

    It may also be a good idea to outsource telemarketing to a professional company There are many good companies out there. Let them sort out the hundreds of leads for suspects or prospects. That way, you can concentrate on running your business and on your client’s needs.

  3. OOPs!! Sorry Kevin and Brian. My bifocals caught me off guard when scrolling this blog. That was Kevin who wrote the original blog article of course, and Brian that made the comments. Thank you both.

  4. Kevin,

    You are addressing one of the greatest challenges of anyone working in sales. A successful salesperson is calm, articulate and seeks to provide value. The approach of ‘giving before taking’ is very important. I work in sales and certainly find it more difficult to connect with people on the phone in today’s society. Social media and convenience of voicemail are more relied on; however, there is still an ability to connect with your target audience like you mentioned…do a little research on the individual in mind and you may find similar interests and alumni groups in common. It’s a great way to establish a base for the building of the relationship. Great discussion.


  5. One the brightest and most generous of spirit insurance agents I had the privilege of calling on many years ago told the story of starting in that business. His goal: work the Loop and make 50 calls a day. Of course he knew they were not GOOD calls. But, you have to count on running into someone who will give you the time of day to begin a conversation. Even in this day-and-age with the easier ability to grab customer information a bit more readily, the craft of selling is largely unchanged. You make lots of calls. Most people say “No, thank you”. You move on. Your young suitor should never have expressed his intent to “offer his services”. Clearly, his “script” should have been about asking for a few moments to ask a few questions that might go toward determining if he MIGHT be able to make an appointment to delve further into whether or not he might help you. I’ll bet after talking with you, the script has been changed! And, you will be like that insurance agent I called on and did business with 25 years ago. He’ll remember you.

  6. Valuable advice. I learned the hard way. When I first started my business, I called a CEO hoping to leave a rehearsed message on his voice mail. To my horror, the CEO answered the phone and I was woefully unprepared.

    Now, thanks to that experience, I prepare, expecting to talk to a person. Makes a big difference!

  7. Thank you for the insightful comments. I am the new sales and marketing manager for Argo Products in St. Louis MO. These comments are helping create a phone script for our customer wire form job shop. We service large consumer products companies with custom built parts as original equipment. Does anyone have suggestions regarding prospect identification?

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