Q&A | Peter Belanger
Peter Belanger, president of Sales Rebound Associates, thinks people are pretty burnt out on the doom-and-gloom that has characterized the economy for the last 18 months. “I’m smelling a resurgence,” said Belanger, who specializes in telesales and sales training. “People are saying let’s get back in gear the next few weeks and months.” Belanger, whose clients include Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel and Xerox, added: “I’m not sure budgets are as large, but it’s clear that people have reached bottom.” With wallets (potentially) starting to loosen, we asked Belanger about some of the most effective ways of initially attracting buyers.
ZoomInfo: When placing a call to prospects what is the best way to greet the person?
Belanger: The best salespeople can say four things in ten seconds: full name, company name, what the company does and a brief, compelling, yet non-threatening reason for the phone call – what the industry calls the Greeting and the Headline. The hard part is making the Headline compelling and non-threatening, and that can be a killer. Every word of the Headline must be a polished diamond, because the buyer is understandably impatient at your interruption. Two of the best: “I just wanted to make sure you had our up-to-date information” and “I wanted to see what procedure you want me to follow to compete for some of your business.” To get on the buyer’s radar screen, you must address his/her immediate sales resistance, and one of the best ways is to let them know immediately – in more than one way – that the initial call won’t be long.
ZoomInfo: What’s the best way to grab the buyer once he’s on the phone?
Belanger: You’ve got to be quick, intelligent, show command of language and industry culture, and make it clear you’re not the usual pain in the behind. The delivery has to be conversational but crisp, and diction has to be precise. Dynamics help, along with deference to the buyer. And the best salespeople sound like they have at least a master’s degree, even if they never finished high school.
ZoomInfo: What do you mean by the term ‘objection-handling’ in the context of a telephone call?
Belanger: Objections begin immediately and are based on bad sales experiences. They are both practical and psychological. It’s the buyer thinking: What the hell are you calling about and how long before I can get rid of you? Even if there is some interest, the buyer knows it will take a while to educate the sales rep and vice versa, so there’s work involved. The key is making the opening statement (Greeting and Headline) so compelling and yet so non-threatening that the buyer is willing to open the door a crack.
ZoomInfo: How is talk of the “close” changing?
Belanger: I’m not sure it’s changing much at all, because human nature doesn’t change that much. Closing is a series of ‘escalating permissions’ built on establishing trust and the buyer’s improved understanding of your value proposition. From the first time you call a buyer, you’re closing – asking permission for the person’s time, then permission to get their e-mail address, then – probably on the next call or calls – permission to ask qualifying questions and share information about your product or service. That should lead to further incremental sales cycle steps, which eventually turns into a request to do real business – what most people think of as a “close.” If you’re selling complicated products such as million-dollar jet engines, there will be dozens of buyers and influencers and hundreds of sales steps – or closes – from the buyer’s initial question, ‘Who are you?’ to ‘Okay, it looks like we’ve got the go ahead to buy some engines.’