The reading level for this article is All Levels
The Fine Art of Turning Strangers into Money on the Telephone
© Gracie Bowers
I know that many of you who bought this book are already working 1) for yourselves and need to expand your contacts and make more money, 2) for an affiliate program and need to expand your contacts and make more money, or 3) are working for someone else and need to expand your contacts, make more money, and make your boss more money.
What on earth gives me the right to tell you how to do this? That should be your first question. If it isn’t, then you are desperate and stepping out on faith. I commend you. Sometimes, it is the only place where miracles can happen.
When I was 23 years old, single, and completely broke, I went west on a fluke to visit an old friend of my mothers. Needless to say, I didn’t tell her I was coming, but as I was impulsively prone to do in those days, just showed up. Now, this kind stranger, who didn’t know me from Adam, put me up for three days, told me to figure out what I was going to do, and then showed me the door as she had every right to do! At the time, it didn’t feel like one of the best things that would ever happen to me.
But it was. I was forced by poverty and a burning desire not to work at another dead end minimum wage job to seek a solution. Poverty is often the mother of great things. In the three day grace period I had been given (meaning I had a roof over my head), I wandered down to the local coffee shop to devise a plan to make money and procure all the things I was going to need in three days: shelter, food, gas, and money!
Now, there will be those of you that say, "well, luck just intervened", and there will be those of you that know that nothing in the universe happens by chance, but regardless of your position, I met my destiny in that coffee shop that day.
While getting my cup of coffee (when coffee was just coffee), I promptly turned and bumped into a gentleman, spilling the entire contents of the cup all over him. This gentleman, besides screaming in pain, immediately wiped himself off, and bought us both a cup of coffee. Perhaps, he recognized my desperation and my true sorrow at wounding him. I don’t know why he did this to this day, but it doesn’t matter. The lesson here is that kindness is never unrewarded and that strangers are the doorway to wealth.
Our conversation ended that day in a thirteen year partnership, but that is another story! My soon to be new found friend was an artist of remarkable talent. I would learn that later, but let it be said here, he told me that upfront! What I would discover later through our business relationship is that he was also a procrastinator, emotional about criticism, disorganized, and had no clue how to get his art to market. He, however, was desperate for money, having absolutely none, and living in his tiny, cramped, cluttered office/studio/apartment only by the good graces of his landlord. He was months behind on his bills when I met him, creditors were on the doorstep, and you get the idea.
It was a match made in heaven. I had done a great job of getting through high school, won a scholarship to college, and gotten royally bored by the whole system of education and business by as early as 1973. I found the whole institutional setup to be personally just bad for my Soul. Now, it was the early seventies and I was restless, and in those early years, most of the people, I have known who went on to any success, questioned why things were the way they were.
I don’t want to bore you and I have the concern that you’re saying about now, "why doesn’t she just get to the course?" Because, I paid my dues and I want you to know that upfront. You will pay yours too, if you haven’t already done so. And, with just a high school education and a lot of moxy and persistence, I opened the doors to a business that day that would be both prosperous and enriching for me personally. And, that business was all built on the art of prospecting.
Sitting in that coffee shop, I asked my companion, if I could see his work. So, we walked up the hill to his studio in a rather distressed neighborhood and I saw for myself what it must be like to have been born gifted.
Placed before me were the most beautiful watercolors of historical tall ships that I had ever seen. Someone would surely want these beautiful paintings. All I could see was money. Surely, the rich were still challenged by decorating dilemmas. The corporate offices of the major boat manufacturers suffered from bare walls, and the wives of all the boat nuts on the Pacific coast needed to gift their husbands with an original of his vessel.
I asked if I could take a few selected paintings for one day, a Saturday, to all the local galleries and to a few select customers that had purchased from him in the past. He said yes, and I was off. Later that day, I met my friend at the local park and handed him $900.00. Not a lot, but a heck of a lot more than he had in his pocket. But, I had sold 7 paintings in under 6 hours and all he could ask was, "how did you do this?"
From there we built a business that would include thousands of contacts, hundreds of originals, and hundreds of limited edition historical maritime art prints. So, you get the drift. I turned a product into a goldmine because, after all, by now, I had a business to support! In the early years, I did a lot on foot, and a lot face to face. By year three, I ran the business by prospecting over the phone. So, if you wanted art, you came by appointment to the studio to get it.
Clients paid up front, paid outrageous markup, and came back for more. And, the best part of all is that they referred all their friends to us.
Life moved on in time, as I am sure many of you can relate. I sold the art business, moved east to be closer to family and old friends, and sought a new purpose. I had only worked for myself, and now I wondered how I was going to duplicate the success I had enjoyed for over 13 years.
Here is where I made a choice that, while often difficult, was necessary for painful personal growth. I went to work in corporate
My parents and friends encouraged me to get a real job with BENEFITS. Wouldn’t that be the best thing? I was repeatedly told that with no one to take care of me, (what, I am not capable of doing this!), I must become EMPLOYED.
I was always such a good girl in the beginning, so excited to learn what the team goal was, and so disappointed that no matter what I did, the ability to make a difference and make money was far out shadowed by the agenda of other people. All that political navigation started to take a toll on me. It is just a lot of work to tippy toe around when you need to get something done for your customer, as you promised, and when you have to beg for either the product to be developed (yes, I have worked for more than one employer that sold product(s) they did not have), or you have to wince when the product is serviced imperfectly by the folks at the home office. They are, of course, working for minimum wage and not necessarily eager to provide exceptional knowledge or service. And, if my experience is not unique, I would guess that most of corporate
When I got my job working for someone else, the manager I had knew so little, being new to his position, that he let me do my thing. That would have proved fine, had I not opened my big mouth. But, more about that little character flaw later.
I came in early, worked late, worked weekends, flew all over the country, opened a product line, covered 13 states, and had the audacity to develop a whole new telephone prospecting sales model that blew the socks off my fellow sales reps. I was promptly rewarded with the words from management that went something like this, "this isn’t the way we do it." With my telephone prospecting system, I met my employer’s one-half million dollar first year goal, and had 2.7 million in the pipeline. Now, the contracts on that 2.7 million had been signed, so I call that good. I didn’t come in first that year, but I did come in second and a lot of seasoned reps came in behind me.
Did I receive one word of appreciation for doing something new and vital to the company? For new revenue streams? For profit? Absolutely not. I got fired instead. It is very important to know when to rock the boat. I no longer try to tell management how to create money. I now, thank God, once again work for myself. And, no one can ever take my commissions or my ability to create my wealth away from me. That, ladies and gentlemen, is freedom.
However, since I learned so much from that experience and from owning my own business for 13 years, I am now going to share with you the secrets of successful prospecting. If I can have these results with a product line I knew nothing about when I was hired, SO CAN YOU. And, if you know your product line like I did when in the Art Rep business, can you imagine WHAT YOU CAN DO!
Remember, you are worth it! I cannot stress this enough. Believe in yourself, hang on by your wee fingernails when everyone else gives up, follow this system, and the money will flow. Never, ever, ever listen to people who tell you that you cannot work for yourself and make a mint. Just put your fingers in your ears and hum. It drives them wild. In no time at all you will be humming all the way to the bank.
I am only going to say a few words here about leads. This is an art form in and of itself and I am going to recommend you take the time to order my marketing course or my seminar manual both titled Internet Marketing Made EZ if you need education. You can learn more about leads from this course It is a great tool and part of the LEADS, PROSPECTING, QUALIFY, and SELL System.
Leads are those beautiful little things that allow you to prospect. Leads are the people who call you in response to an ad, either online (website, ezine) or offline (classifieds, periodicals, magazines). Leads are either people who have given you permission to call them, have been referred to you by someone else that likes your service or product, or they are people you have an interest in because they fit your target market. Leads are anyone standing and warm that you can talk to that fits your niche market.
Again, see our course book for target markets if you have no idea what yours is. Basically, these are the people who would have an interest in what you are doing and to whom you want to sell something.
All those great leads are part of prospecting. You are going to prospect those leads to qualify them. This is like weeding a garden. You want a few great plants, strong and healthy, with no weeds choking up the beautiful flowers and fruits that your garden of clients is producing. Weeds are prospects that are never going to match your criteria whatever it may be, in order to make a sale. They are folks who will use up both your time and your energy, but who will never, ever buy anything from you. Ever. Pull them up by the roots immediately when you meet one.
Only you can determine when prospecting what characteristics qualify your prospects. In my business, anyone who wants to work from home and has the desire to work a business opportunity for ridiculous sums of money qualifies. Everyone else is just looking for a job.
Prospects are cold, warm, or hot. Prospects that are cold aren’t expecting your call. You call them because they fit the target group you are after. This is what I call Blind Prospecting. The client doesn’t see it coming. This is where the fun and excitement are if you love hunting!
Prospects can be warm. They are responding to an 800 number or website address in an advertisement you have placed, or have been referred to you by a satisfied customer. This is what I call Response Prospecting. Your client sees it coming. This is where the fun and excitement are if you like target practice!
Prospects can be hot. They are responding to an 800 number for an advertisement you have placed or have been referred to you by a satisfied customer and want to buy now. They have indicated a high level of interest or have stated a desire to buy or sign up for your services. This is what I call Urgency Prospecting. Your client sees it coming and doesn’t evade you or give you any sport. This is really where the fun and excitement are if you like eating! This prospect must always get an IMMEDIATE follow-up from you. They will buy if you call them NOW. The longer you wait the greater the chance that you will lose their interest or they will go elsewhere. They are responding to an emotional need inside themselves to have it now. This is the key buying urgency in the sales process that many, many average sales people ignore. Greatness is in responding to urgency.
Remember, you have made their day by calling them! Never have any doubt in the value you have to offer someone. Doubt is the greatest crippler. When it crawls into your mind, stomp it out immediately. Successful people don’t doubt if they have a plan in place, follow it, correct for market changes, and persevere.
Once you have your leads the fun begins. Now, you can turn all those strangers into customers with a little guerilla prospecting. The dollars they hold in their pockets will easily flow into yours. So, let’s get to it.
Setting Up Your Office Space
When you are working, your space is going to be set up so as to allow you to focus. This is the key ingredient of using every minute of your life for your purposes. You will need a quiet, stress free space where you can sit and focus for uninterrupted periods of time.
Do not have your workspace adjacent to the kitchen, den, living room, or other family space, if you have a family. Use a spare bedroom, an isolated corner of the attic or basement, or the garage. For the time you are working no one and nothing else exists. Period.
Surround yourself with things that inspire you, energize you and that foster your dream. I once heard a great marketer say that every successful prospector has a dream board. I do. And on it are the pictures and words that represent my personal goals. You are alive and on earth. You might as well achieve your goals. Having them on a dream board will help you visualize all that you want for yourself and see it happening. Having a dream board will make time fly.
If you have children, you will need to arrange either your hours for prospecting or their care around your goal and wealth expectations. If you are a stay at home mom, prospect in the hours your children are down for their naps or at an activity. If you are prospecting as an affiliate of a MLM or non-MLM, then arrange your hours around your customer base. If national, pay attention to time zones for your target market so you don’t interrupt dinner or sleep and if international, don’t call them while they are asleep on the other side of the world. People are really put off by this type of interruption.
I work for 50 minutes and then break for 10. It is a rule with me. I stretch, grab a cup of coffee, use the bathroom, feed the fish, etc. I do not work during these 10 minutes. During the 50 minutes I do nothing but work. This kind of commitment is necessary for success. Pick up the phone and call and then call again. Repeat this process for 50 minutes. If you find your mind wandering put the phone in your hand and do not put it down. It’s an exercise for the mental biceps.
Prospect no more than 4 hours a day. You will not be fresh if you hammer more than this, but if your boss insists or you remain energized, then by all means you must continue. Most of you will need any remaining hours in your work day to answer calls that have come in, address emails and attend to any other business required by your business. But, I promise if you will faithfully do this just 4 hours a day, you will see results.
You will need office items for your space. I use a corner of a formal living room to work in that shuts off from the rest of the house by a pair of French doors. I close them to shut out all noise during my work hours. I have painted the space in colors that appeal to me and decorated it to create comfort. Not so much comfort that I want to sleep, but enough comfort that I am not sterile or lifeless on the phone. My space puts the energy, the vim and vigor, the enthusiasm in my voice. My space has a cat or two hanging out in it. They are essential for me when dealing with the very rare, but extremely nasty prospect.
I have a desk, PC, 4 line phone, file cabinets, fax machine, copy machine, and scanner in my space. I have a very comfortable office chair. You are going to sit for long periods of time, invest in a chair that saves your back and legs. It’s worth every penny.
Now, lot of folks I know prospect on a cell phone. I don’t like it. I am not going to march around my space saying, "Can you hear me now." I am not going to leave voice mails that are full of static. No, I truly believe they are great for calling from your car, and not much use in a physical office.
Setting up the Prospecting System
What do you do with all those leads? You prospect them. A farmer must plant seed. A prospector must plant ideas. To create truly successful sales calls you must do the following things:
Organize yourself. I don’t care if you use a rolodex, a card file box, an accordion file, one of the many software tracking systems (ACT™, Goldmine™) or a web based tracking system (SalesForce.com™). Leads must all be worked.
I work my leads by date and highest priority. This means that I have looked at all of my leads and put them in piles. The first pile I will tackle is the oldest and the leads in that pile I call first are the ones I have marked hot.
Now, here is something to think about. Sometimes, I will mark a Blind prospect as hot because I really want their business. My research on the web, through word of mouth, through industry news or company prospectus tells me that they need to hear from me. So, don’t think for a minute that the hot prospects are only the ones who responded to your leads or came to you by way of referral. Yes, they may be hot, but only you can determine what hot means to you. To me it means money and the challenge of landing a big fish.
After all, little fish will feed me, but I like to keep my rod in the water for the big fish. It’s just the sport of it all. As you can see, the whole thing is fun to me. I don’t look at all the calls and call backs as work, but rather as the possibility of something wonderful happening.
I use colored markers to classify the prospect card as either hot, warm, or cold. These designations are red, orange and blue. You can use anything, but get an idea of what might bring you in the most money, with the least resistance, for paying the bills. And, get an idea of the prospects that you really want to win because they will pay the bills for a long, long time and put up a great fight while you were working them toward the boat. In other words, prioritize with your personal system the hot, warm and cold prospects.
I work all my leads every week and follow these leads every week for one month, then every two weeks for 3 months, then every month for the remaining year. When I make voice contact with a lead, I ask them how often they would like to hear from me and place them in a thirty day calendar accordion file if on a monthly call back rotation, or in a file in a file cabinet set up with folders marked for each month and each week in it. Now, yes this is cumbersome, but I don’t want to pay what Goldmine or SalesForce.com want to charge me and it doesn’t matter what your system is if you don’t work it. So you can have all the pop up reminders for all the calls you need to make marked by priority and still not make the time to do it. Besides, Outlook does a fine job of keeping my contacts and email lists and it came with the computer package I bought. As the money flows in, I plan on hiring an account manager to track everything on software, but for now this works just fine when I am working by phone.
Yes, you can also prospect without a computer, but I don’t recommend it. Once you get a prospect to respond, you must get their contact information and record it somewhere immediately. The sticky note method will cause you grief somewhere down the road. Again, record all information on prospects immediately. Get name, address, phone, fax, email and pertinent information. You will need it again and again. And, do all of this only for Qualified Prospects.
For those of you who will buy software, all of the above mentioned programs are great. I have used them all and they will work just fine for qualifying a prospect and following the stages of the prospecting. Because most home based businesses like mine tend to think of prospects as either unsold or sold, all the stages of prospecting beyond qualifying I leave to the software experts. For me, all prospects, regardless of how you break it down, have signed a contract or are still unsold. Yes, they may be in the proposal phase or the negotiation phase or whatever, but in the end the signed contract is all that matters. This means they made a purchase.
While a lot of prospectors will not leave a voice mail, you have to ask yourself upfront what your policy is going to be on this. Yes, you can continue to call and if you get the answering machine over and over, you can make a note of the dates and times you tried to reach a live human being and keep adjusting till you catch them at home. Or, you can leave a voice mail.
I personally leave a voice mail. I am conditioning them to hear the sound of my voice. I am conditioning them to the script I have written, I am preparing them for a follow up call from me within one week (the first time I call and for one month thereafter) and I am reminding them that I will not go away unless they tell me to go away)! No, this is not too bold. Remember, some of the biggest cases you may sell will not respond to you immediately. It is an effort on your part to stand apart from the rest of the pack of salespersons trying to reach this contact. You can differentiate yourself with dedicated follow-up.
I once had the president of a company tell me that he gave the business to me (18 months from the date of the first call) because I would not let go, kept working at building a relationship, called him back promptly and never gave up in the face of a heated vendor competition for his business. He said he knew that if I wanted to talk to him as badly as my effort suggested that I would take care of his customers. The day I got his call telling me I had won his business, no one but I really knew what that 1.3 million dollar contract meant. I had made this entire effort without any support from management. This is an example that I want you to take to heart, because for your own business, this effort is well worth every minute you will invest. And for the right employer, some of you can take it to heart as well.
Asking for the Sales Call
Once your prospect has called you back and you have further qualified the lead (decision maker, business objective, other vendor relationships, time line for proposals) and you have decided to either provide additional information and follow-up, set an appropriate time line based on mutual business objectives to move forward with continued calls, or move to suggested profit making joint ventures for consideration during a sales call, you set the date for further contact. You must ask for the business at the stage in which you find yourself.
If the prospect just wants additional information, provide that in the most expedient fashion available to you or in the one the prospect has specifically requested. Follow-up within 48 hours for questions, unless you and the prospect have set a predetermined follow-up date. Ask if the materials provided can move you to the next step.
That next step is based on your qualification of your lead. You know what they do, you know how they do it, you know the business objectives and now you need to show them why they want to do business with you. You must ask for a face to face call now with your contact. Your contact is the decision maker. (This is key and you have learned who the decision maker is in your qualifying call).
Remember the information you provided is the information they requested. Ask how you can use the value of this information to secure a sales call. I would suggest a phone discussion, progressing to telephone conferencing (with all necessary parties for the process to move to contract), and finally web conferencing for PowerPoint, round table discussions, etc. Then finally, if necessary, an onsite review of facilities with a face to face contracting meeting.
Preparing for your Prospecting Calls
You must write scripts for every type of sales call based on the market you are prospecting. I cannot stress this enough. Write and then rewrite what your first impression will be. You may be leaving a benefits bullet conversation on a voice mail if you have chosen to leave voice mail. Or, you may be confronted with a live person on the wire (in this day of voice mails, I seldom have this happen), and you must be prepared when they ask you to tell them the major benefits that you have to offer them with your business solution. In other words, why would partnering with you make any sense or any money for them and their business? Deliver your message with an unmatched enthusiasm and knowledge of your offer. Add any stats or credentials that back up your statements and ask them for their business. You may be pleasantly surprised when they say they want more information (great) or they say no (great). Do not take no for an answer. You will either be sending additional information, requalifying your prospect (did you have the decision maker or the right product fit for the prospect based on your research, did you learn something new that means you have to come back with a revised offer),or preparing an extended timeframe to continue prospecting this lead.
Remember that 1.3 million dollar account I landed after 18 months of phone work? The decision maker said no twice to me before he said yes to further discussions. If I had given up on those first two nos the business I landed would have gone to someone else. I once heard a very uninformed company president say that if someone didn’t return his calls within 2 attempts that he never called them again. Since the average is 7-8 attempts to reach your prospect does this attitude make any business sense?
Do not give up until they tell you that they are not, absolutely not going to buy from you ever and that you are not welcome to call. In the 27 years that I have been prospecting only 3 people have told me to go away forever and I did that until I learned that they were no longer employed at the business I was after!
And, the unexpected compliment may come your way that reinforces that your system of methodical follow-up amazes people. A national company president said he once played my voice mails to him over the entire company intercom system so that his people would know how to leave an exciting, informative, and courteous voice mail. He called me back and we became friends based on the power of the spoken word. While I did not win his business as he kept the service I was offering in-house, I did find a friend and a reference. This type of benefit is priceless in any business.
Preparing for your Sales Call
If you fail to prepare for your sales call you are a done deal. Period. Sales calls involve listening. Hopefully, you have taken the time to discuss with your prospect what their objectives are for each of the discussions (phone, phone conference, web conference, face to face sales call, contracting, etc.). If you have not done this, you must find work outside of sales!
Once you know their objective you must do whatever research is necessary for the presentation so that you can customize your presentation to their specifications. You must obtain figures, provide models, provide projections, create a PowerPoint, or whatever is requested. The presentation may take any format such as a formal PowerPoint or an informal round table discussion. The presentation format is again decided by your prospect. Again, it is their meeting and you want to meet their objectives. I cannot stress this enough. This relationship is not about you. It is about them and what you can do for them.
If you fail to listen and satisfy what they want, you will never see them again. Questions are fine. Know your answers in advance. If that is impossible and you get blindsided by a question that is completely new to you, get the answer immediately and follow-up by both phone and email within 24 hours.
What if the Process Gets Stalled Along the Way?
I have had hundreds of people tell me that they lose courage when prospects fail to return their calls. Do not let this thinking deter you from a relentless attack with the method described above. They are busy. They are away. They are waiting for further information from a co-worker. They referred your call to another company decision maker. They hate returning calls to strangers as much as most people do.
You must continue to call them. Do not be apologetic. Do not be swayed. You must persist if you are to obtain their trust and their business. Your faithful attention to them will not annoy them. And if it does, they just don’t clearly understand what it is you have to offer them, and you will vary your voice mails to account for this possibility if you feel so inclined. Eventually, a live person will pick up the phone and you will be rewarded. They will say that they received your voice mails and apologize for not getting back to you. Move forward immediately and ask them to do business with you. I always say that I continued to call because I truly believed I had something of great value and great profit that would be of interest to them. And, I let them know that I appreciate how busy their lives are. If I get nothing more than this initial visit, I can usually establish a follow up schedule, customization of objectives, business plan and what I need to send them to generate continued interest.
If someone does not return my call within 90 days, I will call the company switchboard and ask for either the VP of Finance, the VP of Marketing, or the VP of Strategic Alliances/Product Development. These folks love to be heroes if given an opportunity to be one. I will mention that I have been leaving voice mails for "whomever in their company," and felt that the benefits to them in my offer were important to review immediately.
This is one way to engage other individuals in the bottom line and achieve success. Always shed a favorable light on any delays and any omissions. Better not to mention them at all, but if they come up, immediately be gracious and understanding. Good will is everything.
I hope that this document has given you some encouragement. Prospecting is really a methodical formula to obtain results. Yes, often you will repeat the same script for hours into countless voice mails, but the return calls will come to you, will be qualified by you, and the gems will be extracted from it all to become your new customers. You will have success on many levels.
I once had a young administrative assistant say that she had listened to me on the phone and that what I did was really boring. I never felt that way when the commission statements or the bonuses came due. Keep this in mind when prospecting feels like drudgery. Prospecting is one of the best ways to new business.
May success be yours to experience. Please feel free to call if you ordered our consulting/mentoring program, or if you just have a quick business question. The information you need is at our website.
Independent Internet Business Development
This Sales & Marketing article was written by Laura Gracie Bowers on 4/12/2005
Gracie Bowers is the founder and CEO of Empower Your Income, Inc. a Michigan based
company dedicated to assisting individuals create and manage online business
development without affiliate programs, MLM, or network marketing. She reviews
online opportunities, creates product inception and development plans, business
plans, marketing and advertising plans for home based business entrepreneurs. She
is the national presenter for the seminar division of Empower Your Income, Inc., a
division dedicated to the sequential, organized, step-by-step process of online
Gracie is a 1996 graduate of Grand Valley State University Summa Cum Laude with a BS
in Health Science. She completed her degree at the age of 40. Prior to the
establishment of Empower Your Income, Inc., Gracie worked both regionally and
nationally as a sales representative for corporate compliance companies. She has
over 29 years experience in both professional sales and marketing in the offline
world under her belt, many of them as a self-employed small business owner from
Gracie can be found on the web at www.homebizcritic.com and