As a self-employed professional, you know it’s critical to follow up your initial marketing contacts with a phone call. But somehow, days or even weeks may go by before you place important calls. Why not make this the month you get off the dime and get on the phone? Here are five steps to make it easier by being able to follow up via phone.
1. Know why you are calling. It’s easy to forget details when you delay a call for too long. Make it a habit to keep a note on each prospective client or networking contact about where you left off in your last contact and what is the appropriate next step.
The most productive calls are about what you believe the other person wants from you, rather than what you want from him or her. Visualize in your mind the person you plan to call. Ask yourself, “How could I best be of service to this person today?” Your answer should be the reason for your call.
2. Prepare a “script.” A better name for this essential tool would be “introduction and talking points.” You don’t want to sound like you are reading lines. Begin with a brief introduction of yourself and the purpose of your call. Say just enough to answer the question “what’s in it for me” for the person you are calling, then check to see if he or she has time to talk.
Your talking points should be mainly made up of questions you wish to ask, and answers to questions he or she may have. Each point should be no more than a breath or two long. If you have to inhale several times to get your words out, you’re making a speech, not having a conversation.
3. Get in the mood. Gritting your teeth is not the best frame of mind for making follow-up calls. Take a few moments to build a positive attitude about the calls you’re about to make.
Remember your highest purpose in doing the work you do, whether that is providing for your family, changing the world, or serving the community. Now, mentally direct that purpose toward the people on your call list. How can you best serve your purpose and their needs at the same time?
4. Make it a conversation. Your talking points should be a loose framework, not an outline that must be covered. Keep your purpose in mind, but let the other person’s responses guide the direction of the call.
Once you learn more about what the person you are calling needs or wants, you’ll be able to offer assistance in a relevant, respectful way. There’s no payoff in launching into a description of your services without knowing whether your listener has any need for them.
5. Ask for the next step. Before you hang up the phone, be sure both of you know what will happen next. This isn’t pushy; it is respectful and professional. Your next step might be an in-person appointment, sending information, or calling again after a length of time. Be clear about it, and get the other person’s permission for what you plan to do.
You may notice that many of these tips suggest you focus on being of service to the other person. That mental shift may be the most important thing you can do to make follow-up calls easier. When your intention is to help people instead of to sell to them, not only will you find it easier to call and follow up via phone, the people you talk to will find it easier to buy.
C.J. Hayden is a San Francisco business coach and the author of Get Clients Now!™ A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches. Since 1992, she’s been coaching self-employed professionals to get clients, get strategic, and get things done. C.J. has written more than 400 articles for publications and websites such as Home Business, RainToday, and About.com, and taught marketing for John F. Kennedy University, Mills College, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.