There are a million bits of advice on whether or not you should open up a call asking how someone is. Almost every article I’ve read recently has heavily sided with one word: “never.”
I disagree with that.
However, there is one and only one way I’ve seen asking “How are you today?” effectively every single time. This technique is hard to do well. I’ve taught people how to do it, but even I prefer to not use it because it doesn’t suit my style.
Right now you might be wondering, if it’s hard to do well, why bother?
Because I’ve never seen anything break the ice as quickly and consistently as this technique. If nothing else learning it will help you understand how to conduct a better sales call even if you never use it once in your entire life.
Let’s start with how sales reps get asking “How are you?” wrong.
Most calls go like this:
“Hi Prospect, this is Jonathan with ACME Corp, how are you?”
“Great! I’m calling because…”
Re-read that exchange one more time before moving on.
Now tell me, if you ran into a friend and asked them “how are you?” and they said, “I’m fine,” what would you answer with? My guess is answering with “Great!” isn’t even on the list, unless you and your friend live and breathe sarcasm.
It’s completely inappropriate to say that to your friend.
Yet this is what sales reps do, even veteran reps.
Here’s the worst part: most prospectors will have a low connect rate. Nowadays 15% is a strong connect rate. I’ve seen a lot of connect rates around 10-12%, and some are as low as 5%. The person at the other end of the line rarely picks up and instead of getting a real live human being they get a half-hearted “how are you?” followed by the sound of a canned pitch getting opened.
This is one major reason prospects are more than willing to tell you they’re too busy, to send an email, or that they’re they’re all set.
It’s why they’ll say they’re “not interested” after not listening to your pitch.
Prospects have no idea what they’re turning down and they don’t care. The name of the game is to get the pesky salesperson off the phone and get back to REAL work. It’s not their job to listen to you, it’s your job to earn a moment to speak with them.
If you’re going to ask “how are you today?” you better be ready to react to their response.
There are two key things you will have to do to make this work well.
First, your immediate response is crucial. You need to convey that you heard them. Not just their words but their tone of voice. Your response needs to be the same reaction you’d have for a friend.
Say the prospect picks up and says “I’m fine.” She sounds busy, rushed, and probably waiting to drop a killer “not interested” right as you wrap up your pitch so she can go back to anything other than talking to you. What should you say?
Start by acknowledging what you’re picking up on. “It sounds like you’re busy so I’ll be brief.” It’s a simple sentence, yet it let’s the prospect know that you’ve heard them, both their words and their tone.
Let’s walk through the exact opposite scenario to see what I mean by this.
If she picks up and says, “I’m doing great, how are you today?!?” Acknowledge how rare a treat it is to get a prospect who sounds delighted to get your phone call today.
“I’m doing well! You’re the happiest person I’ve spoken with today, I’m curious, what’s your secret?”
Have a little fun with it. Nothing over the top, just one good sentence.
The second thing you need is a pitch that fits both of these scenarios.
That might sound crazy to you, but it’s not. I know, these scenarios sound completely different. One prospect is busy and ready to run you off the phone, while the other one sounds ready to spend an hour chatting with you. Most of the time you don’t have to change anything.
The key is that what you say next needs to be short enough for the busy prospect in mind with a close that fits the scenario.
This is where so many people go wrong. This doesn’t mean you should have a one size fits all canned sales pitch, this means that where you take the call from here should basically be the same.
Let me give you two simplified examples I’ve used before.
“Prospect, the reason to my call is we help companies like yours get more leads and conversions organically through their website. Do you have just 30 seconds so I can give you a thumbnail sketch of that?”
Take a moment to walk through both scenarios in your head. Do you feel either prospect would be turned off by asking for 30 seconds? I know they won’t – if the prospect is going listen they will let you talk, and if they’re to hang up on you they’re going to end the call.
The second example to consider.
“Prospect, the reason for my call is we help companies like yours get better insights across their sales team. Our clients are able to manage their pipeline better to win more deals, quickly see areas to help individually coach their reps, and have the peace of mind that they will forecast accurately to the CEO and board members. I’m only looking for 5 minutes to see if this could be a good fit, so if now works could I ask you a few questions to better understand….”
Read the second pitch out loud and you’ll realize it’s short and to the point. If you’re busy you’ll feel like I gave you a quick pitch out of respect. If you were talkative I gave you enough value before asking for a longer conversation.
In both instances the pitch is short and to the point.
Fun question: are there any added benefits to asking “how are you today?”
Yes, there’s one. It takes someone an average of 18 seconds to disconnect from what they were doing when they pick up the phone before fully engaging in a new conversation. Asking “how are you today?” Gets the clock ticking in your favor.
In a world where no one picks up the phone, you need every advantage you can get.