by Sheryl Tuttle

The C-Suite Executive has a mound of papers on his desk, numerous incoming messages, important meetings to attend, reports to review, emails to send, and presentations to prepare. Besieged with cold-calls and pitches via email and direct mail, he has taken your call. You have about 30-seconds to make that busy executive want to talk to you, and only a few minutes to convert the curious into an appointment.

But how?

Much of what goes into a successful prospect call relates to the art of storytelling. Telling stories is a talent that requires knowledge of the subject matter, interest in the audience, and sincerity at its core.  Here’s five easy ways you can improve your prospect call results right now.

A good opening

It’s not enough to provide your name, company, and a brief description. Your prospect gets several of those calls a day. Your call needs to be different and to stand out.

The easiest and best way to do this is with a little research beforehand. Anything you know about the company can help. Visit their website and their blog if they have one. Check the news and press releases. Tailor your opening statement to include a value proposition that focuses on what they need. They don’t want to know how great you are, but rather how you can help them solve a problem.

Stay true to the plot

Keep focused on the purpose of your call and do not go on and on. Remember you are speaking with a very busy executive. Stay to the point and keep it short and simple.

Deliver with feeling

Don’t read a script or make your call sound rehearsed. Be natural and relaxed, and fluctuate your tone to add emphasis where appropriate. Using variations in pitch and volume adds personality and passion, often eliciting a more enthusiastic response.

Engage with your audience

A good storyteller will “read” their audience, listening and changing direction if needed. Engaging in a successful dialog requires good listening skills too. Make sure your prospect is part of the conversation. Ask questions, then listen. Pause and wait for the response, then ask clarifying questions if needed.

A satisfying ending

Don’t make the prospect guess what you want. Your ending should be clear. If you are calling for an appointment to meet with the prospect, then ask for the appointment.

Challenge 4 U: Make your next prospect call with the zest of a master storyteller. Does your call outcome differ?

It was a quiet day today with most people just back from the holiday break, but I reached ten people in an attempt to schedule new business appointments.    Two of the prospects said no thank you, and eight people said they’d be interested in receiving more information before scheduling to meet.    Mind you, the requests came after some good back and forth dialog, and reviewing the web site.

The prospects, I believed, were truly interested in holding our paper in their hands, adding it to a file, and/or easily sharing the information with colleagues.   The request for more info is offering us another opportunity to tell them about our services.  If you told them on your conversation that you will explain further how your services will improve their business – then tell them how!  Don’t make it a generic letter.

If you do an electronic communication attach a simple power point presentation using real data with the prospects name & logo.  Show them you care about them by taking time to care about what you’re sending them.  If you don’t care, why should they?

Cold Call + request for information = the possibility of pulling them in closer for another dance

Up until now the “send me something” was interpreted as an excuse to get off the phone.   Consider this for a moment…prospects receive dozens of sales calls daily, talking to everyone is impossible, and that out of their day, they took some time to speak to you, acknowledging that they are familiar with what you are talking about, and would likely be able to use the service soon or in the near future – send them information.

In the current b2b climate, I would consider the request for more information to be similar, and quite possibly, as good as a face-to-face introduction.   One adds an appropriate personal note to the document being mailed, building another layer to the new relationship.  If you are from the same city or state, or even familiar with the same part of the country, reference a coffee shop or current hot spot and you’re practically best buds.

Consider the times, and know that a meeting might not be necessary to generate and nurture every potential partner.