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Do you sell on the telephone? You had better know what to say to prospects to quickly engage them in a sales conversation if you do. A recent salesman’s blunder had me quickly hanging up the telephone. Here’s what happened.

I am a long time customer of a national pest control company. Bugs are part of life if you live in the South or Southwest.   The company just launched a new service to rid outdoor spaces of mosquitoes. I’m an avid gardener who unfortunately happens to be a gourmet meal for most mosquitoes. That’s when I got the telephone call to sell me mosquito elimination services.

The caller introduced herself and her company. Since I was already a customer, I knew who they were. Here’s what she did wrong. She asked me, “Do you want to hear about our mosquito elimination service?”

I have a client who sells the same service so I was very familiar with the service. When she called I didn’t have the time to hear what she had to offer. Her question didn’t involve me in a conversation. It didn’t pique my curiosity either.

What she should have asked is a question that got me talking, that couldn’t be answered with a simple yes or no, and filtered out those who were not prospects. She could have engaged me in a conversation if she asked me, “How are you getting rid of those annoying mosquitoes in your yard?”

First, this question assumes I have mosquitoes. If I weren’t a person using my outdoor space, that would have eliminated all those who aren’t prospects. I would have replied, “I don’t notice them,” or “I never go outside.”

Remember, telephone selling is harder. You want to quickly get to ideal prospects or those who will buy so that means eliminating quickly those who are not prospects.

By asking “how,” it ensures I can’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” “No” closes the conversation. A prospect who starts talking is more likely to stay on the telephone. That might lead to a sale.

The better question also uncovers what the prospect might have done that didn’t work or was a hassle. If I had said, “I treat my yard myself,” then a good salesman would have asked, “How much time are you taking to do that? Is there something else you could be doing that you would enjoy more?”

If you sell on the telephone, how you start your telephone calls is a strong predictor of your sales success. You engage prospects when you think strategically. Stop smiling and dialing. Instead, think before you dial.

About Maura Schreier-Fleming

Maura Schreier-Fleming is president of Best@Sellinga sales training and sales consulting company. She works with business and sales professionals to increase sales and earn larger profits. She is the author of Real-World Selling for Out-of-this-World Results and Monday Morning Sales Tips. Maura focuses on sales strategies and tactics that lead to better sales results. She speaks internationally on influence, selling skills, and strategic selling at trade association and sales meetings, demonstrating how her principles can be applied to get results. She successfully worked for over 20 years in the male-dominated oil industry with two major corporations, beginning at Mobil Oil and ending at Chevron Corp. She was Mobil Oil’s first female lubrication engineer in the U.S. and was one of Chevron’s top five salespeople in the U.S. having sold over $9 million annually. Maura writes several columns to share her sales philosophies. She's been quoted in the New York Times, Selling Power, and Entrepreneur.