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Seven Ways to Get Clients to Return Your Phone Calls As anyone in business will tell you, the hardest part of brokering a deal is getting your foot in the door — and in today’s telecommuting world, this means getting your telephone calls returned. Mastering the art of the introductory business call is a tricky proposition, because if you rely on a persuasive physical presence and compelling eye-to-eye contact to help you win a sale, these strengths can be totally lost in a phone call. Likewise, if you’re already involved in a prospective business deal and need to hear from your client, there’s nothing more frustrating than leaving countless messages and getting no response. If you keep leaving more messages, you may come off as obnoxious rather than persistent; and this type of persistency can kill a deal and even ruin the chance of a future business relationship. The good news is that there are ways to improve your phone technique so that your cold calls can sound more compelling and your messages more intriguing. Whether you’re calling a prospective client for the first time or trying to get a promising prospect to call you back, here are seven ways to help you get your phone calls returned: 1. Cold calls can leave you out in the cold. With only the rarest of exceptions, no one is going to do business with a stranger who calls from out of the blue. This means that you’ll need to move heaven and earth to make some sort of personal contact with your potential clients first. Ask to be introduced to them at a business or public event. Once you get their attention, don’t go into a hard sell; instead, just introduce yourself and leave a business card. Then, when you make your phone call, your prospects will be able to put a face to your name. The more personable you were at the meeting, the better chance you’ll have of getting your calls returned. 2. Don’t be vague. Opening lines like “I’ve got a business proposition for you. Can you give me a call?” or “I’ve got a couple of ideas I want to run by you, so call me back” won’t win you any contracts. Business executives aren’t amused by teaser openings. Instead, outline your business and your services in a few effective sentences. If you’re afraid you might start rambling, it might help to rehearse your speech first. If you need to write it down, memorize it; don’t read it. Unless you’re an Oscar-winning actor, a read speech sounds insincere and unprofessional. 3. If you have to leave an introductory message, make it brief and to the point. Your prospective client doesn’t need to hear your entire sales spiel in your initial voicemail. Just briefly state your name, the reason for your call and your contact information. At the end of the call, repeat your name and your contact information — and be sure to speak slowly and clearly. Many a sale is lost when a call is deleted because of garbled names and unintelligible phone numbers. 4. Don’t sound threatening. You’d be surprised at how many callers pepper their phone messages with statements such as, “You have to get back to me today” or “I’m on a deadline, and I’ve got to hear from you immediately.” You can’t rush a prospective client with veiled threats and ultimatums. Unless it’s an emergency, you shouldn’t present it as one. 5. On the flip side, if you’re already in a business relationship with your client and your call requires immediate action, you need to make it clear, calmly but firmly, that it’s in the client’s best interests to return the call as soon as possible. It also helps to hint — but ever so gently — at the consequences. An example of a subtle approach would be, “John, this is Marsha. I need order confirmation by two p.m. today or I won’t be able to ship. Please call me before then. Thank you.” This way, you’ve relayed the purpose, the importance and the consequences — all without sounding too forceful. 6. If you’re calling a new client, be sure to have a few familiar references up your sleeve. For example, if it’s a sales call, then it helps to mention that you’ve already worked with someone familiar to both of you. By naming a mutual friend or business associate as an ice-breaker, you can go a long way toward establishing your own credentials. 7. Be complimentary. Make it clear that this isn’t a random call; rather, you called this prospective client because you admire his or her business practices and industry track record. Be careful, however, not to overdo it. Rather than buttering clients up, it’s far more professional to refer admiringly to their company’s outstanding business reputation. Whether you’re trying to get a colleague to return your calls, or trying to interest a prospective client in your product or service, your phone technique can be one of the most valuable tools in your marketing arsenal. By brushing up your phone skills and using voice mail more effectively, you can make your messages sound compelling enough to warrant a speedy call back.