This is a sad story. Sad but true. It was a real conversation, ostensibly a sales conversation. This sales conversation, and many others just like it, are happening all over the world. I recount this sad sales conversation here in the hope that everyone may learn from it…
Sales Representative: “I just called to see how things are going.”
Wendy: “Things are going fine. Why are you calling?”
Sales Representative: “I just called to see how things are.”
Wendy: “Things are fine.”
Sales Representative: “OK. Well I’m here if you need me.”
Wendy: “Why should I need you?”
As it turns out, the company this young man represented was supposed to be scheduling a demo of a product for my staff and for me. My wonderful assistant, Kim, usually takes care of scheduling for these types of events. When the rep called, I was working on a program that had an approaching deadline. This company’s demo was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t make the connection and I had absolutely no idea why this rep was calling me. Clearly, neither did he.
“I just called to see how things are going” has to be the lamest follow-up question of all time. Although, it is running neck and neck with, “I just called to follow-up.” Neither question elicits any information, neither moves the sales process forward and both are frequently annoying to your prospect who often has absolutely no idea why you have called.
Now in all fairness, this rep was not the original contact and perhaps the original contact did not give him all of the background. Or perhaps that original contact did not have good notes in the CRM. Either way, this rep should have tried to get some basic information from someone, the original contact or perhaps his manager: “What is the purpose/goal of my call?” “What is the history here?” “Where are we with this prospect?” “What is the next step for this prospect?” Any of these would have sufficed. Then this representative would have had a focus and a goal for his call.
The rule is: Never make a call to your prospect without having a goal in mind. When you hang up the telephone, what do you want to have accomplished? Do you want to gather information? Do you want the prospect to commit to some action? Do you want agreement on the next step in your sales process? Once you have your goal in mind then determine the appropriate approach. (Hint: “I just called to see how things are going” is not it.)