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How to approach customers who call, but don´t buy from you

When you receive a call from a person who wants to know things about what you are selling, you can be sure that this person will also call other companies that can deliver similar to, or the same product as you just to compare prices and look for the best terms. Have you ever thought about how you can actually prevent this? No, I guess you haven't. Very few people do and it's really insane! Someone calls and wants to hire you and the only thing you do, is to give him/her the standard routine for an answer and hope for the best.

But that's all over now. This is what you will do in the future:

You must be fast as heck to create value for the customer. This fuzzy word ”value” is simply something that will make people feel like you have more to offer than the competition. It can be something as simple as a friendly reception, a quick reply or a person that seems interesting over the phone.

Most telephone inquiries that you get and that leads nowhere fail because you fail to get the caller to realize that you understand what they want and that you are capable of delivering just that to them.
Are you with me?  Good. If the customer doesn't immediately think that you can solve their problems in a good way and without major risks, then the client will continue searching for a solution. Simply put: If you can't get your customer to believe in you, you will force the customers to do a terrible thing: Call your competitors.

This is how the vast majority of purchasing situations work:

Once you have proved to your customer that they've called a nice company they will start to relax a bit. Your job is always to try to maintain the emotional advantage. In plain English: Make the customers like you. If you can get the customer to go from ”looking for a solution” to ”I have probably found the solution”, then you're almost home free because the customer is emotionally attached to the solution that he/she has found in you.

Once you've got the client to invest his/her emotions in what you are selling, he/she begins to tell his/her boss, co-workers and others that he/she has found the solution to the problem. And when he/she has invested in your solution, he/she can't choose another solution unless you screw up and give him/her a reason to look for another solution. This is actually the way all buyers think and act.

Put on your customer's shoes or your own when you are shopping at your own company:

Think about the last time you wanted to buy something. Once you had decided to make the purchase, perhaps you approached a particular seller (perhaps the first positive name you associate with the thing you wanted to buy). How quickly do you lose your desire to buy if they can't resolve your problem or don't respond quickly enough to your request?  Most people who don't get an immediate response in a positive way, proceed quickly to the next available company. It's strange that they don't react, you're offering them your hard earned money, but they show no enthusiasm for it. Bye, bye (as my daughter would say).

And this kind of thing happens all the time. Why would you, as a customer, wait to buy an item or service from an irresponsible or uninterested provider? You don't. Nor do your customers.

Actually, it's about something as petty as the law of the least resistance. It's the same for everyone, trying to sell stuff: Our job is to remove all obstacles that prevents a sale. The easier it is to buy, the more we sell. If you let your customers wait too long they will move and find someone else instead. If it's too complicated to buy from you - same thing. If your customers don't believe in YOU, they won't bother to read any information about what you are selling either. The customer must believe in YOUR ability to acknowledge and solve their problem and that you will be able to deliver a solution - otherwise, they will start looking for alternatives (a.k.a.”I'll think about it and come back to you”).

And I'm going to nag even more about this: When a customer calls you, you have a great opportunity to create a solution to the problems they present if you just listen properly. What starts with a simple question can become a big deal if you just approach the customer properly and carefully examine why the customer is calling you. There is nothing more beautiful than as a customer meeting a person who is genuinely interested in my problem and who takes it seriously.

OK, we have set up a few rules that you can stick to in order to cope with all of this:

Rule 1 - Creating credibility
Never end a conversation before you have either: 1. Solved the problem or 2. Made every effort to create a trust in you and your solution. There may be several reasons why a solution to the problem can't be made immediately. In these cases: 1. Ensure that the client waits on the line while you ask anyone who may have a solution or 2. Ensure that the client understands that you will solve the problem and call back within a specified time.

Rule 2 - Lead the customer into a conversation that is about the solution to the problem and create a commitment from the customer
You do this by asking questions like these:
- “If we can solve A (the main problem) and B (a contrived supplement) without C (that pesky problem) occurring, would that be a satisfactory solution?”
- “How soon do you want a solution to the problem? If we can solve the problem within the time frame you want, what could be an obstacle for you to hire us?”

If the customer doesn't say anything about this, you can go ahead and make sure you get what you need to get started. Now that the customer has made a commitment to you and your solution, it's unlikely that they would even think about contacting someone else until you have developed the technicalities and by then you have time on your side. It takes time to contact new suppliers to get the problem presented separately and it takes time for them to come up with their solution. If your customer turns to another provider, you're still ahead because you've had time to hone in on your offer and your potential competitors will not have the time to do the same. You win.

Homework: Practice immediately to capture the next person who calls you.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
You run a small business and you want to get ahead of the competition, but how can you give resources to marketing when you're short on time and the budget is tight? The solution is here! The 5-Minute Marketer is packed with 395 tried-and-tested ways to market your business in 5 minutes or less.