Everybody in sales seems to stress the importance of meeting with prospects and customers face-to-face.

All the books on selling stress it. Sales managers and business owners stress it. But for the most part, I think it’s an unnecessary waste of everybody’s time.

The 80/20 rule says that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your activities. That means that 80 percent of your time is wasted.

Eliminate the wasted time, and you could double your business in a year. Now, how’s that for something to think about. In sales, the goal isn’t to meet every prospect face-to-face. Factor in driving time, reception room waiting time, and small-talk time and a fifteen minute business meeting may take one,
two or more hours of your time.

The goal is to meet with people who are interested in buying something from you face-to-face … after you’ve determined whether or not you’ve got a ‘real’ prospect.

It’s my belief that you can get dramatic increases in your sales and income when you use the phone more effectively. Then after having good — and productive — phone conversations, you should schedule your face-to-face meeting.

Here are two cases in point.

”A Wasted Trip to Long Island”

For the past few weeks I’ve been working with Steve, helping him get better results from his daily sales activity. During a recent conversation he told me of a meeting he had where a sales rep and her manager flew in from Chicago to meet with him for an hour.

Steve lives on Long Island. Two weeks ago he got a phone call from Sally, a sales rep who works for a Chicago-based manufacturing company. She wanted to fly out and meet with Steve to introduce herself and tell him about her company.

Steve said that would be fine, and they scheduled an appointment for Sally and her sales manager to visit him on Wednesday of the following week. On Tuesday, the day before their scheduled meeting Steve received a call from Sally. She was calling to confirm their meeting the following day. Steve told her that it was still on his calendar and that he was looking forward to meeting with them.

To digress for a moment, I know many salespeople who are afraid to confirm meetings because they’re afraid the prospect will cancel the appointment. They’ve got it wrong.

When a prospect cancels a meeting she’s doing you a favor because she’s already telling you that she isn’t interested.

The sales person didn’t do a good enough job of selling the benefit of having the meeting in the first place. (This means that the person’s telephone techniques should be studied and reevaluated.)

What’s the benefit of meeting with someone who doesn’t want to meet with you. And even worse, how would you feel if you got stood up? Now how much time have you wasted? Instead, spend the time looking for a better prospect.

Getting back to Steve’s story, Sally and Tom arrived promptly at 2 p.m. at Steve’s office, and spent the next hour telling him about themselves, their company, and their product line. Steve listened politely, told them that their products looked interesting, and that he would give consideration to carrying their line in the future.

When Sally and Tom asked Steve for more of a commitment he explained that he didn’t think he could do enough volume to warrant a long-term relationship with them.

The meeting ended a few minutes later. Steve went back to work. Sally and Tom got into their car, drove to the airport and flew back to Chicago.

As Steve retold the story to me he offered this observation, “Had Sally spent 15 minutes with me on the phone, and asked some good questions, she could have quickly learned whether or not I would be a good prospect for carrying their line of products.

“Instead she and Tom wasted an entire day — and spent a few thousand dollars — for an unnecessary trip.”

”Shirley Cancels Her Trip To Charlotte”

Shirley, another one of my clients, had run into John at a convention in New Orleans. For several months she had tried to reach him by phone to tell him how her company could be of help and assistance to him and his organization.

Every time she called she came up empty. He was always in a meeting. On the phone. Out of the office.

She left messages, but they were never returned.

During their brief conversation at the convention John was very friendly and said she should give him a call and he would be happy to schedule a meeting with her.

Shirley wrote herself a reminder in her Palm to give John a call. The following Tuesday she called and spoke with Evelyn, John’s assistant.She explained the conversation she had with John the previous week and asked if Evelyn could schedule a meeting with her for John.

Evelyn said she would speak with John and call her back.

Later that afternoon Evelyn called and said that John would be happy to meet with her a week from Wednesday and invited her to come into his office in Charlotte.

A few days later Shirley and I were speaking and she told me of her conversations with John and Evelyn and that she was going to be flying from Houston to Charlotte. I asked her how long it would take. She told me that it’s an all-day trip because she needs to change planes in Atlanta.

“What do you know about John’s situation? What are his top issues? What problems can you help him solve?” I asked. Shirley explained that she hadn’t spoken with John so she didn’t know very much about his situation, issues or problems yet. “That’s why I’m flying to Charlotte.” she said with irritation in her voice.

“But why would you spend an entire day flying from Houston to Charlotte
and spend almost $1,000 for airplane tickets and taxis to meet with someone you’ve not spoken with before? I asked.

This question had her stumped. There was a long pause as she thought about the situation she had gotten herself into.

“What do you suggest I do?” she asked.

“Why don’t you call Evelyn and explain to her that you’ve a conflict and won’t be able to fly to Charlotte next week to meet with John face-to-face, but would like to meet with him by phone at 2 p.m. in the afternoon.”

Shirley thought this was a great idea and said she would call Evelyn later in the afternoon. (She spoke with Evelyn and worked everything out.)

We then spent the rest of our time together creating questions for Shirley to ask John during their telephone conversation. Questions about his goals and objectives. Questions about his biggest challenges in growing his business. Questions about areas where he was served well, and areas where he was looking to improve the quality of services he was receiving.

At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Shirley called and had a wonderful conversation with John. Once she started asking questions, John opened up and told her exactly what it was that he was looking for. Their 30 minute conversation lasted almost an hour. At the phone meeting’s conclusion Shirley said that she would put some things together and send them to John for his review within 24 hours.

They scheduled a call for Monday of the following week and Shirley closed the sale.

Much to her surprise and delight she learned that she could close a sale without ever meeting with her customer face-to-face. She found the phone can be a very effective business tool, when you ask the right questions.

Want to get better results on the phone?

My new training manual “Overcoming the Fear of Cold Calling” walks you through my time-tested methodology of how to use the telephone to get more appointments, create more opportunities, close more sales, and make more money.

Here’s the link to Read More:
http://www.SucceedingInBusiness.com/ColdCallingManual.htm

”’Reprinted with permission from Jeffrey Mayer’s Succeeding In Business Newsletter. (Copyright, 2003, Jeffrey J. Mayer, Succeeding In Business, Inc.) To subscribe to Jeff’s free newsletter, visit:”’ http://www.SucceedingInBusiness.com

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