How to Grab Someone’s Attention and Hold It for More Than a Few Seconds.

Mike picked up the phone. It was some guy selling insurance. The caller began with the ubiquitous “How are you today?” Strike one! Mike knew this guy didn’t give a damn about how he was doing. Then he immediately launched into a list of what he could do for Mike and his company. CLICK! Mike hung up.

I’ve been in sales all my adult life and nothing ticks me off more than a bad sales call. OK, I’ll give anyone who calls me a fair shot. I’ll listen for a short time and I’ll be polite. But, beyond that, I won’t waste my time on poor sales calls. If you expect to make a living in sales, you must learn to make professional sales calls. It’s not that difficult, but you do have to work at it. There are a bazillion resources out there. Many are free. The good ones will quickly pay for themselves.

Look, I understand it’s not easy to get in front of the right people. I struggled with it for years. We live in a world where people are inundated with calls, texts, emails and constant interruptions. Nobody has a spare moment. Just note some of the following statistics:

  • Worldwide there are more than 3.2 billion people on the internet. Sometimes it seems like every one of them wants a piece of your time.
  • The average American gets 35 texts a day, 12 hours of data and spends 30% of every day on email. I have no idea how much time is spent on the phone … I don’t even want to guess.
  • According to Microsoft, the average human has the attention span of a goldfish. That’s 8 seconds.

The bottom line: The people you want to reach are extremely busy. If you don’t grab their attention in the first few seconds, you’re toast. Your goal must be to capture their attention and keep it long enough to engage in a meaningful conversation.

Most of us are surprised when the person we want to talk with answers the phone. Our knee-jerk reaction is to start babbling. We blurt out the usual platitudes and inanities … “How are you today, etc., etc.” Stop. Breathe. Don’t insult people by dishing out the usual insincere garbage.  Your prospects are swamped, they’re multi-tasking. They don’t have time for BS.

“Selling is the art of inspiring people to do what’s in their best interest by helping them get in touch with what’s important to them on a personal, emotional level.”

- Guru Ganesha Khalsa

The above quote strikes at the essence of selling. There’s no way you’re going to inspire your potential customer to do anything unless you get his or her attention. And, there’s no way in hell you’re going to get any kind of favorable attention by making irritating phone calls.

OK. We know that bad phone calls are pretty much guaranteed not to get you anywhere. While there’s no script or technique guaranteed to get you in the door, there are some approaches that work better than others. Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years.

  • It’s all about your attitude and beliefs. You must believe in yourself and the value of what you have to offer. You must believe you can impact the other person’s life for the better … you’re bringing something of value to the table. It’s worth their time to listen to what you have to say.
  • Invest in yourself. OK, there’s no nice way to say this. If you don’t have some basic sales skills, you don’t belong in the business. Maybe you’ll learn with practice, but you’ll burn through a lot of opportunities as you do it. Invest in a good consultative sales training program. It will pay for itself many times over. At a minimum, listen to and observe someone who is already successful.
  • Selling is more about listening than telling. Great salespeople listen to their customers. They take the time to qualify people.  Amateur salespeople talk too much and they try to sell their stuff to anybody unfortunate enough to cross their paths.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

- Stephen Covey

  • People buy for their own reasons … many times not even for their company’s reasons. Certainly, they don’t buy for your reasons. Sometimes they buy despite your reasons. So, don’t guess, don’t assume. Ask! That’s why you have two ears and one mouth. 
  • It’s not about you, it’s about your customer. The first question to cross a person’s mind when they get a call? “Is this worth my time?” It’s the radio station call letters WIIFM (What’s in It for Me?). 

Underline the following and note it well: People don’t care about your stuff. They don’t care about the great campaign your marketing gurus dreamed up. They care about their pain and they want to know if you can help them fix it.

 The First Few Seconds of an Effective Sales Call

Remember the reason you’re calling is to get the other person’s attention. Then you want to hold on to it long enough to have a brief, but meaningful conversation. You do not want to try to sell anything … you have not yet earned that right.

  • Introduction

5 words only!

Hey <their first name>. It’s < your first and last name>.

  • Shut up!

Don’t say another word until the other person replies. This is the best way to get their attention. It forces them to respond. This is hard to do, but you can do it.

  • Setting up the call.

Respond to what the other person says and then position the rest of the call accordingly. Please don’t start rattling off a menu of all the stuff you do. Tell them why you’re calling, but keep it simple. Think of it as a pain-provoking 30 second commercial. For example:

I help <your prospects> who are frustrated/concerned/interested about/because/when/etc. <mention a pain or symptom of the problem>”

Speak slowly and clearly so they hear every word. Remember, the person you’re talking to probably has the attention span of a goldfish, maybe less. He or she will decide to engage with you, or not, in the first few seconds. Make those few seconds count.

That’s it. A simple way to grab someone’s attention in a phone sales call. It’s not about you. It’s about them. The rest of the call is fundamental consultative selling: You get permission to ask some questions, you qualify or disqualify them, and together you agree on what happens next. No hassle, no arm-wrestling. Just two adults having a conversation.

This is not difficult. You can do it. It takes practice, and, above all, it takes the correct mind-set.

Here’s another tip that’s helped me. Be aware that it’s another human being on the phone. Treat them the way you’d like to be treated. It’s just an introductory call to see if there’s a reason to talk further. If there is a common interest, great! If there isn’t, then determine to leave them better than you found them.

I’m Oliver Connolly and I help sales management professionals create sales teams that consistently make their quotas. 

For a bunch of FREE STUFF on sales and sales management go to my website 

Oliver Connolly