Not all client encounters are face-to-face. Many potential clients will come to your office not in person, but by telephone. Perhaps they are responding to an advertisement in the local newspaper or calling in after visiting your web site. Maybe they are a referral from an existing client. Regardless of the origin of the call, however, you have a scant few seconds to make a good first impression and to channel the client into the buying process. If any portion of your travel consultation occurs via the telephone, it is important to give due consideration to the skills necessary to successfully establish a long-distance relationship.
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At the most basic level, working on the telephone is much the same as working in person. You still must build a rapport with the client. It is still necessary to instill a sense of competence. You must speak to benefits and bring any hidden objections to light. However, on the phone you must do these things without the visual cues on which we depend for so much of our conversational skills. We have to substitute our tone of voice, inflection, choice of vocabulary and telephone persona instead.
Firstly, make sure your telephone equipment is up to par. Poor telephone reception on your client’s part is forgivable. Poor telephone reception on your part is not. If your technology of choice cannot achieve 100% clarity, ditch it before it costs you credibility. Voice over IP is a wonderful thing – when it works. That goes for your cell phone service provider as well. Likewise, make sure your voice mail is short, to the point and personalized. Answer the phone professionally and eliminate background noise.
Prior to initiating a phone call, take a moment to visualize and mentally rehearse. Professionals prepare. Likewise, take the time to prepare a checklist of important items for either inbound or outbound telephone calls. Don’t use the checklist like a canned script. Rather, use your telephone talking points as a reference to ensure that you cover all of the important elements each time you speak on the phone.
The first item on your telephone check list should be “Smile!” While the person on the other end of the phone can not see you, a smile shifts your attitude and will lift your spirits and those of the person with whom you are speaking. Use a clear voice and moderate your tone. Don’t use unfamiliar vocabulary words, and slow down so you can be understood easily. Don’t introduce nervousness into the call by speaking too quickly or loudly. However, keep your energy and enthusiasm high.
Listen carefully and take notes. Don’t multitask! If the person on the other end of the phone senses that you are not giving them 100% of your attention, you are unlikely to earn a client. To the extent possible use open ended questions to get the caller to speak to you. Open ended questions cannot be answered by a simple “Yes” or “No”. Don’t interview the caller, hold a conversation with them.
Have available on your web site the collateral material you would most like the client to see – testimonials and information on the benefits of doing business with you. Refer to those materials on the telephone call as needed to assist you in establishing your credentials and credibility.
After each call, record your impressions and observations. Make notes for improvement. If you find yourself losing customers after your phone sessions, or if your success ratios on the phone are weak, have a trusted third party listen in or practice with you.
Travel consultants spend a lot of time on the phone. Improve your telephone techniques and you will have more clients calling more often.