Introductory meetings have been taking place for as long as there have been sales professionals, but lately, it seems to be more popular to schedule that first meeting over the telephone. An introductory call makes sense because it’s a great way to get to know one another while saving both professionals time and travel expenses (which feels even better if the pairing isn’t a fit for future collaboration after all). However, convenience often inspires informality (because you’d be “meeting” over the phone, your contact can’t see whether you’re dressed and ready to go or lounging around in pajamas) but being too relaxed on your call can produce lackluster results.
Five common issues on introductory calls may be destroying your potential relationships; they are:
1. Lack of Purpose
Every time you contact someone in a professional context, you should set a goal for that interaction. Setting a goal fills two roles; each one is important. First, a good goal will give your conversation a clear direction (helping you reduce wasted time in finding the point) and, second, it will require you to organize your thoughts prior to the call (making you sound more poised and professional).
What lack of purpose sounds like: “So… what do you want to talk about?”
What purpose sounds like: “I’m so glad we could chat today; I’m looking forward to obtaining a better understanding of you and your business. I have a few questions about…”
How you accomplish this: Before you schedule an introductory call, consider the reason why you would dedicate your time to this meeting. Then, dig a little deeper to create a good goal for your call.
2. Lack of Research
By doing your homework, you are equipping yourself with the right frame of reference for your participation in the call. Within this context, you will waste less time (focusing on relevant information instead of generalities) and convey your interest properly (making your new contact feel valued). From the topics you discuss to the specific words and phrases you use, make your call more productive by tailoring it to your new contact.
What lack of research sounds like: “Um, what’s your company called? What do you guys do?”
What research sounds like: “I understand that When I Need Help is focused on sales and marketing support for trade show exhibitors; is that accurate?” (they say yes) “Okay, then, aside from improved exhibiting return on investment, what are the biggest benefits your clients enjoy?”
How you accomplish this: Study your contact and study yourself (specifically, review any areas in which your contact is most likely to be interested) in preparation for your call.
3. Lack of Balance
The rule of thumb for networking is that you should encourage your contact to do the majority of the talking; however, over the phone, it is important that the conversation be more balanced. Beyond the obvious benefit (both parties learn something substantial about one another), sharing the talk time means that you will be better able to maintain the attention of your contact and yourself (the lack of visual accountability may be a temptation to check e-mail, play on social media sites, eat a snack, or become otherwise distracted).
What lack of balance sounds like: “Where did you go to school? (without pausing) I went to the University of Tennessee and loved it… (still talking 5 minutes later) …Oh, sorry, were you trying to say something? (without pausing) Anyway, as I was saying…”
What balance sounds like: “Oh, cool – I went to school in the south as well, at UT-Knoxville. It’s such a beautiful part of the country; I haven’t moved since! What do you like best about your current city?”
How you accomplish this: Be concise in answering questions and then elaborate with relevant information where appropriate; engage your new contact by asking thoughtful questions. Also, have patience and practice active listening skills to remain focused throughout the call.
4. Lack of Humility
While confidence can be inspiring, arrogance can be offensive and annoying. A sense of humility reminds you to look for the special qualities each professional brings to the table ensuring that your contact has an opportunity to shine as well. Even if you sincerely feel that you are beyond superior in every way, by treating your new contact with respect, you may be able to glean something useful from your conversation.
What lack of humility sounds like: “Oh really? Your company has been in business for three years? We’re way past that – we’ve been in business about a million!”
What humility sound like: “Oh really? Your company has been in business for three years? What an exciting time! What has been the most rewarding part so far?”
How you accomplish this: Avoid comparing your accomplishments to your new contact’s (saving even friendly competition until you know one another a bit better); instead, show an interest in their current situation and focus on appreciating the value of their unique perspective.
5. Lack of Selflessness
During an introductory call, you should be trying to form a relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties but, in order to do that, both parties have to give a little. Knowing it’s rude to demand a favor (especially from someone you don’t really know), YOU have to give first. By showing selflessness, you are on your way to earning the other person’s trust and giving them a reason to feel good about helping you too.
What lack of selflessness sounds like: “Sweet! So, obviously, you’ll refer your best clients to me and give me free advice whenever I need it, right?”
What selflessness sounds like: “When we hang up, I’ll look through my contact list for anyone who might fit into your target audience and, if you’d like, I’d be happy to make any appropriate introductions.”
How you accomplish this: Focus on helping your new contact first and then, only if they don’t reciprocate by offering their own suggestions and it seems appropriate, casually offer to assist with a brainstorming session to help them uncover the ways in which they can help you too.
Whether you’re scheduling introductory calls with potential partners, prospects, or random acquaintances, as they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression. So, even if your first impression is over the phone, don’t make the wrong one. Avoiding the five common issues discussed in this article will make it easier to build profitable relationships through your introductory calls.