“While we can learn a great deal about a client during the phone interview, it’s all for naught if they walk.”
The Prospect Phone Interview Continued
In part 1 of our series, we looked at many of the questions that can preoccupy or concern pet sitters when they think about the Prospect Phone Interview. While many of them are important, no question is more important than the question of “how do I convert a Prospect into a Client?” The initial “client interview” as its often termed, is actually a two-way educational vehicle. Not only are we learning about potential clients, they’re learning about us and they’re forming judgments about our business. While we can learn a great deal about a client during the interview, it’s all for naught if they walk. So, we have a small amount of time to make a big impression.
There are two main parts of a good telephone interview and one underlying element that ties them both together. The one underlying thing that makes the interview cohesive is value. The better we communication our values, the more likely we are to convert prospects into clients. So what are some good, basic strategies to communicating our values?
20-Questions: A Game, Lunch or Both?
Not surprisingly, there are some basic elements of any successful, telephone-sales interview. Stated very simply, those “basics” are aimed at achieving two outcomes. Those two outcomes are the two main parts of a good telephone interview:
- Understanding the Prospect’s needs – needs assessment
- “Fulfillment”of client’s needs through value
Now, the majority of pet sitters (and business schools for that matter) translate Step 1 above into: “prepare a series of questions to identify the prospects needs.” In fact, there’s an entire sub-culture of marketing filled with research analysts paid to identify interview questions for their clientele. So, its not surprising that a lot of pet sitters end up drilling callers with a bunch of pre-scripted, rote questions. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and place for heavily-scripted questions, like when you order lunch. And even then, the questions can get very tedious, very fast. Take the other day, for example, when I had a hankering for Thai food:
The guy behind the counter: “Are you ready?”
“What can I get for you?”
“I’ll have your Pad Thai, please.”
“Small or large?”
“Regular or Green?”
“We replace the noodles with organic greens.”
“Really? Is that even still Pad Thai?”
“Yep. Just Green.”
“Would you like to add meat?”
“Yes, shrimp, please.”
“Great. What kind of glaze would you like on that?”
“Can I just get plain, grilled shrimp?
“Will that be for here or to-go?”
“Would you like a drink?”
“What can I get you?”
“Sorry. Small fountain drink, please”
“We only have one-size.”
“Do you want that in a to-go cup or a regular cup?”
“And would you like dessert today?”
“Would you like your receipt?
“Sorry, I know that’s a lot of questions.”
Right? A person could go numb or totally lose their appetite during all of that. It’s like their food was a reward for enduring their ordering process. I signed up for their Pad Thai not an obstacle course. Likewise, shouldn’t any interview that needs an apology at the end be considered an automatic Fail? Which brings up a great question: should a client ever feel like they have to endure anything? Shouldn’t our aim always be client-enrichment?
“Shouldn’t our aim always be client-enrichment?”
That’s not to say you don’t need to ask questions, you do. What you don’t want is for your Prospect to lose their appetite answering your questions. Right? The interview needs to be conversational, like they’re speaking with a friend. So where do pet sitters, using scripted interview questions, go wrong? Why do Prospects feel like they’ve experienced something impersonal, that businesses don’t care, or like they’ve just been through an assembly-line?
Process vs. Relationship
Let’s start at the beginning again. Let’s take a look at the word “understanding.” Step One above is “Understanding the Prospect’s Needs.” So, given the context, what is the first authentic step in understanding someone’s needs? That is, what’s the prerequisite to “understanding?”
The first step in understanding is “care.” Caring about who’s in front of you by being present, interested, concerned and responsive. Caring is the first step in understanding their needs. In fact, the origin of the word “understanding” beyond “grasping the meaning of” means “to stand in the midst with” to “receive” and “to be close to.”
“Care” is the critical difference between process and relationship. If someone feels they are merely a “step” in a process, they’re not going to feel very warm and fuzzy. They’ll intuit they’re being viewed as a sale not a person. We want them to feel they’ve met a fun, knowledgeable and professional person who cares about their needs.
So, you want that phone call to be the first step in a long and lasting relationship. The interview needs to feel conversational – like they’re talking to a friend.
To begin, it’s estimated that between 8-12% of Prospects go elsewhere because they feel uncared for by their first point-of-contact. So, it follows that the first way a business demonstrates they care is by answering their phone in a timely manner – specifically, by the third ring. If your phone rolls to voice-mail or to an auto-attendant, you’ve already demonstrated you don’t care. Needless to say, that’s a death blow if you’re actually in the care industry.
“…that’s a Death Blow if you’re actually in the care industry.”
Like a handshake, a phone caller’s impression of you will be positive or negative based on the first 10-seconds of your interaction.
There are several “dos” and “don’ts” that go directly to good or bad business practices:
- Don’t make them ask if they’ve reached your business. That makes their first interaction with you confusing. So…
- Don’t merely say: “Hello.” It’s not your Mama calling.
- Don’t say “Hello, this is Mike.” 1st time callers are expecting a business, not a Mike.
- Answer the phone promptly
- Use a friendly tone
- Thank them
- Identify Your business name
- Introduce yourself
“Thanks for calling A Dog’s Life, this is Mike.”
If you’ve answered your phone, that means you’re prepared to demonstrate you care, by exemplifying the 3-Value Attributes associated with Step 1 of your Needs Assessment:
Needs Assessment – Practicing Value Attributes to Understand Prospects Needs
1. Practice Pro-Active Listening to:
- Show that you’re interested in them
- Repeat what bears repeating to show you’re on the same page
- Communicate you understand and share their concerns
- Sympathize with challenges that concern them
- Empathize with emotions they share
- Learn important details like who, what, where, when and why
- Be responsive to the underlying concerns behind any questions they ask
2. Be Interested in Learning About Them – Ask Open-Ended Questions to learn:
- Who they are
- Who their pets are
- What their care needs are
- Why they need care
- When they need care
3. Show You Understand Their Main Concerns:
- Welfare or health of their pet
- Price or payment options
- Flexibility of your Scheduling
- Scope of your Availability
- Your Behavior knowledge
- Your Experience
- Your Bona Fides
Giving Prospects Value to Fulfill Their Needs
If you’ve done all the above correctly, you will know exactly how to address their needs, as they’ve expressed them. For example, if they’re concerned about health and welfare issues, let them know you have experience with pets who have had similar issues and are pet 1st aid certified. If they’re concerned about cancelling and refunds, let them know how flexible and responsive you are to schedule changes and understand how hectic their work schedule can be.
Know that you have one opportunity to make a good first impression. People “calling back” a/k/a Be Backs, often don’t and every hour that passes decreases the likelihood that they will. If your Prospect Phone Interview doesn’t end in a scheduled Meet & Greet, you’ve likely lost the Prospect. So keep it up-beat, listen and be responsive to what they’ve shared with you.
Please check back for our next post in this series.
© 2015 | The Carewright, LLC. This blog post is the intellectual property of The Carewright, LLC and cannot be shared or used for derivative works without the express written permission of The Carewright, LLC.
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