5 Questions that Convert Inbound Phone Leads into Sales

Written by Devon Eddy
Published on May 24, 2018

Your business don’t grow if your phone don’t ring. Excuse the bad grammar, but that previous sentence pretty much sums it all up.

You’ve worked hard and paid good money to generate inbound phone leads that have a possible interest in buying from you. So, when prospects do actually take the time to call your business, sometimes you have only one shot to convert those inbound phone leads into sales.

How? Easy. Questions are the key. Here at LeadsForward, we help our clients learn how to use 5 simple but powerful questions that keep prospects talking. These are straightforward and effective questions that convert inbound phone leads into sales by revealing crucial details about each prospect -- helping you get closer to a deal with them.

Plus, the prospect’s answers will provide you with important info that enables you to keep them as a long-term, satisfied customer -- who can also give great referrals and positive references for your business.

It’s not hard to succeed at inbound phone sales. Frankly, you can do just fine without investing in expensive inbound phone sales training.

But, if you are investing in lead generation services or managing your own phone sales team, it’s crucial to stay focused and efficient.

Now for the 5 Questions to Convert Inbound Phone Leads into Sales

raising your prices will make sales increase

Okay, by now you and your marketing department or creative co-worker have come up with a page or so of pre-designed and pre-rinsed descriptive phrases. You are locked and loaded to start asking these 5 crucial questions to inbound phone leads:

Remember, establish some rapport with the caller before diving into these questions. Yes, just a little small talk goes a long way in the early stages.

Question #1: Can you tell me a little bit more about what you have in mind?

This is a nice way of saying to the prospect: “Get your thoughts together, and focus on your desired outcome. Then I can figure out where I plug in to help you.”

It’s an extremely open question, and a good conversation starter. It helps the prospect achieve the proverbial phrase “begin with the end in mind.”

You’ll find different prospects will interpret this question in a wide variety of ways. That’s actually what makes this question so powerful for you. The prospect’s explanation will typically focus on the aspects and elements that are most important to that prospect.

It’s a true tell. If you were playing poker, it’s like the prospect showed you his hand before you even placed a bet.

The prospect will likely talk quite a while, trying to convey his vision or needs -- in order to attempt something like a Vulcan mind-meld with you via phone.

Your job at this point is to just keep up with the prospect, capturing the main essence of what she wants and what’s most important to him. Write notes during the conversation, so you can bring back those main points later when you’re recapping the conversation and closing the deal.

This first question will kick-start your fact-finding process, so you can determine if your company even provides the sort of solution the prospect is looking for.

It also makes it very easy to ask the right discovery questions -- as follow-ups during this initial part of the conversation. Learn as much as you can from the prospect, by asking for clarifications or more details.

Climb aboard the clue train!

Obviously, some callers won’t always know what they need, or for what they are specifically looking. This type of situation is typically a more favorable opportunity for you. They are asking for your advice and help.

With just a few follow-up questions, you can help them determine their desired outcome -- even though they don’t know how to achieve it yet. Of course you’re going to naturally steer the conversation toward the benefits of your specific products or services that meet their needs.

And you already have your handy cheat sheet that will help you.

Question #2 – What is your previous experience with this product or service?

This question achieves several things for you.

  1. It helps you determine the prospect’s level of detail and knowledge, so you know what level of simplicity or difficulty to discuss your offerings or solutions.
  2. This question helps unravel the extent of the challenges the prospect has faced prior to calling you. This gives you leverage later in your negotiations and closing process.
  3. It gives you the opportunity to highlight how your company’s product or service specifically addresses the exact concerns or situations your prospect is facing. Now’s your chance to set yourself apart. (Remember that cheat sheet? Refer to it as a foundation, restating your benefit statements with the prospect’s issues as an example.)

Question #3 – What kind of research have you already done about this?

This question usually causes the prospect to reveal the other competitors or options he is considering -- or not. It lets you know who or what you’re up against.

Again, this type of information helps you later, especially when counteracting rebuttals while you’re trying to seal the deal. Even if the prospect is cagey and won’t tell you the competitors he’s already talked to, he may inadvertently reveal his level of knowledge by the terminology he uses -- or not. This helps you better connect with him on his level.

Question #4 – How quickly do you need this done?

A straightforward question like this goes a long way.

  1. You can determine right away if the prospect’s timeline is even achievable for your company. It’s up to you if want to negotiate a more reasonable delivery date.
  2. You can assess how the prospect’s desired completion date will affect your pricing. For example, if you’ve got plenty of business and don’t really need to win this prospect’s business -- then you can price your offering higher than usual, with a realistic delivery date you can actually achieve. If he actually accepts your higher bid, then you’ve just made a bigger profit for your company!
  3. If the prospect doesn’t have any other options, he will be more likely to pay the higher price on your timeline -- simply because he needs to achieve his goal. Sometimes a prospect’s stated deadline is just a stab in the dark, or a starting point for his negotiations with you. It’s amazing how a prospect’s previous deadline becomes less urgent or important later in the discussions, as long as he has a clearer picture of the solution you offer and the benefits you will provide to him.

Question #5 – What day are you available for a service appointment?

Or, for a product, ask “Would (day) be soon enough for the product to be delivered?” The prospect’s answer (or hesitance) is a great indicator of how much more information or negotiations are needed before he’s ready to commit to buying from you.

The underlying message you’re also conveying is this: “I get what’s important to you. I understand your situation better now, because of our conversation generated by the previous question.”

The prospect also has to determine if he’s willing to invest the same amount of explanation again to a competitor. If he’s up against a wall, or just tired of continuing his search for a solution, he will be more likely to just proceed toward finalizing the deal with you.

Assume the close. If you’ve asked all or most of the previous questions we’ve described, sometime you don’t even have to negotiate much at all. Just finalize the order. That’s because the prospect will become comfortable with you and your solution. He will essentially close the deal by himself -- or will only need just a little nudge or a final reassurance from you.

Inbound phone leads are golden leads

You know from personal experience that it’s harder than hell to make people even answer their phones when YOU call THEM. Usually, you get voicemail.

Then you have to follow up with a detailed email about what you said in your voicemail. You know, in case your email “got lost” among the hundreds of other emails they get in their inbox every day. Most of which they usually ignore anyway.

Then you have to send them a text, to let them know that you sent them an email, about the voicemail you left them.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tiring, isn’t it? All that effort and separate steps you had to do -- just about one single outbound phone call you made to a prospect. No wonder some business owners and salespeople hate making outbound phone calls.

Plus, outbound calls are often just cold calls. So, you don’t even know if that prospect even needs your product or service. If he does need it, he may not even want to talk to your business at all.

Wait, hold the phone!

However, if prospects have taken the time and effort to actually call YOU, that is a very strong indication that they are closer to a buying decision. Why else would they call?

Sure, they may be putting out feelers. Or “just checking prices” around town. Or even trying to get some free advice.

So what. At least they called YOU.

You probably have a few competitors they could have called instead.

But they didn’t. This prospect called YOU.

Be glad, don’t blab.

Take advantage of this rare opportunity when a prospect calls you. Stop what you are doing in that instant and focus on the phone call. Don’t let that potential income just evaporate because you’re busy doing something else.

Likewise, don’t waste an inbound phone lead by talking too much about yourself or your business. Why? Because the prospect has probably already done some internet research about you before they even dialed your number.

They’ve probably already visited your website, to learn the basics about your company. Chances are they’ve probably also tried to check out your reviews and references online, too.

So, they’ve already determined that you are worthy enough to call. Now they want specific answers, relating to their own situation and specific needs/goals. They can’t get that level of detail from a computer screen anymore. That’s why they’ve decided to call you for the detailed information they need at this phase of their decision-making process.

Ring Ring. Let’s get ready to rumble!

If they call you, you’ve made it to round one. The first cut. You are now one of the select few businesses who made it onto the list of the prospect’s potential vendors -- at least during this initial stage of consideration.

Whatever you do, don’t let that customer off the phone until you’ve worked through a specific set of steps, like the ones we’re going to explain to you later in this article.

The overall goal of every inbound call is to always inch closer to a close. Questions are the key to a successful deal. We’ll tell you how to ask the right questions at the right time during every inbound call.

Only one chance to make a good first impression

Yes, it IS just like your parents told you. Good first impressions go a long way on the phone, but in a very short amount of time.

By end of the first minute of that phone conversation, you want to make sure your customer already feels like their phone call was worth it. The prospect must have the confidence that your company is worthy of further consideration as a possible solution to their problem or goal.

But you don’t achieve that by talking excessively about yourself or your company.

You do that by listening. All you need to do is ask a few good questions, then shut up. Listen. Take good written notes. Then just let the the prospect tell you exactly what he needs. Along the way, the prospect will most likely tell you the primary issues and key points that are crucial to his decision.

Is there any other way?

Maybe you’ve advertised on TV or radio. Perhaps you’re investing in search engine marketing, or you’ve optimized your website for certain keywords. You probably tried buying a few contractor leads from a list company. All with varying levels of success and failure.

Or, you’ve hired a lead generation firm like LeadsForward to do all the prep work and heavy lifting for you...in order to get hot, actionable leads.

Sure, you probably get some email leads, website prospects, social media visitors, and some text message leads -- but in comparison, inbound phone leads are typically BETTER leads that have a higher closing ratio than digital leads. That’s because if someone’s picking up the phone instead of sending an email or text, they are usually farther down the path toward a buying decision.

So, how can you make the most of those precious inbound phone leads?

Use an Inbound Sales Call Script, But Don’t Sound Scripted

why are inbound leads so much betterScript is probably not the best word for this situation. That’s because some people automatically think they need to memorize a script. Or they feel they need to recite it back perfectly each time for every inbound phone lead.

Don’t. You. Dare.

That’s NOT how to handle inbound sales calls. If there is such a thing as buzzkill for inbound leads, it’s a sales rep that sounds like a phone robot.

So instead, your inbound sales call script is really a “cheat sheet” list of key points and important descriptive phrases about your products and services. Also, create the same sort of “one-liners” about some of the major differentiators that make your company special and memorable.

Then mix and match your golden morsels of conversational goodness as needed during your phone conversation, based upon the prospect’s interests.

The goal here is to prepare a collection of phrases that are catchy and easy-to-say, to utilize during various parts of the phone conversation when the time is right. This helps you avoid trying to think up something clever and memorable on the spot. Or stumbling over your words and saying “uh” and “um” too many times while you’re attempting to convey a key point about your company in response to the prospect’s questions.

You might want to ask your marketing department to help out with these sorts of talking points. Or enlist the help of one of your more creative co-workers who are better at embellishing and interpreting some of the basic company differentiators and selling points that you typically take for granted.

Stay focused on the benefits, not the features.
Remember, your clever cheat sheet of talking points should talk more about benefits rather than features. What unique benefits will the prospect gain from using your company? What advantages does your company provide that they can’t get from competitors? Why should they buy from you?

Prospects care more about how your company can help them achieve their desired goals, within their desired timeframe and designated budget.

Prospects care less about all the features or details of your particular product or service. A prospect typically just wants to confirm that your company can achieve the few specific things that the prospect specifically wants. So, only talk about the features that the prospect asks about -- and then quickly follow-up your explanation with a benefit.

For example, here is a feature/benefit statement: “Yes, our XR-500 gizmo can achieve maximum torque in only 5 seconds. That’s twice as fast than the industry standard. So, it helps you achieve a more efficient production cycle in half the time, while using less energy.”

How to Handle Inbound Sales Rebuttals and Objections

how-to-handle-inbound-lead-customer-objections-effectivlyGranted, some prospects will be more stubborn and won’t commit to a buying decision quite so easily. In fact, some prospects enjoy raising objections just for the joy of verbal sparring and mental competition.

To overcome pushback, use examples and references from the prospect’s own responses from earlier in your conversation. It’s like jiu-jitsu for sales. Transfer the weight and momentum of the prospect’s previous points, and use that information as energy and support for your response to their objection.

For example:
Caller: “Your price is too high. I can’t justify paying that much.”
You: “Let’s talk about that. You mentioned earlier in our conversation that you weren’t able to find it anywhere else you’ve looked. You also mentioned that the cost isn’t really that big of an issue, because you’re needing this final part to complete your project. So, we’ve got the part you need and we can deliver it by your desired date. Isn’t that why you called us?
Caller: Yes.
You: I’m really glad that we have what you needed. I can finalize the order in less than a minute for you. What payment method would you prefer?

The Basics: how to Handle Inbound Sales Calls

  • Know your scripted talking points, but don’t sound scripted.
  • Know your product/service inside out.
  • Sell the benefits, not the features.
  • Demonstrate expertise. Give specific examples of how you’ve helped other customers overcome similar situations and achieved their needs.
  • Relationship building is key.
  • Identify and challenge obstacles.

Importance of Inbound Phone Sales Training

It’s important to give small doses of training to your sales team every day. However, it doesn’t need to be the expensive kind that consultants might charge.

Rather, simply use real examples. One easy method is something you can do during a regular sales meeting. Ask each of your sales team to share the specifics of an actual call they had earlier in the day, or the prior day. The best example calls to talk about are the ones they feel were failures, or which didn’t end well.

Then, ask other team members to brainstorm and discuss ways each of those example calls could have been handled differently. You’ll be surprised at how this kind of open group discussion will help other team members. Plus, the discussion will reveal areas of weakness that need more attention or training -- such as more product knowledge, or needed additions to your scripted talking points.

Then, practice practice practice. Have your sales team do some 1-on-1 role plays. Try some new approaches when faced with objections. Quiz them. Hold them accountable. And don’t let them just fall back into bad habits. Lazy sales tactics don’t close more deals.

The other important ingredients for successful inbound sales calls
Sure, the questions and tactics we’ve covered will enable more successful sales. But there are some additional elements that also play a role in your success:
Rapport is required.
Kindness is king.
Personality is perfection.

We’ll discuss those items in the future.

Time For Leads

Now that you know how to close more deals, it's time to get more leads! So if you’d like a little help with lead generation and you want to find out more about what makes us unique, be sure to sign up for a demo. We’ll be more than happy to help!

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