Telephone Skills – What to Say When Someone Calls By: Jose Gonzales

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

still remember one of my very first phone calls. It went something like this:Ring Ring.

Me: “Hello. Elegancia Entertainment.”

Caller: “Hi I’m looking for a DJ”

Me: “Well you’re calling the right place”

Caller: “How much do you charge?”

Me: “That depends on the length of your party. How many hours would you like to have a DJ for?”

Caller: “5 hours… maybe 6”

Me: “The price for that would be $500.00”

Caller: “Well I’m just shopping around. So I’ll call you back when I’m ready.”

Me: “Great!”

Caller “Thank you. Goodbye”

Me “Goodbye.”

That was it. It lasted less than a minute. Was that too short? Perhaps. Did I say something wrong?. Probably not. But it was what I did not say, or more importantly, what I did not ask that made the conversation so short.

In this article I will discuss some of the more important things to say or ask when a new prospect calls. You can use this as a quick guide to using one of the most important pieces of equipment you own: the telephone. Think of it this way… If you are unable to book any gigs, then what’s the point of having invested thousands in sound and lighting gear?? So let’s get to work…

When someone calls you for the first time, what should be the object of the telephone call? For the prospect it is usually to gather information such as prices. For you, the DJ, it is an opportunity to sell your company and your services. At the end of the conversation you want the prospect to not only know who you are and what you do, but be as excited about it as you are! Sounds crazy? But that is what selling is all about. Although not everyone will ask you to send them a contract at the end of your first conversation, this of course would be the ideal situation. At the very least you want to advance the sales to the next step which is usually a face-to-face meeting or at least send them more information. i.e. brochure, package listing, etc.

THE HOME/OFFICE ENVIRONMENT

Before even discussing what to say, keep in mind that the caller is also listening to what you don’t say. In other words, she can hear everything that is going on in your home or office. If you are at home and the kids are playing or the TV is too loud, you are sending certain “unspoken” signals to your caller. If you normally live or work in a noisy environment, try to find a space where you can have some quiet and place the phone there. Some DJs say that having music in the background when the client calls lets them know you are into music. They already know that; it’s the reason they called you in the first place. While your music may impress a few callers, it may also cause you to loose others. For one thing the song they hear may be distracting either to you, the caller or both. If the song that they hear is one that they hate, they may extrapolate that and think that your musical tastes and their don’t match so… “Let me find another DJ!” It’s best to keep things quiet.

THE PHONE RINGS… YOUR FIRST WORDS

How you answer the phone is just as important as what you say during the conversation. What you say and how you say these first words will form the first image of you and your company. As an entertainer you want to convey the message that you are fun, full of energy, and enthusiastic. Not only about what you do but also about them and their party. Keep in mind that a huge part of sales is based on emotions. Therefore if you can convey a positive attitude. Your client’s attitude will (in most cases) also take on a positive side.

So let’s begin with your first words. What to say when you pick up the phone.

There are three variables that you can include in your first introductory sentence. A salutation, your company name and a short introduction. Using any combination of these is fine as long as the one you use contains your company name.

You should never answer the phone with a simple “Hello”. When prospects call you want to let them know they are dealing with a professional company.

Here are some variations on what you can say

“Good Morning/Afternoon. Elegancia Entertainment. This is Jose speaking how can I help you?”

“Good Morning/Afternoon. Elegancia Entertainment.”

“Elegancia Entertainment”

Either of these can work. You just have to develop your own style and make sure that everyone who picks up that phone uses it. This may be more difficult it you work out of your home, but it is very important.

THE CALLER’S FIRST WORDS

“I want to know what your prices are!” Your will hear this line from almost every prospect who calls. It is an important question but is not one that must be answered right away. This question is the most common first made by callers. Why? Usually its because they don’t know what else to ask. Unless they are truly price comparing and on a very tight budget then there are other things more important than price and it is up to you to prove that to them. Therefore, it is your job to get past that question and either leave it to the end or get them so excited that they forget about price. Another reason to wait until later to give them a price is that if you answer their only question in the beginning, they may stop paying attention to all you are saying. So how do you get past this question? Simple. You take control of the conversation and ask them follow-up questions. Here is how a conversation can flow:

Ring Ring

DJ Company ” Good Morning. Acme DJs, This is Linda, how can I help you?

Prospect: “I was wondering how much you charge for a wedding?”

DJ Company: “I’ll be glad to answer that question and any others you may have, but first I will need some more information about your wedding.”

Prospect: “O.K.”

Etc…

By asking her questions you are getting her mind off the price and giving you the opportunity to tell her more about your company.

Follow up Questions:

As you progress through your telephone conversation you will both have opportunities to ask each other many questions. Your questions will be geared towards learning more about what she is looking for, and how much she can afford. The toughest part of this is making the questions appear as they are part of the flow for a normal conversation. You don’t want it to look like you are reading from a list (although you can). This takes practice and with time you will remember to ask all the important questions at the appropriate time during the conversation.

Following are some of the questions you can ask. After each question is a sample of how the information they give you can be used.

“What is your name?” – studies have shown that addressing the prospect by their first names helps put them at ease. Its also just plain polite to ask. If you have not yet given them your name this is a perfect time to do so.
“When is your event?” – no sense in continuing the conversation if you or your other DJs are already booked.
“What type of event is it?” (if the prospect has not already told you) – If you have different prices for different events you will need to know this before hand. Knowing this early also lets you know what other questions to ask. After they tell you what type of event it is, you may want to tell them about your experience with this type of event. E.g. They say Wedding… you can say, “That’s great (remember sound enthusiastic.) We have performed at many weddings and are very experienced with this type of event.”
“Where will the event be held?” – The event may be out-of state or out of your normal distance area, which may also have an effect on pricing. In addition, a party in a VWF may be indicative of someone on a smaller budget than one holding it at the largest catering facility in your area. If it’s a place you’ve played in before, let them know. Clients love it when you tell them “I was just there not too long ago.” Take it one step further and ask them “What room is it in?”
“What time is the event?” – If you do more than one event per day this may help you decide if you can handle an additional event. Also some companies charge different fees based on time.
“How many hours will you need music for?” – Many DJs charge higher fees for events more than 4 or 5 hours
“What type of music do they want?” – You want to make sure you can supply the music they want to listen/dance to. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss things like, the type of music you have, how much music you bring to an event. Etc.
“How did you hear about us?” Very important if you advertise since it lets you know which ads are most effective or where referrals are coming from. (This can be asked at any time during the conversation.)
“What type of entertainment are you looking for?” – Some may also be looking for (or not want) lighting, props and giveaways, dancers, or motivators. Even if they don’t tell you, you can ask. “Are you interested in lighting, giveaways, etc.?”
“What is your phone number?” Very important for follow-up. You may want to get a daytime and evening phone. But let them decide which one they want to give you.
“May I have your address?” Important if you plan to mail literature.
“When would you like to set up an appointment to meet?” Many prospects will want to meet their entertainer(s). The object of the entire telephone conversation should be to get the prospect to at least schedule an appointment to meet with you in person. But this may not always occur during the first conversation especially if they think they still have plenty of time to book. That’s why getting their phone number is important… so you can follow up.
“How many guests do you expect to invite?” The answer will give you an idea of not only the size of the room, hence equipment you may need to bring, but also the person’s budget. Prospects having a wedding for 75 people usually have a smaller overall budget than those inviting 300 guests do.
“What is your budget for the entertainment?” This is a very tricky question and may turn off a prospect if not asked appropriately or under the right circumstances. However, when someone balks at the price you initially give them you can always ask him or her and see if they can even afford you.
“Have you spoken to other DJs?” This lets you know how serious they are in terms of their readiness to hire a DJ. It also is a good way of knowing which of your competitors they are calling.
“Are you the sole decision maker or is their someone else?” In the case of a wedding, you will at some point want to speak to BOTH parties. Some corporate events have committee, so this means it may take a little longer for them to get back to you. Of course there are many other questions that you can ask depending on how the conversation goes. But those mentioned above will at least get you started.
FOLLOWING UP – THE NEED FOR THEIR PHONE NUMBER

Although most prospects are willing to give you all the information you ask for, some are protective of their phone number. This occurs with some brides who become weary of having yet another vendor call them during their dinner hour to discuss wedding services.

For this reason some people say that you should make your first attempt to get their phone number near the end of the conversation. By this time they feel more comfortable with you and will gladly leave their phone number. Another tactic is to ask for their phone number after asking for their address. For example, if they do not want to meet with you or have scheduled an appointment more than 5 or 6 days into the future you may offer to send them some literature. After getting their address… ask for their phone number, its more natural. Yet another tactic is to ask them early on and tell them something like this. “Can I have your phone number, just in case we get disconnected?”

BACK TO THE ORIGINAL QUESTION – PRICE

The question of giving quotes over the phone is controversial (and always will be). Those that don’t give prices say the prospect may think you are too expensive even before meeting with you. On the other hand, advocates of price quotes say it helps to qualify a prospect. Let’s say your prospect has a budget of $500 for the DJ and you tell her the package she is interested in costs $750.00, The prospect may say, “Well that’s too expensive. Thank you very much,”…end of conversation. One tactic is to give them your LOWEST priced package. By saying “Our packages start at $xxx”. If they can at least afford your basic price, you still have a chance. Those who oppose giving prices will argue that if you would have waited till she met with you she may have seen the incredible package she was getting and be willing to pay the extra $250.00. Others will say if she truly cannot afford you or is not willing to pay the $750.00 then you will be wasting the prospect’s time as well as yours. One can go back and forth with various arguments. Suffice it to say that your decision to give prices will depend on your own style.

SOME OF WHAT YOU DON’T SAY CAN ALSO BE IMPORTANT

COURTESY

It goes without say that you must always be courteous to the other person on the phone. There are times when you want to scream out “cheap” but refrain from it as much as possible. Maintaining a professional tone and using appropriate language when speaking to someone goes along way. If they speak to you using four letter words, don’t let this be a cue to tell you its OK to use it as well. Depending on your style, you may want to use Mr, Mrs, or Dr. But most times its ok to use first names as well.

EMOTIONS/BODY LANGUAGE

One of the disadvantages of the telephone is that you can’t see the other person’s facial expressions. These are great clues that key in on their reaction to something you have just said. This means that you must pay special attention to HOW they say things. Voice inflections and tonality can tell something about their emotions. But keep in mind they can do the same with you. If you can get it to the point where they laugh, you are on the right track. This does not mean to tell jokes on the phone, but certain comments you make may put them at ease enough to laugh.

TONE/ENERGY LEVEL

As entertainers you want your client to know that you are a happy person who loves what you do. When speaking on the phone you want this to show through. You want them to know you are excited they called and are happy to talk to them for as long as they wish. You want them to know that during their event you will also be very enthusiastic and will pass this along to all their guests. How do you do this? It’s in your voice.

If you speak in a monotone voice, they will think you are boring. Likewise if you speak in a very low voice they may think you are too shy and reserved. On the other hand you don’t want to seem like you are so excited because they are the first call you have received in 6 months! You want to match their level of enthusiasm. Hopefully this level will increase as your conversation goes along. It is OK for the conversation to be more low keyed in the beginning and increase in energy as they get more excited about what you are telling them.

LISTEN, LISTEN. LISTEN

Even though this article is about what to say. Keep in mind that one of the first rules of sales is to Listen, Listen, Listen. One way to keep them talking is to ask open-ended questions. These are questions that force them to give a more elaborate answer other than YES or NO. Remember that one of the reasons most people fail with the telephone is because they use it like a microphone. Unlike a microphone, the telephone has a hearing piece! Remember to use it.

As you can see the telephone is a very important tool. Remember that most phones also have a dialing pad so don’t be afraid to use it as well for follow up calls. As you get started have a sheet of paper with the questions written down and use this to ask and write down the information given to you by the caller.

By the way, that first caller did hire me but only after I gave her a discount. Now with most prospects the initial conversation averages 20 minutes with some lasting as long as 45 minutes! That’s sure a lot longer than my first phone call. Keep in mind that the time you spend speaking to them can be a good indicator of their interest and comfort level they have with you. People tend to hire people they trust and like. So if they like you after the phone call then you are on your way to making a sale

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Mobile Beat Staff Writer (228 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


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