How to Convert more Function Enquiries into Bookings with Better Inbound Phone Skills
It takes a lot of money and effort to get the phone to ring with a potential new customer.
The marketing cost for each inbound prospect call is around $50 to $100. Whether the prospect buys and how much they spend is totally dependent on the quality of the call and the skill of the person answering the phone.
Many Frontline venue staff are busy – they answer the customer’s basic questions or just take the order – but they don’t have time to do much consultative selling.
For many years our venue prospects would phone and ask us questions about TWO main things – either price or availability – and we would politely tell them the answer and be off the phone in a few minutes or less.
Most prospects were pleasant but NEVER called back and we lost potential sales as a result. Our phone call sales conversion rates were just average and our business struggled financially. One day I went on a sales skills training course and the whole game changed. We asked a series of questions and DOUBLED our conversion rate.
Ask Great Questions with Inbound Phone Calls
It wasn’t until we learnt the technique of asking great questions that we made those additional sales and turned the business around.
“Selling is NOT telling” – selling is all about asking questions and actively listening. Don’t just blurt out your price– always discuss your VALUE before revealing your price! It would be like a doctor prescribing a cure without effectively diagnosing the problem.
Just ONE single question (15 words) turned the business around and helped make our first million dollars. It was the TAKEOVER question.
“Just before I answer that, do you mind if I ask a few quick questions?”
Five years later we found a power phrase (another 15-20 words) which was the key to “selling off-peak” – filling up in our low season and quieter times.
“By the way, have you considered (an alternative offer) because (a Great Reason)?”
Building More Rapport – Start with the Heart
Let’s start at the beginning with answering the phone – Have you ever noticed that different staff answer the phone in different ways? Some staff are much more effective than others at getting names and building rapport early in the conversation.
A happy attitude and a friendly tone of voice is important – but the specific opening words you use are VITAL for making more sales.
We found adjusting to the pace and mood of the caller was critical – matching a fast or slow speed (quick and loud or slower and quiet) and a focus on either results or relationship (sense of urgency and the amount of small talk required) were important.
Phone Sales Training – Scripts + Practice = Success
We developed a detailed phone script for enquiries – a structured list of the best possible questions to ask any phone enquiry. Using the phone script doubled our sales conversion from phone enquiry to sale.
The trick with the phone script was NOT to ask all the questions hurriedly or rudely like the Spanish inquisition, but to build lots of rapport with the prospect during the diagnostic process – and spend more quality time on the phone – depending on the style of the enquirer. A great question to ask is always one that is related to the answer they just gave you – it shows you listened, care and are curious.
Compliments, common bonds and appreciative enquiry techniques also help build rapid rapport.
Use of question softeners like “Do you mind if I ask…” helped build trust and respect quickly and sales grew substantially.
It was crucial to find out fast whether they were a past customer or had much experience in our industry so we developed several great questions for finding out the source of the enquiry up front.
“Could I just ask – Have you been to our venue before?” or similar
Sales confidence and competence was also important – prospects could tell when you were new or not very confident. The fastest way to become an expert was to really know your stuff – we trained and drilled our staff on the “Seven Reasons Why?” and sales role-playing paid dividends.
With each enquiry potentially being worth thousands of dollars, it was too expensive to let newbies handle the customer enquiries. The SAS have a great saying about training – “Better to sweat on the training ground that bleed on the battleground”.
Using a few special words really made a difference to sales conversion – for example just saying the words “because” or “which means” turns any feature into a useful benefit for the customer.
Most prospects buy on emotions so the choice of CLOSING question was important. It needed to be tailored to the particular type of customer – for example
“How does that look?, How does that sound? or How do you feel about that?”
Don’t ever ask “So What do you THINK?”
Attend a Big Hat Inbound Phone Skills Workshop
Come along to our fun and engaging practical workshops where you can learn to be more confident during phone enquiries. Learn what to say and how to say it. Build up your confidence in dealing with hard core price shoppers.
You can also learn how to convert more enquiries into bookings at our upcoming Venue Sales Workshops
ABOUT THE BLOG AUTHOR – David Staughton CSP
Big Hat Professional Services can help you grow your hospitality business and improve your Function Event & Wedding Sales. David & Kevin can help you!
David Staughton CSP is an award-winning International keynote speaker, and experienced Small Business consultant. With over 15 years ‘hands on’ experience in the Hospitality industry, he speaks and consults on a wide range of hospitality business improvement in the areas of sales, staffing, service and strategy.
Kevin Kosky is a skilled business communications trainer. He is a specialist on inbound phone skills, presentation skills and delivering sales presentations. Kevin is an expert teacher of face to face communication skills like sales, supervision, and presentation skills.
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