Question: What’s a good way to handle calls from salespeople? There are too many asking me to listen to their pitch, and not enough time to see them all. Yet some may have products or services we need. How do you tackle this?
Holli McVean: Use a plan to qualify sales calls — efficiently and professionally. First, I make sure to get the caller’s company name and contact information. Then I ask how they got my name. The rest of the conversation depends on the type of call:
- Cold calls of no interest. If it is a cold call and the product or service is not something that we would ever use, I advise salespeople of this and thank them. I also assure them that I will keep their details on file should our situation ever change. The only additional piece of information I might provide is my email address, if they want to follow up with materials I can keep on file electronically.
- Cold calls of interest. If their product or service is something we might use in the future, I give the callers a time horizon when they can contact me again to follow up. I also give them my email address and request they send additional information and materials. Before hanging up, I ask what other firms in the area they work with, to get a sense of their industry saturation and perhaps get a reference from a colleague.
- Referrals. If I get a warm call from someone who has been referred to me, the conversation goes a little differently in that we talk about the reasons for the referral and about the referring person. After that, the same kind of thing happens — send me the information and I’ll keep it on file for when we need it.
A Successful Warm Call Scenario
Recently I received a sales phone call from a service provider who had been referred to me by a partner in our firm. We had a brief chat, and I let him know that we were very happy with our current provider but if that ever changed, I would be sure to contact his company. I took his contact information and, because he had been personally referred to me, I agreed to meet in person to accept some print materials that he wanted to leave at our office. I took five minutes to greet him in our reception area and he was pleased to meet face to face. He was very respectful of my time, and I now have the materials on hand should we ever be in the market to change our provider or do a cost comparison.
Limit the Time Per Call – But Stay Polite
I try to spend a minimum amount of time per call, even though this may frustrate the caller. At the same time, I always strive to be polite and professional for these reasons:
- My firm’s reputation is at stake, not just my own.
- This salesperson may have a product or service that we need in the future.
- This person may need legal services in the future and I’d like to think would consider our firm.
Holli McVean is General Office Manager at Carscallen LLP in Calgary, Alberta, where she manages overall day-to-day business operations, including finance and accounting, human resources, information systems, facilities and more. Holli contributes to the executive team as well as the other strategic initiatives and internal committees, and has been working in the legal field since 1988. She currently serves as Chairperson of the Financial Subsection of the ALA’s Calgary Chapter.
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