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Strategies and Tactics to Tackle Voice Mail:
Ten Voice Mail Blunders
By Jim Domanski
It is not surprising that so many salespeople numbers. Next, come into the office early and complain about not having their voice mail start by calling them right away. You may messages returned. Judging by the dozen and typically work 9 to 5 but many of your prospects half voice mails I have received from sales (especially directors, executives and owners) people over the past couple of weeks the reason don’t. They get in early before the day starts on fire. Start your dialing at 7:00 or 7:30 a.m. Begin You have about 5-8 seconds to catch your at the top of the list and start dialing. Third, if listener’s attention and keeping it is even you get voice mail hang up. Don’t leave a tougher. Understand this: about 15% of your message. Move on to the next number on your message is communicated by the actual words list, then the next, and so on. If you complete you use i.e., the message you leave. The the list without an answer start at the top and remaining 85% of the message is communicated work you way through it again. Finally, continue by the tone of your voice. This is vital! If you to cycle the list for the next hour or two. sound lifeless, unsure and hesitant or if you Try following this process every day for about speak too fast or too slow, or if you are too loud two weeks. You’ll discover that you will reach or too soft: you will loose the prospect’s interest. one or two or three decision makers during this Salespeople complain about the impact of voice time. And because the day hasn’t heated up, you mail on their selling success but often they are will also discover that they have more time and their own worst enemies. If you are interested in more patience. In a similar manner, you can try improving your success when calling your clients the same experiment later in the day, from 5:00 or prospects, here is a list of common voice mail to 7:00 p.m. Decision makers often stay late and are not expecting salespeople to call after normal hours so they tend to answer their phone if they Blunder #1: Leaving a VM too soon
The first tip in managing voice mail is NOT to Blunder # 2: Not Understanding the Impact
of Call Display
The trick is to get a live prospect and that often Sometimes the real culprit is not voice mail but means trying different times. Prospects aren’t rather voice display. Voice display is a phone typically sitting at their desks hoping that a feature whereby your number and often your vendor will call to sell them something. They are name (or company name) is displayed on the often in meetings, or traveling or simply getting a prospects telephone set. In other words, the cup of coffee. Think of your own day. Are you prospect can see who is calling and simply riveted to the desk or are you up and about from choose not to pick up the phone and let voice Your objective is to get a live prospect. Here’s You will never know for sure if the prospect has how you do it. First, prepare a “Master List “of call display but chances are they do and that’s at least thirty or so prospects. Put them on a spread sheet or a legal pad with their phone 40 Journal of Selling & Major Account Management
One of the best ways to deal with call display is Thursday May, 18th. If you’d like to leave your to call the extensions numbers on either side of name, number and a detailed message I will get your prospects number. For instance, if your prospect is at extension 208 try calling 209 or Note that Peter provided the date. It implies he 207. If the extensions are sequential, chances are interacts with voice mail so that when you do the offices are next or near to one another. leave a message the chances are pretty good that When you call an alternate extension, be candid. he will listen to it. Because the message is Simply ask, “Oh yes, I am trying to get a hold of detailed, one also gets the impression that Peter Krista. Do you know if she is around?” People at is a detail person. This suggests you might want neighboring extensions will often stand up and to be equally detailed in your live approach look around for you. In effect, they act as your (when you reach him) or in your voice mail eyes and let you know if they are in. Now here’s the neat thing: when they transfer the call, the call display will often show “internal transfer” or But more significantly, Mr. Backus is out until will show the name and extension number of Wednesday. There is no point in leaving a their neighbor and NOT your number. (This is message at this stage because there are probably not always true. Sometimes your name and thirty other messages waiting for him. Even if number will follow you around but it is worth a you leave a good message there is a pretty good chance that it will be lost in the chaos of catching up. Be smart. Don’t get lost in the Another technique is to call another department such as sales or customer service or better yet, the executive office. When a call is transferred Finally, and this is so critical, don’t call Peter on from these departments people tend to take Thursday! His day will be hectic after having been gone for three days. Think about it. Call on Friday when things have calmed down. If you From time to time, I will use my cell phone or have to leave a message, do so but again at least my home phone to make calls to prospects if I you increase your chances of it being heard. So suspect that the prospect is dodging my call. learn to listen for clues about the prospect and Perhaps one of the best tactics is to make a call from a pay phone. This is not always convenient but when your prospect sees “pay phone” on the Blunder #4: Failure to Research
call display, they will invariable answer it. Over the last month or so, I have received voice Don’t be shy about using these techniques. You messages from salespeople who assumed I was a are, in effect, fighting fire with fire or in this long distance company, a service bureau, a telephone manufacturer, and a high tech firm. Simply clicking onto my web site will tell you Blunder #3: Not Listening
what I do…and it’s none of the above. When you do encounter voice mail LISTEN to The salespeople wasted my time and theirs. But what the prospect has to say. Some have bland the sad thing is they are probably leaving dozens generic messages (“I’m not in. Leave a message”) of other similar messages to the wrong targets. but others might give you some clues about how Of course, when they do not get a reply they get to approach them. For instance, suppose the discouraged. They become victims of their poor “Hi this is Peter Backus. Today is Monday, Learn a little about your prospect. It does not May 16th and I will be out of the office until have to be a lot but enough to craft a message that is relevant. In fact, too much research can Blunder #6: Poor Delivery
be a waste of time. Apart from visiting the As if infomercials were not bad enough, some prospect’s web site, here is a fast and highly salespeople compound the problem with poor effective approach to gathering information. Instead of calling and speaking to a receptionist aahhhs….ummmmms…errr… duhs…” that are and secretary (who will probably give you very liberally peppered throughout the message. And little information anyway) call the sales department deliveries that put the prospect to sleep and about messages that are delivered at machine department because they are looking for the low hanging fruit (the prospect who wants to buy). And you will ALWAYS get them to talk. So here’s what you need to do: Jot down what you want to say. Write it in sentences or point form; whatever works for you. Then practice salesperson and that you are trying to get an delivering it a few times before dialing. The opening into their company. The vast majority message should flow trippingly and convincingly of salespeople you speak with will understand from you lips. There is no excuse for a poorly your plight and sympathize. They’ve been there and done that. So they tend to help. Ask about the decision maker: who it is, what the company What’s important to remember here is that your does, and anything else that might help you out. prospect has probably received half dozen But above all ask for the prospect’s extension messages already from other salespeople who number, their e-mail AND the best time to reach drone on and on. Your prospect is already jaded. him/her. Again, the idea here is get the prospect Don’t give him an opportunity to hang up live and avoid voice mail. However, if you simply because you were not prepared and did cannot reach the decision maker, at least you will be armed with information that might make your voice mail more effective. Blunder #7: Insipid Messages
Blunder #5: Providing Infomercials
Customers are floored by the messages that are left on their voice mail. These messages leave One of the greatest voice mail tragedies is them stunned, shocked or dismayed. Sometimes leaving an infomercial i.e., a grotesquely long, they are amusing but rarely are they impressed delirious message that tells the prospect everything and anything. In effect, it’s like a radio commercial over voice mail. What causes this reaction? The messages don’t grab them by the collar and say “Listen.” Instead, they are drab and lifeless recitals about prospect’s perspective: they are inundated with their product or their company. Borrriiinnng! . voice mails all day long. The last thing they need is your product diatribe. I assure you that the prospect will tire by the third line and quickly erase your message. So, while you may have gathered information by calling the sales department, don’t use that information to lather the client with a voice mail speech. It’s a o a message that must intrigue and entice complete and utter waste of everyone’s time. 42 Journal of Selling & Major Account Management
Here is just one example of an intriguing This voice mail template begins with a statement of a problem. It is unusual because it does not start with the rep’s name and company like you Mr. Wallace, this is Vic Basehart calling from would normally hear. This is bound to catch the Altace Inc. Mr. Wallace, I have a question on attention of the prospect. The message goes on extended learning programs that I am told only to suggest that the salesperson, McCoy, has a you can answer. Could you please give me a call solution to help. It might be intriguing enough for the prospect to pick up the phone and call This is a very powerful voice message. Note how the rep uses the prospect’s name a couple of Blunder #8: Not Integrating Other Mediums
times. Using the name gets the prospect to listen more carefully to the words. Next, the If there is more than one way to skin a cat, there salesperson creates intrigue and mystery with his is more than one way to leave a message. Make message about being the only person who can your voice mail part of an overall contact answer the question. This flatters the prospect at some level and creates curiosity. It is one of the Voice mail should be just one of the tactics you better messages for getting your calls returned. use to garner interest and stand out from the Of course, you MUST have a question prepared crowd. Supplement your voice message with an old fashioned letter. Consider sending a fax. If Referrals can also be used to develop an you have the e-mail address of your prospect, send a brief message. (Remember, you can often get an e-mail address by calling your prospect’s “Kathy, this is Sara Price calling from CSI Inc. in Las Vegas. I was speaking with Horatio Caine and he suggested that I give you a call with regard to some ideas we have on reducing example, you might leave a message telling the costs on production sites. Please give me a call at prospect to expect a “package” in the mail. This alerts her to keep his eye out for “something” which, in itself, is intriguing. Perhaps you could The referral creates curiosity and credibility. Also use a fax as a follow up message to the package note that the salesperson did not get into details about her product or service. Instead a reference is made to the reduction of costs; a benefit. The point is you have to be creative. Some Referrals work well. Use them when you can. prospects respond better to e-mail than voice mail, others to fax versus mail. Here is message that’s a little different and because it is different it tends to get heard: Blunder 9: Lack of Persistence
“Most consultants are not using the internet Simply put, one of the BIGGEST blunders is a effectively to market their product and services simple lack of persistence. Of the all the voice …and are consequently losing clients and mails I received over the last two weeks not one salesperson…not a single, solitary salesperson… Ms. Van Buren, my name is Jack McCoy and Statistically, about 87% of salespeople give up I am with L&O Consulting. I have some ideas after s single half hearted attempt. About 95% I would like to share with you that can help you give up after a second message. Personally, I get and keep more clients. Please give me a call rarely listen to voice mails from salespeople because I figure if it is important enough they that the prospect may have tried to return the will call back. They rarely ever do. That tells the call but simply didn’t leave a message. The last message is the “drop dead message.” It The real problem is that most salespeople don’t have a process or a system for follow up. I ‘Mr. Batali, it’s Bobby Flay calling from recommend that salespeople leave four voice Chefcom in New York. I have left you a few mail messages spaced three business days apart. I messages but we have been unable to connect call it the 4/3 strategy and it is a process; however, it would seem to me that now is not the something that can be repeated over and over time to discuss how we could increase traffic at again without much effort and time. This makes your restaurant. If things should change please give me a call at _______. In the meantime, I Four messages might seem like a lot but when will schedule you for a call next quarter. Again, you do the math you will discover that this this is Bob Flay and my number is…” incorporates about two calendar week’s worth of Flay is telling the prospect that this is the last follow up. Spacing the messages three days apart message and he is doing so graciously. But Flay politely gives the prospect enough time to get has also left the door open for contact later on. back to you but it also allows a comfortable In the short term, if Batali has any interest at all cushion for you to make your follow up call in the benefit stated by Flay, he knows that he without the appearance of stalking. (See Blunder must call now otherwise the opportunity is lost. Here’s how the 4/3 works. Your first message Blunder #10: Stalking
can stem from one of the templates listed above. Your second message is virtually the same as the The last blunder is not nearly as common as a first. You simply add the words, “I am following lack of persistence but it does exist and it is sinister and frightening in nature. It occurs regarding increasing traffic at your restaurant.” when salespeople call and leave a voice mail But it’s the third message that’s key. When you message (or messages) every day for days on get to the third message here is a trigger phrase end. Not long ago at a training seminar a that can sometimes get your call returned: salesperson bragged that he left 38 (yes, thirty eight) messages to a prospect. “Mr. Batali, it’s Bobby Flay calling from Chefcom Inc. I have left you a couple of message That is not persistence, it’s stalking. It’s on how we might increase traffic at your obsessive. It’s a waste of the salesperson’s time restaurant but as of yet we haven’t been able to and energy …and you can bet it was not connect. Please give me a call…” endearing to the poor prospect. (I’d be calling the police). The operative phrase is “…but as of yet we haven’t been able to connect.” This little phrase is absolutely marvelous because it gives the prospect a way to call you back without feeling Voice mail is part of the business landscape awkward. I call it “grace.” Believe it or not, today. Well over 70% of dials end up in a voice many prospects feel embarrassed that they did mail box. If you do not have a strategy to deal not take the time to return your call. It’s almost with voice mail, your career in selling is going to as though they feel they were being discourteous. be long and uneventful. Set yourself apart from If we know this, then we can make it easier for most salespeople by avoiding these blunders. the prospect to call you back because it implies Do your homework by gathering information 44 Journal of Selling & Major Account Management
and listening to your prospect’s voice mail. See what, if anything, you can gather. Next, try calling at different times and bear in mind that the real problem might not be voice mail but call display. If you have to leave a voice mail message, make it short and intriguing. Avoid the infomercial. Be persistent by having a strategy for follow up. This tactic alone will set you apart from your competitors. In conclusion, the harsh reality is this: leaving messages does not have a high return on investment. However, by being more effective in your approach to voice mail it will give you an edge and sometimes an edge is the difference between failure and success. Jim Domanski is president of Teleconcepts
Consulting, a training and consulting firm that specializes in B to B tele-sales applications. Visit his web site at www.teleconceptsconsulting.com or call 613 591 1998

Source: http://www.cob.niu.edu/jsmam/archive/06-03%20Pages%2039-44.pdf

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