The phone is one of the most important business tools for you to master. Why? The phone combines the high touch quality of verbal communication with a long distance reach. In fact, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss considers phone skills to be one of his business superpowers. To grow a start-up quickly, you will need phone skills for a variety of purposes. Let’s dive in.
Market Research by Phone: Insights For Your First Product
How do you know if anyone will buy (or even use) the product you are
building? It all comes down to market research.
You could use market research reports or read articles in magazines to understand the market. Those will give you the big picture. Ultimately, there is no substitute for conversation with potential customers. And the fastest way to connect with those prospects? Phone calls.
Use these steps to get started with phone market research. These steps will use the example of a start-up developing a product in the social media management niche.
- Build an email list of people interested in your start-up subject matter (e.g. social media management).
- Send a two question survey to your email subscribers asking about their frustration with managing social media. Question one asks them to describe their greatest frustration. The second survey question asks them to provide contact information so you can ask follow up questions.
- Call 10 people who provided contact information on the survey. Ask about their experience with social media (e.g. what is frustrating or what is not working). Your notes from these calls will help you to refine and focus your product idea.
Tip: Need guidance to build your email list? Learn how blogger Jon Morrow built a list of thousands of email subscribers in a short time.
Sales by Phone: The Classic Sales Method
Selling your company’s products and services by phone is challenging. Yet, learning to sell by phone is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to acquire customers. If the thought of cold calling makes your nervous, you are far from alone. Before you start your cold calling campaign, review these resources:
- Start With The Basics: Perfecting the Art of Cold Calling.
- Case Study: From cold call to $17 billion start-up: How Uber got started with sales calls!.
As with any new skill, it will take time and practice to become comfortable. To get the most from the experience, write a few notes about each call. Take note of how you started the conversation and which topics interested the prospect most. By taking notes and reflecting on your sales calls, you will improve much faster.
Telephone Customer Service: The Human Touch
Providing personal customer service by phone is something that Fortune 500 companies cannot easily do. As a start-up, there are no policies and procedures holding you back from providing personal service. Instead of dealing with customers exclusively through the Internet, get on the phone with them and solve their problems!
Serving customers by phone often leads to unexpected discoveries. You will learn which features of your product are most popular (and which features don’t matter). You can also ask customers for referrals to other people.
- Resource: Paul Graham, entrepreneur and founder of Y Combinator, encourages start-up founders to Do Things that Don’t Scale like telephone customer service. Scaling up your business doesn’t matter until you actually have happy customers.
Joint Ventures: Build Better Relationships By Phone
Launching a joint venture with another company is one of the fastest ways to grow your start-up. However, such deals will not magically appear. It is up to you to find potential partners, develop an offer and negotiate the deal. Done well, a joint venture leads to increased profits for both parties and satisfied customers. Phone skills make the difference in assessing partners and developing the details of the venture.
- Example. Your start-up produces accounting software for small companies. Who could you do a joint venture with? Any organization that provides accounting services, business software companies and individual accountants.
Phone skills make a key difference in developing a joint venture. Use these steps to get started with joint ventures.
Note: Remember to make the joint venture valuable for all concerned, not just your start-up.
- Create a list of potential joint venture companies that you could partner with (aim for at least 100 prospects).
- Call the companies and request a meeting to discuss a joint venture. You will need to persuade whoever you speak with to introduce you to a senior manager or the owner.
- Explore the potential for a joint venture in a follow up meeting. If your potential partner lives far away, you can conduct this step over the phone.
- Resource. To acquire a broader knowledge of the art of joint ventures, read “Guerrilla Marketing and Joint Ventures: Million Dollar Partnering Strategies for Growing ANY Business in ANY Economy” by Jay Conrad Levinson and Sohail Khan.