Never start off a phone call with a customer with whom you haven’t talked in awhile with a line like, “I just thought I’d touch base with you.”

This is particularly important if you’re selling in a B2B environment and let me explain this one first.  If you’re selling in a B2B environment, you’re dealing with people who value their time.  It’s hard to find a businessperson who does not have more on their plate than they have time to get it all done.

Respect their time. When you call, give them something meaningful to think about.

Recently I called an individual with whom I hadn’t done work in nearly a year. I knew the person and was interested in finding out how things were going.  As much as I wanted to have a casual discussion with the person, I knew I needed to lead with something meaningful.  To start the conversation, I chose to share with the person an update to a new piece of federal legislation that appears will have an impact on their industry.

In sharing with the person, I was able to ask a couple of questions on his thoughts, which got an interesting discussion going.  The other person shared with me great insights and at the same time told me how impressed he was that I was aware of the legislation.

By leading with something important and timely, I was now not simply taking the person’s time but I was helping them too.

After talking for a couple of minutes about the impact the legislation will have on their industry, we then moved to talking about the business in general.  The call went superbly. I was able to move my relationship forward with the other person and in the end we agreed to talk again in 30 days on a follow-up issue that came out of our 5 minute phone call.

Yes, it’s possible I could have had the same outcome if I had merely started out the conversation by saying something lame like, “I just thought I’d touch base with you.” But if I had done that, I would have run the risk of having the conversation abruptly ended due to the lack of time.

The best way to respect time is to use time to your advantage, by sharing key information that allows the customer to understand you care about their business and can help them.

If you’re reading this and you’re in a B2C environment, then there are certainly times when you can lead with the statement, “I thought I would touch base with you.”  You can lead with it and you will find some success.

However, I still contend if you open the conversation with something meaningful and then come back to finding out information, you’ll end up with a better conversation.

In both situations it can take a few extra minutes to find the piece of information you want to open the call with, but since your “face time” with the customer is the most valuable part of your selling day, it makes sense to do what it takes to make sure it’s high quality customer “face time.”

Copyright 2011, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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