How to approach sales calls

Learn some top tips on how best to approach sales calls from SDL Business Development Managers, Jane Chaffer and Patrice Tissier

For any language service provider (LSP), the ability to reach out to prospective clients in an informative, engaging manner is vital for your business continuity. As any astute business owner will be keen to tell you, “prospects won’t come to you – you go to them”, and when you approach these exciting new prospects, you will only get one shot at a first impression – so make it count.
The paragraph above may not sound new; any business looking to build a customer base and make sales, translation industry or not, will appreciate the importance of having a positive 'go get them' attitude and an engaging pitch. In the localization landscape, however, an effective sales call far transcends the aged adage of using inspirational dialogue and pacing around the room in an effort to inject a sense of dynamism to your speech.
“A lot of your intended customers will already know what they want,” Jane Chaffer, Business Development Manager at SDL tells me as we sit down to discuss what constitutes an effective sales call, “so it's not a case of launching into a one-size-fits-all monologue when you get someone on the phone. Do your research – understand what it is this potential customer wants and make sure this is something that you can help them with.”
“People are a lot more savvy nowadays,” Patrice Tissier, also one of SDL’s Business Development Managers’ interjects. “The internet enables them to do their own research on LSPs who are right for them, and if they decide you are not supplying the service that they are looking for, they will simply move on and you will be quickly forgotten.”
Both Jane and Patrice have been a part of the SDL family for over 20 years between them, and have subsequently accrued a wealth of expertise in customer acquisition and retention in this very niche market. Jane and Patrice kindly agreed to sit down with me and share some of their top tips for building and maintaining a happy customer-base for this blog article.

TIP 1 – Research, research and more research

As touched upon in the opening paragraphs of this article, learn about your prospective customer and their needs before you approach them. In the current climate, everyone is very busy and not able to facilitate long conversations with you to ascertain how you can help, so get to the point. Your pitch needs to be pertinent, concise, and express articulately and truthfully the services you can offer to improve their business. 

Remember, this is a mutually beneficial relationship, so it is important you are both satisfied with what you are able to deliver.

TIP 2 – Be aware of who you are talking to

Depending on who you are speaking to, they will require different kinds of explanations about the kind of services you provide. A business owner, for example, may be interested in a more top line overview of your translation services and what kind of cost-savings they can achieve through them, whilst a project manager may be more interested in the more technical elements of what you do (your software, the workflow process, the time-saving capabilities, etc) and how this will tie into their current situation. 

By contrast, someone in the finance department may have a primary focus on budget and return on investment possibilities. If you are familiar with their business and your own capabilities, you should have no problem adjusting the information you give to align with their area of interest.

TIP 3 – Ask questions and listen to the answers

Ask your prospective customer what systems they currently have in place for their translations, what kind of issues they run into, areas where they would like to see improvement and really listen to what they say in response. Gone are the days of a salesperson talking incessantly and successfully securing a customer. People want to be listened to and this actually makes life a lot simpler for you and your business. 

Your customers will be more than happy to tell you what they want, so take that information on board and directly address the points that they bring up. They will appreciate your receptiveness and be more inclined to believe you can deliver a personalized service to them.

TIP 4 – Be mindful of the next steps in the process

The relationship with a potential customer does not end when you put the phone down. Make sure you have set up a next phase in the journey by the time you have finished that initial call. Whether you have been told you need to speak to someone else, whether they are going to get back to you with further information, whether you need to clarify a certain aspect of the process – there must always be a next step. 

Be proactive and be organized, and make sure you see through everything that needs to be done your end to proceed as this is a brilliant way to build trust and a more congenial relationship with your customer. As an LSP, you are very unlikely to be hired after your first phone call, so make sure this is the start of a successful and companionable journey.

TIP 5 – Don't insult your competition

You may not be the first LSP that has approached this particular customer and they may already be working with another translation agency. Implying that your competitors are inept or not up to the task is never good conduct, and will reflect badly on you and your business too. Instead, concentrate on what it is your business supplies that makes you an even more attractive prospect for this particular customer. 

Perhaps you specialize in a certain field of translation, be it legal or medical, etc, that really elevates you as a front-runner for the kind of literature they will want localized, or perhaps the software and systems you use are cutting-edge and able to complete the kind of volumes they need translated much faster than they are currently getting. Perhaps it is simply that you are easy to reach, pleasant to communicate with and more flexible to their needs. Different people will value different things in their translation agency of choice, so concentrate on what it is that makes you the best option for them.

TIP 6 – Have a clean, well-written website

It is almost guaranteed nowadays that once a prospective customer has spoken to you and listened to everything we have discussed in the previous tips, they will then search for you online. Even if you have already made a good impression, your website will still be an important factor in their decision-making process so ensure it has all the information they will be looking for when considering your business. You may not be a big agency – perhaps there is only two to four of you - it doesn't matter. Have a good, well-made site that showcases your services, your technology, your languages, your fields of expertise, and easy ways to contact you and you will have elevated your chances of securing a client tenfold. 

For further information on creating your website and best practise you can implement to improve its position in the search results rankings, take a look at our SEO tip sheet.

TIP 7 – Use customer success stories to sell yourself

Do not underestimate the power of your past deeds as people are much more likely to choose you as their LSP if they can see evidence of other happy customers who have done the same. Have you ever provided a similar service that they need, or in the same specialized field, or for a similar kind of company? If the answer is yes – tell them about it! It is also a good idea to have these relevant customer success stories or case studies on your website so you can direct them to these articles as, I assure you, if they are contemplating employing your services, they will read them.

To learn more about translation technology that can transform the way your LSP business operates, visit our SDL Trados Studio and SDL Trados GroupShare pages to learn about our computer assisted translation (CAT) technology and top project management system respectively.