Sorry for the super long post but I think a lot of you will find this valuable. This post originally appeared here. There are a lot of statistics out there, which say that successful businesses should end up closing about 1 out of every 3 calls. But I know from experience that this is often not the case, and I’ll tell you how I learned that. In 2010, I worked for a company that sold phone calls to local businesses (think plumbers, chiropractors, etc.). After working there for awhile and learning the ins and outs of generating leads, I wanted to see if I could set something up on my own. So, I created a Google listing for a company called “Plumbers New York” and a company called “Appliance Repair New York”. I used a tracked phone number as the main business phone number on the listing. This allowed me to track and record all the calls. It also allowed me to update where the number was forwarded. This was important because I planned on forwarding these to different businesses once I started generating a decent amount of calls. To be honest, I kinda forgot about it, after I set it up. Fast forward a few short months, and I noticed I was starting to get A LOT of phone calls from people looking for a plumber in New York City. Once I realized what was going on, I checked the call tracking system and saw that I was getting OVER 90 calls per month!!!! And that’s without doing anything after the initial setup! I hopped on Google and noticed that “Plumbers New York” was the top result on Google places for some really good search terms like “plumber new york.” This was awesome news, but I had nobody to sell these leads to. Luckily, it wasn’t very difficult to find a plumber who needed more leads in NYC. We agreed that he would pay me $20 per phone call and I would send him monthly email updates like this: I wanted to make sure that he was only getting quality leads and that he was booking appointments, so I started to listen to some of the initial phone calls. What happened next absolutely shocked me… The quality of phone calls was unbelievably good. They were people looking for a service that he provided (plumbing repairs), in his service area (NYC), and they were asking him to come out to their house for either an estimate or to perform the job. You would think this was all great news and he’d be thanking me for doing such a great job right? Wrong! Even with these exceptionally qualified leads, who needed his service, this guy still couldn’t close the leads! Put yourself in my shoes for a second, and think about that. I was handing him potential clients BEGGING him to come over and give them an estimate and he wasn't able to close them. Eventually, I decided to check the recordings of the calls to see what was really going on, on these calls. The results SHOCKED me, as they will probably shock you, in fact I want to warn you that this recording will be a little difficult to listen to especially if your business would die to get hot leads like this! But let’s barrel through the awkwardness together, because there is a lot to be learned from this call about what NOT to do when you pick up a call from a hot prospect. A little background, the caller is a lawyer who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, one of the wealthiest, most expensive parts of New York, and she specifically called requesting an estimate. I’m going to breakdown this phone call and explain what went wrong first, then I’ll give you 5 ways you can fix these problems with your own leads. We start off with the caller explaining her plumbing issue, and her need for a plumber. 2:30 - After explaining her plumbing issue, the prospect proceeds to give her location and explain how she’s close in location to the plumber. The plumber replies that the way he works is that he charges $200 per hour for the first hour and then $100 per hour after that, plus materials. This is a huge mistake, because he starts out by making it about the price, instead of establishing credibility and empathizing with her situation. 2:45 - The prospect replies “well that’s expensive” to which the plumber answers “it’s because Manhattan is expensive.” Another terrible response. Not only does it not explain WHY he’s charging more by establishing credibility, it feels like a blow-off answer, which doesn’t make your prospect feel better about hiring you. 2:55 - The prospect then proposes that the plumber come out and “assess the situation and give an estimate” (typically this is exactly what you want to hear from a prospect). The plumber replies that “the person coming out to see you gets paid salary” and then he continues to be passive aggressive and says there’s nothing he can do “unless you can convince the person to work for free” (yes, he actually said this). This is really bad, and doesn’t need much extra commentary from me other than to say what do you think the chances are that if this plumber went over to give this prospect an estimate, that she ends up hiring another different plumber and he gets stuck paying for the contractor? Probably pretty low. 3:55 - The plumber goes on to say “it’s the same as you, you expect to get paid if you are working” to which the prospect replies “well I’m a lawyer and it’s different”. Awkward sauce. This call is particularly difficult to listen to, not only did he not close a very hot lead, but the conversation was hostile, passive aggressive and awkward. Would you want to do business with someone who talked to you like that? I know I wouldn’t. The worst part is, the conversation could have gone completely differently and EASILY could have lead not just to one sale, but to repeat business down the line. All because he didn’t know how to handle a red-hot lead. I don’t want you to run into the same problems as our plumber here. I want you to be able to easily close your leads in a comfortable way that makes them feel lucky to do business with you. So to help you and our plumber out, Here’s 5 Actionable Ways To Turn Your Leads Into Customers 1. Create Empathy With The Caller Right off the bat, our plumber makes a mistake by not even acknowledging the emotions of the client! Our plumber never makes any attempt to empathize and show the lawyer that he UNDERSTANDS what she’s going through, and more importantly, he’s here to help. Instead the plumber acts like he’s doing her a favor by even taking this call. Imagine instead if immediately after she explained her plumbing situation, he said: “Oh wow, I totally understand what you’re going through and I can personally relate to the frustrations of having plumbing issues. It’s something you never really plan for and can be a bit annoying trying to find a reliable plumber in the city that can accommodate your schedule. I get that.” After hearing that, the caller would be much more at ease and feel like the plumber understood her situation and wants to help. This shifts us from the competitive idea of “selling” or “negotiating” into the more cooperative idea of working together to fix this annoying problem and establishes you and the caller are on the same team! 2. Establish Credibility & Trust After you show that you understand and empathize with the caller, the next step is to establish credibility, and establish that you are an expert and authority on what you are selling. In this example the plumber never sold himself or his company, meaning he never gave the customer a reason to want to hire him. He didn’t create any value for his service, and as we just discussed he definitely didn’t make the caller feel understood by establishing empathy. The conversation went from her explaining her plumbing issue directly to a discussion about price. The plumber didn’t build any value around why the customer should pay the price he charges. which is why the client balked when he suggested it was $200 to get him to come over for an estimate. Do you really think that $200 is a lot of money to a lawyer living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan? Because I don’t, I think the objection was less about price and more about the lack of perceived value. Imagine if instead of being passive aggressive or demanding money to come out to give an estimate the plumber instead said something like: “That said, we are one of the top rated plumbers in New York City and have been servicing Manhattan for over 12 years. Our customers come back to us time and time again because we offer fast, quality service that they can count on. We are fully licensed and insured which allows us to service nearly any building in New York.” After hearing that, our lawyer might have been a little more receptive to paying for an estimate (More on why this is still wrong in Reason # 4) because it’s been established that she is dealing with an expert. 3. Address Competitors & Their Weaknesses Another problem that rears its ugly head here in this call, is the idea of unflattering comparisons to your competitors. Our lawyer mentions that there are a lot of plumbers who do provide free estimates. Instead of using that as a chance to demonstrate the difference between an expert and an amateur and why that justifies a price difference, by saying something like: “There are a lot of uninsured plumbers out there who may give you a low rate, but your building won’t allow them to service you, and to be honest, I’m not sure you’d want to count on them for your plumbing needs anyway.” Our plumber instead decides to get passive aggressive and says he can’t give a free estimate “ unless you can convince the person to work for free” Yikes! 4. Provide An Estimate Your Customers Can Understand As I mentioned earlier, it’s rare that when a potential client says something is “expensive” they are actually objecting to the price. In this case it’s almost a certainty that a lawyer living in Manhattan can afford $200 for an estimate, that’s not what she’s objecting to. Instead she’s objecting to the way the discussion of price was introduced and the lack of perceived value. Instead of demanding $200 and offering lame arguments, what if our plumber instead said: “I’d love to come out and take a look at your issue. I can give you a ballpark price but it might change a bit based on the actual problem we find. Based on what you told me, it should be about $400-$800 total, which includes labor, materials, and tax.” In this example, our plumber would actually be quoting her a HIGHER price, but I guarantee that if he phrased it like this, the prospect would have begged him to come over to take a look. 5. Build Value Before Giving Price By now I’m sure you can imagine how much differently (and more pleasantly) this conversation would go than the one you had to listen to earlier. To end this conversation and start to move things towards an easy close, you can build a little bit more value after offering the estimate by saying something like this: “Of course! We are going to send out one of our best technicians, who is licensed and insured and will make sure that everything is perfect before he leaves. We also back our work up with a 2 year warranty in case anything unexpected happens, we will send someone out to fix it free of charge.” I guarantee, that had the plumber on our call used these 5 strategies, he’d have easily made the appointment and the sale! Let’s recap everything we’ve learned - I started off by asking you what percentage of phone calls you turn into paying customers. - Then I filled you in on my backstory and specifically what I learned generating tons of red hot leads for local businesses only to have them fail to convert. - Next we looked at the 5 ways to turn your leads into customers: Create Empathy With Your Callers Establish Credibility & Trust Address Competitors & Their Weaknesses Provide An Estimate Your Customers Can Understand Build Value Before Giving Price By now, I’m sure you see the power of handling calls the right way! In fact, the tactics and techniques I shared in this article are enough to get you started converting a lot more leads!