The Telephone – Sales Tool or Club?

Often when I suggest to salespeople that they do some telephone selling, a panicky look comes over their faces and you’d think that I’d suggested they pick up a hot poker and put it to their ear!

Telephone selling isn’t telemarketing.  It is a tool every salesperson must use at times so we should learn to  use it  properly.  Like any tool, there are right ways and wrong ways to use it.  For telephone selling to be effective, it must be done right. Done right, it will help increase your sales. 

Here are 10 keys to effective use of the telephone as a sales tool.

1-Have a purpose

You can only accomplish so much over the phone so decide in advance what the purpose of the call is. Closing the sale is usually only possible with low-ticket items so a more practical purpose would be to prospect for potential clients and make appointments. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to have a script that you are comfortable with. The script should act only as a guideline and not become a canned presentation. This way you are unlikely to forget what you want to say, when you want to say it, and how you want to say it.

2-Adjust your speech rate

A fast talker is hard to understand and is usually suspected as being slick. On the other hand, speaking too slowly will annoy fast thinkers. As soon as possible, note your prospect’s speech rate and adjust yours to match.

3-Use a pleasant voice

In general, the higher the pitch, the more unpleasant to the ear. A low, mellow voice is pleasing to the ear and usually avoids attempts to cut the conversation short. Don’t be so mellow that your prospect falls asleep!

4-Watch your body language

Mellow voice notwithstanding, if you slouch in your chair and have a frown on your face, it will come across in your voice. Sit up when you make your call. Be alert to yourself and sensitive to your prospect’s mood. Smile! Some people actually put a small mirror in front of them so that they can see themselves while they are making calls. Use a headset to free up your hands to take notes.

5-Qualify the prospect

Be prepared with a couple of quick questions that you can use early in the conver­sation to ensure that you are talking to the proper person and not wasting anyone’s time. If nothing else, try to determine who the decision maker is and when he or she will be available. Be sure to get the name of the person you have been talking to as you can use it as a pseudo referral. (“Mr. Prospect, I was talking with John Smith and he suggested that you’re the person to contact regarding…”)

6-Clear the time

It is courteous (and wise) to ask if your prospect has a few minutes to talk with you (see below). If he or she doesn’t, use the opportunity to set a time that you can call or visit.

7-Have a good approach

You must get your prospect’s attention as quickly as possible. Identify your company and yourself and then quickly start talking about something that is of interest to the prospect. (“Mr. Prospect, I’m calling from XYZ Company; my name is Bill Doe. Our company specializes in working with electrical contractors on improving their ability to provide more accurate quotes. The purpose of my call is to find out how much of a concern this is to your company and determine if it would be worthwhile for you to take a look at our system.”)

8-Ask permission

People are busy and time is limited. Once you’ve got the prospect’s attention, ask permission to move forward. (“If I’ve caught you at a good time, would it be okay to ask a few questions?”)

9-Get them involved

Don’t be a “fast talker,” be a “smooth listener”. Get your prospect involved and talking as soon as possible to determine if he is interested in your products. Use open-ended questions – those starting with why, what, when, where, how and tell me to get the prospect talking.            

10-Get his interest

Once you get the prospect’s attention and uncover some of his needs, you must quickly get his interest. Giving the prospect a quick glimpse of some of the “benefits” that you have to offer will do the job. If your prospect learns up front what’s in it for him, he is more apt to listen to the rest of your presentation or at least give you an appointment.

Have a sheet of paper in front of you that outlines all the reasons why your prospect should do business with you. Have another sheet that lists all of the objections you are likely to get along with some appropriate responses. This will allow you to have the right words at the right time. Be prepared!

The telephone is simply another sales tool that you need to know how to use effectively if you are to sell efficiently.

Revised from an article originally titled “Effective Use of the Telephone in Selling.”

For more information on sales training and coaching, please refer to The Right Skills.

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