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Phone Selling Skills 101

 

Phone Selling SkillsWhen I got into sales, email did not exist, so the formula was simple – develop outstanding phone skills or fail. Today, salespeople avoid phone calls like the plague, so when they are forced to use the phone, they’re likely to do more damage than good to their sales efforts.

But honing one’s phone skills to handle a call like a pro gives you an important advantage over competitors – one you can use to generate more leads and build better relationships. It’s a mistake to think buyers don’t like phone calls. What they don’t like are bad phone calls.

Here are a few proven techniques to use the phone to your advantage when cold calling and building relationships.

COLD CALLING

  • Be direct, concise and state your purpose. “I’m John Doe from ABC Company and I’m calling to find out if we can substantially increase your throughput with one of our automation solutions.”
  • Stress the benefit. In the statement above, the emphasis is on substantially increasing throughput. This gives the buyer a reason to listen.
  • Don’t use too many adjectives. The more you pile on, the more you obscure your point and sound like a snake oil salesman. Contrast the statement above with this: “I’m John Doe, a senior project development associate from the award-winning, innovative ABC Company. I’m calling to find out if we can substantially increase your throughput with one of our state-of-the art, meticulously engineered automation solutions.”
  • Ask if the buyer has time to talk before you launch into a conversation. People appreciate it when you are sensitive about their time. Furthermore, getting into a sales discussion when the buyer’s attention is elsewhere is not in your best interest. Use a negative response to set up a time to call back – a time when you will have the buyer’s full attention.

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

  • The phone beats email for delivering bad news. Again, get to the point: “I’m calling to let you know your order is going to be a week late.” Explain why it happened, and suggest options. With a phone call, you can gauge the customer’s reaction and proceed accordingly.
  • The phone beats email for soliciting referrals. From time to time, ask the customer if he or she knows anyone who might be interested in your products or services. On the phone, the customer is more motivated to respond, and there’s no delete button to press. And by the way, the phone is quite effective for giving referrals, something you should do as frequently as asking for them.
  • The phone beats email for reviving old opportunities. You can send 1,000 emails to a dead prospect or lost customer and still get the silent treatment. Email solicitations are too easy to ignore. But a little phone contact over a period of time – assuming you have something of value to offer – gives you the best chance of getting your foot back in the door.

GENERAL

  • Don’t mumble. What would you think of an email that read, “I’m Jrmrril Dimmrral from Rummenna Bummena …” No sale on the horizon there, my friend.
  • Don’t ramble. In business, you never go wrong by getting to the point.
  • Don’t get too personal. Always let the customer take the lead when discussing personal topics. Some may want to talk at length about them, but many more don’t.
  • Ask questions. Buyers do not like being subjected to a sales monologue, so involve them in the process. An effective phone sales presentation may ask: “What are your main productivity challenges?” “What solutions have you tried?” “Why did they fail?”

Over to You

This last point about questions is the key to understanding why the phone is more effective than email for making sales. Email is a lecture, but the phone is a conversation. Sales are built on relationships, and relationships are nurtured by interaction, not textbook instruction. It’s not enough for the buyer to know your products, your services and your value. He or she needs to know you.

These tips work, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. Staying on the theme of asking questions, what phone sales tips have you found effective? What phone sales techniques do you particularly dislike?

Article written by
Brad Shorr is the Director of B2B Marketing for Straight North, an Internet marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. With many years of entrepreneurial experience, he writes frequently on business strategy and content marketing topics.
2 comments
TheRelationshipInsider
TheRelationshipInsider

On your Cold Calling tips, "Ask the buyer if he has time to talk..." I have a difference of opinion. Asking this question immediately opens the door for him to say "no" and hang up on you. I have found that if I'm polite and get to the point, asking questions about THEIR NEEDS, they are smart enough to tell me "now is not a good time," which gives me the ease to ask, "When would be a good time to call you back?" Then I do so. Just my opinion.

BradShorr
BradShorr

@TheRelationshipInsider Different things work for different people. My approach has always worked very well for me; I don't like to engage someone in a conversation if they are preoccupied or resistant from the outset. But this brings up another good phone practice -- try different techniques. Sooner or later you'll find a style that gets results. 

 
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