Since its invention, the telephone has brought immeasurable convenience to people’s lives. Closing long distances and making immediate contact a thing of ease, the device has certainly been an asset to business people around the world. Throw in all the gimmicks and applications of Smartphones and it’s hard to imagine life before high-speed communication.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic made physical distancing a must, the phone was a handy device for people who work in sales.
“Phone sales are much more impersonal but they’re very effective,” says Dr. Katie Hill, director of the R.M. “Bob” Wood Sales Leadership Center at Arkansas State University.
There are right ways and wrong ways to approach selling by phone, Hill says. Proper phone techniques can be the difference between closing and hanging up empty handed.
Hill offers five tips for using the phone effectively and efficiently to sell while avoiding a common, key mistake.
1. Have a reason
You are in essence making a cold call, Hill says. Understand that your call is always an interruption, even if it’s scheduled so have a point for the call and get to it quickly.
A lengthy call creates anxiety for the client, who may begin losing interest and look for an excuse to hang up. Ask them for permission at the outset to take a few minutes of their time, and stick to that duration. If they are busy, ask for a better time to call back. Brevity and being considerate are good for both the client and the salesperson.
“It also lends to your credibility and shows I have respect for the person I am calling,” Hill says.
2. Sound familiar
Make sure you know exactly who you’re calling and ask the receptionist for that person as if you’re already on familiar or on friendly terms, rather than saying “I want to talk to whoever is in charge of marketing,” Hill says.
Proceeding with certainty improves your chances of being connected to the person you’re trying to reach. It shows you know your business and lends to the professionalism you want to project.
Always assume the client is not in the right emotional buying state and that you must move them into the state they need to be in.
3. Find your voice
Your credibility can also be enhanced not just by speaking clearly and concisely, but by speaking as if you’re in a face-to-face meeting. Use your best selling voice.
Be as upbeat and energetic as you would in person to keep your potential client engaged. Let them hear a smile in your voice. If you tend to talk with your hands go ahead and wave them around.
People respond when they feel they’re being talked to and not at.
“Your enthusiasm should trickle over to that phone conversation,” Hill says.
4. Avoid distracted dialing
It’s easier for both parties to drift away when on the phone and eye contact isn’t possible.
On your end, turn off your email notifications and close all browsers; no Facebook or other social media.
Keep the kids and pets out of the room. Don’t let anything interfere and jeopardize the connection you’re trying to make.
“Be customer-centric,” Hill says.
5. Review and follow through
Before hanging up, go over any agreements made during the call and confirm. This is always important but especially so when you’re not able to see each other. You want to avoid misunderstandings.
Don’t leave anything open ended. If you’ve agreed to speak again at a later time, confirm the date and time. If you’ve promised to follow up with an email, send it promptly.
“It’s my job to make sure we’ve got the next step set up,” Hill says.
And One Don’t
Don't be passive. Get the client involved, Hill says. Ask great questions and tell a very compelling story. Be so enthusiastic they get caught up in your energy and want to reciprocate by listening to you.
You must communicate as the authority with confidence and certainty.
“If I’ve gone through all the effort and I’ve finally got someone on the phone I need to keep moving the needle,” Hill says. “We don’t want to waste our time. We don’t want to waste our client’s time.”