Sales professionals spend a lot of time on the phone, and knowing the best way to handle phone conversations can often be the difference between hitting your sales goals or missing your numbers. To help, we spoke with sales experts to identify the top 15 phone communication skills and tips every salesperson should know.
Here are 15 phone skills every salesperson should use:
1. Think Like Your Client
Kumaraswami A Shanthosh, Sales Consultant, Visual Marketer
You should switch shoes with your clients in the sense that you should see everything from their perspective. For example, the time that you are calling a person, the tone in which you talk to the customer, product requirements, payment options, etc. When you do this you will be able to understand the customer and pitch your product accordingly.
2. Use Your Prospect’s Name
Chris Siamof, Broker Associate – Keller Williams
I find it important to be upbeat and if possible use the person’s name when calling. This helps you to get past a gatekeeper by asking for a specific person. More importantly, everyone likes to be addressed by their first name. It creates a personal connection and reduces barriers. When I finish a call, I am sure to thank them by name for their time.
3. Leave a Voicemail That Asks Questions
Jake Warren, Corporate Business Manager, Dowding Industries
The most complicated thing with sales calls is the dreaded fifth ring knowing it’s going to voicemail. I’ve been digging for contact info for days or weeks and I finally build up the courage to call. Leaving a meaningful message can be harder than talking live. You have to leave them wanting more of what you are saying in short time frame. I ask questions that leave them thinking about what I have that no one else has.
4. Find Common Ground
Casey Grandoff, Acoustical Sales Specialist, Commercial Acoustics
The best way to prepare and succeed with cold calls is to find some commonality with the individual that you can use to start a conversation. One of the things that works best for me is to reference a previous project. We work with a lot of architects and builders, and they are always open to talk when I use this approach. I can usually learn a lot about industry pain points and personal needs, as well as potential future projects where we might be able to work together.
Adrienne Cooper, Chief People Officer, Fit Small Business
Have a primary and secondary purpose for the call, and use a call script to keep you focused. This way, if your prospect isn’t willing or able to talk about your primary reason for calling, you can quickly transition to your secondary purpose as a next valuable step in your process.
Often, this can be as simple as finding the best time of day, or day of the week to schedule a conversation or their preferred means of communication. By using software like Freshcaller, you can create a call script to be sure to stay focused on your purpose, quickly adapt when necessary, and keep both the communication and the relationship moving forward.
6. Do Your Research
Kristie Jones, Principal, Sales Acceleration Group
I always do three things before making a phone call to a prospect. First, I go to the company website and look for News and Press Releases, and the Careers page. This tells you if they are growing/hiring and what positions are most important. Second, I visit the LinkedIn and Twitter page of the person I’m speaking with to see what’s happening in their personal and professional life. Finally, I write out questions I’m going to ask and keep them in front of me as I call.
7. Tell a Story
John Livesay, host of The Successful Pitch podcast
Stop pushing out information about your product or service. That is the old way of selling and it doesn’t work anymore. People buy transformation not information. The new way of selling is focused on pulling clients in with a clear, concise, and compelling story of someone who was just like their current prospect that they helped. After the story is told then the closing is simply asking, “Does that sound like the kind of journey you would like to go on?”
8. Eliminate Distractions
Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter
Limit the background noise and distractions. Some background noise is fine, but the last thing you want the other person to hear when you’re calling is loud music or the sound of informal activities going on in the background.
9. Don’t Try To Do Too Much
Albert Ho, Chief Hero Officer, Healthcare Heroes
Phone calls aren’t the best way to close a sale. In fact, typically phone calls serve to make the first appointment, and sales are typically completed in person. Your goal should be to try to gain an appointment with a decision maker and resist the temptation to give them your entire sales pitch. Most people have a lot of things going on and when you make a cold call, they aren’t likely to be able to give your pitch the proper attention over the phone.
Allie Potts, Sales Editor, Fit Small Business
There is nothing worse than forgetting what you spoke about with a prospect or forgetting to follow up, so I find that taking notes is helpful. Using a CRM, such as Pipedrive, is a great way to capture information and next steps from a call while it is still fresh in your head so you can reference it later. This lets you record details about your prospect’s needs and create action steps that will help you move the relationships forward. Visit Pipedrive to start a 14-day free trial.
11. Know Your Number
Ashley Smith, Business Manager, Mason Frank International
Sales is a numbers game. You can learn a lot about a potential client before a phone call, and preparation is always key, but ultimately you can’t make a sale without picking up the phone. As a result of analyzing business data, we know roughly how many phone calls it takes before we connect with a warm contact, so we can estimate how many calls a team member should be making to meet their daily sales target.
12. Practice Good Posture
Drew Stevens, CEO – Stevens Consulting Group
Stand up when you are dialing and have a mirror nearby. Review your posture so that you are not slouching and you are smiling or at least look relaxed when you are on the phone. Sitting too long at a desk causes too much relaxation and at times lethargy, making you sound distant and tired. The more you look as if you are in a park or business meeting, the more excited, relaxed and energized you’ll be to guide the prospect in the direction you want them to go.
13. Educate Your Clients
Damien Buxton, Director, Midas Creative
Cold selling is very much a dying practice. Consumers are very savvy and can find exactly what they need with a few simple online searches. When your sales team do get to talk to a potential customer, they should NOT sell to them. A better approach is for them to become educators and problem solvers, listening exactly to what a customer wants and then helping them understand how you can get them to achieve it with your products and services.
14. Send an Email First
Nathan Fuller, Marketing & Sales Coordinator Launch Team, Inc.
Personally I never cold call unless I have already warmed up the prospect with an email. Cold calling just is not as effective as it used to be. Time is tight and people are busier than they ever have been. Always lead with an email and you better keep it short or you will lose the prospect by the third sentence. Ten percent of your email should be introducing yourself or your team and building credibility, while the other 90% should be about them and how you think you are a good fit.
Evan Tarver, General Manager, Fit Small Business
In a world where prospects are overwhelmed by email, nothing stands out like a handwritten note. I send one whenever I talk with a new prospect, and especially when I win a new customer. Taking a few minutes to put a pen on paper to say thank you after a call can make a huge difference in the impression you leave on someone since hardly anyone ever receives real mail anymore. Using a service like Vistaprint to create personalized cards adds a professional touch, and leaves a lasting impression. Visit Vistaprint today to order your cards.
Bonus Tip: Smile When You Talk
Dave Waring, CEO, Fit Small Business
Smile while you are talking. It may feel silly at first, but it comes through even though the person can’t see you. When you smile, it changes your demeanor, your tone of voice, and even the energy behind your words. All of these things help your conversation partner feel more relaxed and comfortable with you, which makes it easier to create an authentic connection.
Learning a few of these phone skills, and using them the next time you pick up the phone to talk with a new prospect can help you be more confident and prepared to respond to their needs. It will also help you focus on your reason for calling and move the relationship forward. Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite phone sales skills? Leave us a comment and let us know!