Tip #1: Prepare Mentally and Physically
First, clear your desk and prepare yourself for each sales phone call by having everything you need within reach or eyesight. Use a headset, lean slightly forward while sitting in your chair and minimize or remove any distractions.
Now, think of yourself as a sponge. Give undivided attention to the conversation. Listen closely to not only what is being said, but how it is being said.
A helpful tip is to record conversations to be sure you’re not missing important details or nuances. Then play the recording after the call to confirm and flesh out your notes.
Tip #2: Clarify the Lexicon
When entering a new industry, most people know little, if anything, about the terminology and acronyms being used.
People in the software industry, for example, use acronyms like MVS (multiple virtual storage), VM (virtual machine), VSE (virtual storage extended), or CICS (customer information control system) and it can get confusing fast.
A good tactic to overcome this challenge is to ask the person you’re speaking with if they have a moment to define confusing terms. Never be afraid to admit you do not know or understand something.
Remember it’s much more important to be interested than to be interesting. Interested people are good listeners.
You can receive a valuable, free education just by asking questions and letting people share the lessons of their years of experience. Is everyone helpful? No. Many people are too busy to take the time to speak with you — but there are plenty of people who will educate you if you ask politely and show a genuine interest in what they have to say.
Tip #3: Reflect What You Hear
What makes your call different from any other type of call is that you are truly trying to offer a benefit. You do this by using seeing language (“I see what you mean”), hearing language (“I hear what you are saying”) or feeling language (“I understand how you feel”) terms. These terms enable your contact to understand the results they can attain using your solution.
Tip #4: Focus on Benefits, Not Features
You can demonstrate to a contact how to alleviate dissatisfaction with current suppliers, or how to eliminate potential problems or challenges while taking advantage of proven solutions. You don’t do this by listing features — you do this by relaying the benefits and business value in terms they can relate to.
Tip #5: Respect Time and Maintain Manners
People tend to be naturally wary of unexpected sales phone calls, so it’s important to differentiate yourself from other account executives by respecting their time. Have your calendar handy to schedule a phone appointment if the contact you are calling is busy.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should always be unfailingly friendly and polite to everyone you speak to within an organization. People with influence can come from any department.
Tip #6: Act on Emotional Cues
Be alert to verbal and emotional cues throughout your call. How does the person sound when they answer the phone? Are they harried, angry, busy, or distracted?
It’s a good idea to ask “Am I catching you at a busy point?” If they say yes, then ask when would be a good time to call back and schedule an appointment to call them on a specific day and time. Make a note in your schedule and be sure to place the call.
Six Steps to Success
If you use these six practices while making your calls, your can increase your credibility and your success. People like to speak with people who are genuine — who speak on the same level as they do rather than above or below them. My experience shows that people who are treated with politeness, thoughtfulness, and respect enjoy speaking with someone who has a genuine interest in listening to what they have to say.