In this article, Andy Preston offers his guidance on how to sell over the phone, and we present our call centre sales techniques, with examples and commentary.
1. Be Confident
Confidence is vital, whether the call is inbound or outbound. For anyone to buy from you or take the action you want, they have to see you as someone who knows what they’re doing! Far too many people make outbound calls with fear or hesitation in their voice – resulting in a poor impression of themselves, their company and their product/service.
In order to be confident you need to ensure that you understand the basics of the product or service you’re selling, be composed at the start of the call and make sure you deliver your script with a strong voice tone! One of the biggest mistakes I hear people make on the telephone is to sound too ‘weak and wimpy’ – meaning that the people on the other end of the phone don’t take them seriously.
2. Be Natural
I’ve lost count of how many calls I’ve heard made where the person making it sounds ‘false’. They’re either reading a script given to them by someone else that they don’t believe in, or they don’t take the time to learn what they need to say well enough (so it doesn’t sound like them).
If you’re working on a new product or service or in a new area, you’ve got to take the time to learn what you’re saying. Most people don’t bother to do this well enough, but if you do, you’ll find that it starts to sound more natural, as once you’ve mastered the words, you naturally start to put your own voice inflections and tonality onto the script, so it sounds more like you – therefore more natural!
Customers want people who sound ‘natural’ and able to have a conversation – can you do that, or do you sound more ‘robotic’?
3. Listen More
This is a telephone sales skill that should come naturally to everybody, yet most people fail to do it anywhere near well enough! I’m always saying that there is a difference between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’. True listening involves things like ‘verbal nods’ like ‘uh-huh’, and ‘I see’, paraphrasing back what someone has just said to you and asking further questions about a piece of information the customer has just given to you.
This is very common in everyday social situations, yet I’m often amazed how many people can’t do it when it comes to a sales situation! In order to be able to do this more effectively you have to take a genuine interest in the person you’re speaking to – again, something that most people don’t bother to do.
The key here is to get the person on the other end of the phone into a conversation, not an interrogation!
4. Don’t Assume
Yes, I know. You’ve heard this before. But if people did anything about it then people like me wouldn’t need to keep saying it! I’ve lost count of the number of calls I’ve heard where the person making the call thinks they know what the customer is about to say, therefore they ‘switch off’!
One of the most common examples of this is when the person making the call starts finishing off the sentences of the other person! What’s that about? This only serves to irritate the customer and sometimes results in them putting the phone down – not the sort of result the caller was looking for!
In most cases, whenever the caller finishes off the customer’s sentence, they get it wrong – leading to the other person having to correct them and a loss of rapport. Again, not the result we were looking for!
5. Make It Interesting!
This is something that has affected every person who has made an outbound call at some point in their career – and it affects some people every day! If you’re the sort of person that has to make a large number of outbound calls in which you’re saying the same or similar things on each call, this is probably affecting you right now!
Think about it… you’ve delivered your script probably 70 times today already. You get through to the next person and, guess what – you sound like it’s the 70th time you’ve delivered it today! The problem is, it’s the first time this particular person has heard it! Don’t they deserve your best effort, rather than the tired, bored, ‘I’d rather be at home than making this call’ way in which you’ve just delivered it?!!
Andy Preston specialises in sales and selling for small businesses.
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Even more practical techniques to sell over the phone
Here some of our practical ideas for how to sell over the telephone, which will help you to be confident and natural, listen more, avoid assumptions and keep it interesting.
1. Eliminate fillers (e.g. ums, ahhs and ers)
Verbal tics, often referred to as “fillers”, are frequently interpreted as a sign of uncertainty, which alienates you from the customer. Instead, you should take a brief pause when you feel the urge to add a “filler” such as “umm” or “like”, to make the customer hang onto your every word.
2. Listen to your phone calls
A great technique to improve your performance over the phone is to listen to your calls. This will give you great clues about how you can improve in the future.
3. Sit up straight or stand up
Research has suggested that having good posture when making a phone call helps you to speak with more conviction, making you sound more confident in the process. Sitting up straight and standing up also helps you to project your voice and speak clearly.
4. Prepare for common objections
Hesitation and fear often comes when a customer challenges your assertions and signifies that you do not really know the product that you are selling. So, prepare for common objections and perhaps bullet point a response in the form of a script so you can feel assured at all times.
For more information, view our article on handling sales objections over the telephone.
5. Declutter your workspace
Decluttering your desk and nearby surroundings will ensure that you have easy access to everything that you may possibly need to assist the customer interaction. This will again decrease hesitancy levels and enable you to work in a structured, methodical and confident way.
The old adage is “smile while you dial”, and there is strong evidence to suggest that smiling elevates the tone of your voice, meaning that you sound more friendly and warm when making a phone call. So, whilst the customer may not be able to see it, they can hear it.
7. Check your smile with a mirror at your desk
If you keep a mirror at your desk when you are speaking on the phone, you can check your smile and other facial expressions that you are using during the conversation. As how you look is how you sound, this will give you a good idea of how you are being interpreted on the other end.
8. Practise talking 20% slower
If you get nervous on the phone, it is more than likely that you will begin to talk faster and faster. So, talk slowly, with the aim of speaking 20% slower than you normally would and sound more natural and clear. Also, do not be afraid of silence; it can be a powerful sales tool.
9. Speak from your chest
When you get nervous, you will notice that your voice moves from your chest upwards, so the sound emerges from your nose and throat. This makes you sound whiny and high-pitched and does not convey a natural sound or confidence to the receiver. When this happens, breathe out and practise speaking in a deeper tone.
10. Use the customer’s name at least three times in a call
Regularly using the customer’s name demonstrates that you are actively listening to them and is a great way to develop the conversation. People will take greater interest in your thoughts and ideas when they hear their name and are more likely to give you their full attention.
11. Apply “verbal nods” to the conversation
Verbal nods, such as ‘uh-huh’, and ‘I see’, help to combat pure silence on your end of the phone, which makes the customer feel helpless and unappreciated. So, a salesperson should use such noises to assure the client of their focus and understanding.
12. Repeat a customer’s word or phrases
Repeating a word or phrase your client has used encourages them to expand their thoughts. An insurance example would be if the customer says, “I need it to be reliable and cover…” and you repeat the word “reliable”, you are allowing them to open up and providing yourself with valuable information.
13. Summarise what the customer says
If you summarise what the customer says and repeat it back to them, the customer will acknowledge that you have listened to them and understand their situation.
14. Clarify key information points
Often, a customer will gloss over a key point that influences a sale, so it is important to say something along the lines of “can you tell me something about that please”. This will clarify the situation for both you and the customer and may uncover significant information.
15. Ask questions
By asking questions you will uncover valuable information that will help you to discover what is important to the customer. It also flags interest in them, which is key to building rapport and consequently boosting the chance of a sale.
16. Present solutions
Customers are not interested in the design of your product, but they are interested in what it does for them. So, if you listen carefully to what they say, you can identify how your product can help them individually.
17. Rephrase instructions
Occasionally, it can be difficult not to make assumptions if the customer does not fully disclose their information after considered prompting. When this situation arises, replace phrases such as “you should” with “let’s”, so you are both fully aware of your next steps and build rapport by denoting that this is a shared mission.
18. Practise your approaches
Take time to listen to other reps and gather new ideas to test out on your customers. If you stick to the same rigid process with every call, you will begin to bore yourself, and consequently you will not be engaging with your customers. So, pick up and use different approaches for separate calls.
19. Do not fall for the “Gambler’s Fallacy”
After a streak of bad sales calls, your luck will soon change, right? Wrong.
This is a psychological trap that we have all fallen into in our lives. For example, you toss a coin three times and each time it has landed on heads. Part of you assumes that it must land on tails the fourth time, so that the odds start to balance out. However, the odds remain 50-50.
A salesperson must not make these same assumptions, as if you have a prolonged series of no sales, it will most likely be due to an unrefined approach, technique or a lack of confidence. This is a signal that you need to work on your sales technique.
20. Do not fall for the “Recency Effect”
It is a common principle in human psychology that when presented with a list of items, we are most likely to remember the most recent item (that is, the last one).
Here’s an example of how this can negatively affect sales. A salesperson is selling two items, but the last few customers have only been opting for one of them, and he begins to neglect the less popular item. Remember, not disclosing all possible options to the customer can limit their spending options.
21. Create rapport
As mentioned frequently over the course of this article, creating rapport with the person on the other end of the phone is crucial to the likelihood of you making a sale. But how do you do this?
One great method is by creating empathy. This demonstrates that the customer is your sole focus and that you are taking personal responsibility for them in this conversation. This is building rapport.
For great advice on how to do so, read our 18 essential empathy statements.
Do you have any more telephone sales tips and techniques that you think should be on the list?
Please leave your ideas, suggestions and thoughts in the comments section below.