Top Tips for Selling Over the Phone

How to sell over the phone
Filed under - Skills, ,

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.

How to Sell Over the Phone

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. Read this article for 6 strategies for Building Agent Confidence in Telesales.

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 sales 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.

Read this article to find out more about ACTIVE listening, and other really important customer service skills which will help you to be successful in your telephone sales.

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!

Active listening image

Without ‘Active Listening’ you can’t build a rapport with the customer and understand what they really want.

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!

Andy Preston

Andy Preston

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?!! Read this article for tips on Positive Scripting, for advice on how to create a good script experience for up-selling.

Andy Preston specialises in sales and selling for small businesses. 

Person not interested at desk

Remember: Although you have heard yourself say a script many times, it may be the first time for the customer, so say your script like its the first time you have said it.

Follow the link for: Articles about Telesales

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.

6. 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.

For more verbal tips, read this article on how to use vocal pace and tone.

7. 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. Also read The Right Words and Phrases to Say on a Sales Call, as well as The Wrong Words to Say on a Sales Call.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Declutter your workspace

Declutter your desk

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.

11. Smile

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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

Read this article for 5 fantastic tips to Improve Your Call Centre Sales

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. Apply “verbal nods” to the conversation

Greeting messages in speech bubbles

Use filler words to avoid the dreaded silence!

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.

Here is some great advice for avoiding those silences, also called ‘Dead Air Time’.

17. 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.

18. 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.

Summarising the call is a key part of call closing. To find out more, read our article: The Best Call-Closing Statements

19. 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.

Question to idea image - clarifying questions

20. 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.

21. 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.

If you wish to learn how to greater present offers, along with solutions, read our article: Call Control Techniques: How to Present Options to Customers

22. 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.

23. 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.

24. Do not fall for the “Gambler’s Fallacy”

A silver coins flips through the air

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.

25. 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.

26. 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.

Author: Jo Robinson
Reviewed by: Megan Jones

Published On: 4th Jan 2017 - Last modified: 25th Jan 2024
Read more about - Skills, ,

Follow Us on LinkedIn

Recommended Articles

training course meeting
50 Call Centre Training Tips
A picture of a rocket
10 Tips to Help Call Centre Agents Drive More Sales
Seven steps to selling customer experience to your people
Sales Techniques: Conversational Selling
  • i would like to downloan some video or somtime like that because you are very, very, very exllent helping us, so thank you very much.

    gerardo 15 Feb at 17:07
  • I would like to thank from my inner core of heart for this information. Its really good article. i know all those things well but also sometimes we have to remind ourself what the facts and figures are involved.
    Thank you very much once more

    David 7 Aug at 19:52
  • really nice article
    thank you

    David 7 Aug at 19:52
  • I like to thank you with this fantastic and straight forward information about outbound. I agree with you in point that, is something we do in social situation however we fail to it over the phone.

    Thanks million times

    Sphelele Mthethwa 13 Aug at 08:30
  • The article is very great it helps us to improves our selves.Thank, you keep up the good work.

    Pearl Chamane 13 Aug at 09:17
  • i love this article, this will definitely help my team people on outbound calls to work effectively and also meet their targets. thumbs up for a job well done.

    fatimah 26 Aug at 16:54
  • I like the way you have explained. It helped me to understand where i stand now! Well my question is: I am working in an inbound sales process (‘intangible’ sales like technical services), how good that these tips help me? Is there any difference between outbound and inbound as far as your explanation is concerned?

    Sharat Chandra 27 Sep at 22:07
  • I like the way you have explained. It helped me to understand where i stand now! Well my question is: I am working in an inbound sales process (‘intangible’ sales like technical services), how good that these tips help me? Is there any difference between outbound and inbound as far as your explanation is concerned?? Help me.

    Sharat Chandra 27 Sep at 22:08
  • These are five simple steps which can make a Huge difference in any sales environment. This is great stuff however we must be able to apply it on a daily basis to be more effective. Can you share some ideas that we can use to be creative on the sales floor and help increase the number of sales per agent?

    Jeremy 28 Sep at 11:22
  • most imp tips

    abhishek moktan 28 Sep at 11:30
  • Thanx a lot to Call Center Helper who made me proffessionaly strong in Call Center. Right now i guess that i have build a confidence through your tips so once again thank you very much for making mentally strong.


    Safal Bharati 28 Sep at 11:46
  • as a fresher, I will surely give it a try. thank you

    sebastian rai 28 Sep at 11:51
  • really awesome stuff

    daniel 5 Jan at 17:39
  • this help thanx

    brad 17 Feb at 07:14
  • really help ful article……

    b. sujata 9 Nov at 12:03
  • this is a very helpful article. i’m just wondering if you could also give us some tips how to handle customer’s hesitation on geting a certain product ( we are oo INBOUND sales )..

    erwin 17 Jan at 19:50
  • Gr8 work…. Hats off

    Abbas 5 Jul at 21:28
  • Says what to do and what not to do but doesn’t tell how to do it. Most know what you should do, they just don’t have an effective way of implementing.

    jim 15 Nov at 19:48
  • First day at new job today and im so gonna try this out 😉

    Teddy 19 Dec at 13:29
  • that’s some really helpful information, thanks call center helper, now i guess i can control the moods on the phones now.thanks a million. you’ve really helped me

    Anonymous 14 Jan at 18:45
  • all Of THE PoInTs WErE QuITE InTEREstinG..anD i hAvE LeArNED A lots of thingS …THANKS ANDY PRESTON

    tehseem 11 Feb at 13:43
  • I think being assumptive is very important because they called you for a reason. If you assume then that only makes the point that you believe in the product/service and are recommending rather then being pushy. Through out my sales career assumption helped me

    bonjour 26 Mar at 10:47
  • Thank you so much Mr. Peterson for the helpful tips.

    kris perry 13 Jun at 13:36
  • Great article! Thank you!

    CLC 22 Jun at 15:27
  • Thanks millions with the straght forward kind advice.

    luthfie ludino 31 Jul at 04:26
  • Very helpful article for those who are doing business over the phone.Thanks so much.

    luthfie ludino 31 Jul at 04:28
  • thanks very much the article is rich and very helpful

    patience 19 Jan at 15:47
  • It’s very helpful… Thanks!!!

    Liny 12 Aug at 14:42
  • This article was very helpful to me

    Evangeline 17 Oct at 18:50
  • your tips are very very helpful to all who dial for tech

    saumyajit 21 Jan at 10:32
  • I come from a manufacturing/general laboring background start my new job as a call centre agent next week so this kind of work is new to me although im confident in my people skills and already know a lot on how to build rapport these tis will no doubt serve me well so thank you very much for taking the time to make your post 🙂

    gaz 10 Mar at 08:47
  • Thanks for the tips. Very usefull. Going to use them for calling tomorrow. Need to get more customers haha.

    Do you have some more psychological advice? Triggers, traps etc.


    Willjan 18 Mar at 23:21
  • Those were very good pointers. Sure they will help me in my job. Thanks Andy!

    Unnati 12 Aug at 03:55
  • Great Writeup. thanks for sharing wonderful information

    amit 8 Oct at 11:07
  • Being confident AND natural is such a key element of selling of the phone. It is all very well sounding very confident but it needs to be kept in check so you dont sound arrogant or as if you are high pressuring your prospect. The being natural element is crucial to compliment the confidence. The more relaxed you sound to the point you are not necessarily thinking as you talk, you just trust that the right words will come out of you mouth. No “umming or errring”

    Jon Noh 5 Nov at 14:25
  • Thank you so much, it’s my 4th day at this job and this article helped me a lot !

    Omar Aniis 10 Nov at 02:32
  • hi Thank u for all the information IM Very grateful to saw this 🙂

    Anonymous 9 Feb at 07:59
  • its really nice tips thank u

    anirudh singh 3 May at 19:16
  • This is so Basic, However it’s Good

    Albinus Alfred 3 Jun at 01:01
  • hi

    can u please help me with tips when selling a cellphone contract over the phone..pls pls

    Dee 24 Nov at 06:26
  • I just started working as a solar panel agent, and it looks like i’m not doing things right, people keep on hanging up on me before I ever finish my script anyone can help me?

    solar 13 Dec at 20:26
  • Hi Solar

    It sounds like your script is too long. It needs to be no more than 30 seconds long and have a good hook in it. Ideally an open question, or a question that somebody could respond yes to.

    Think of it like the elevator conversation. You get in an elevator and you have 30 seconds to explain what you are doing.

    What is your current script? Paste it into the comments box and we will see if it can be improved.

    Jonty Pearce 16 Dec at 11:47
  • Very interesting document for beginners. I liked it and help me a lot. thanks.

    alonso jose ramirez 22 Dec at 23:59
  • Hi. I’d like to thank you for this information. I’m a fresher. I was smiling throughout reading this because it almost everything my trainer Dineo has taught me. I cant wait to apply everything I’ve learned about being on the dial.

    Noks 5 Feb at 18:12
  • this is a lovely article on inbound and outbound sales techniques

    anthony baker 12 Apr at 02:50
  • I found this very useful. Please keep sharing

    Kirsty 27 Jul at 15:44
  • Thank u very much. This really helped me alot.

    prajakta sawant 9 Aug at 07:33