So much that is happening in our world around us – the pandemic aftershocks, supply chain disruption, geo-political impacts – has forced many sales teams to change their processes. Reps who once exclusively sold face-to-face have also implemented the phone and video conferencing to prospect and close deals.
Despite what some might think, there’s a big difference between selling in person and selling over the phone. Yes, it’s still sales, but the nuances of using only your voice to close deals can create challenges and benefits alike.
The good news is that many of these challenges can be overcome with some self-awareness and a little practice. As long as you’re willing to apply a few rules to your sales calls – as opposed to just winging it – you can be just as successful over the phone as you are in person. Just be sure you’re not making any of the following mistakes when selling over the phone:
1. Not having a plan
Hope is not a strategy, no matter how personable or quick on your feet you may be. Before dialing a prospect’s number, you should already know who they are, why you’re calling them, what you hope to get from the call, and what your backup plan is in the event things don’t go as planned. This might seem like a lot of work to do before even knowing whether there’s a potential deal or not, but you’ll be shocked at just how much more effective a conversation you’re likely to have.
2. Talking more than listening
Silence on a phone call can be especially uncomfortable, and it’s natural to want to fill that void by talking. But effective phone sellers leave plenty of room for the prospect to get comfortable and collect their thoughts before responding, giving them (the seller) a roadmap for how to close the deal. The trick, aside from asking open-ended discovery questions, is to train yourself to resist the urge to speak and instead get comfortable with listening. Once you learn how to do this, and sprinkle a little patience into the mix, you’ll be well on your way.
3. Being late
Far too many salespeople are okay with missing a scheduled start time for their calls. The problem is that even if you’re only a few minutes late, you never know how the person on the other end will react. Some people are okay with an informal schedule, while others will see it as unprofessional or worse: they’ll assume you can’t keep your word. In any case, be as punctual as possible, otherwise you run the risk of costing yourself a deal for no good reason.
4. The information dump
We want to tell prospects everything we think they need to know, and many of us get into the habit of going on long explanatory tangents where we try to impart every piece of information at once. This is a terrible way to do business, especially over the phone. Few people can stay focused through long, detailed diatribes, and will instead tune out while you rant, wasting both of your time. Instead, break things up into easy-to-understand sections, periodically stop to ask if the prospect has follow-up questions, and try to put yourself in their shoes. Your goal is to explain what’s necessary, not to prove you’re a walking encyclopedia.
5. Failing to define the next step(s)
Nothing is a bigger waste of time than having a long, productive conversation with a prospect and then ending the call without clearly defining (and getting buy-in) on next steps. On every call, you should know exactly what you hope to walk away with, whether it’s a scheduled meeting, a calendar invite to go over a proposal, or a signed contract. It helps to discuss each step up front, so the prospect becomes a part of the process rather than trying to spring it on them before they end the call. But no matter how you choose to approach it, the only unacceptable plan is not to have one.
6. Failing to engage the prospect emotionally
Your job is make the prospect enthusiastic about you, your company, or your product – and preferably all three! A dull, robotic conversation can get you to a closed deal, but it’s much less likely than one where the prospect feels emotionally engaged, energized, and gets off the call feeling better than they did before. Over the phone, this is done by listening, showing enthusiasm, digging deeper, and emphasizing with the prospect’s concerns. It’s being emotionally intelligent with your voice, and not just with your body language. And, after all, you yourself are more likely to benefit from an enthusiastic conversation too.
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