The phone is the most powerful tool you have in your toolbox as a salesperson and 75% of customers prefer phone communication to any other kind of engagement.
Think of the successful members of your sales team and ask yourself what differentiates them from others. Often, the number of follow-up calls will humanize and create better relationships among current customers and prospects.
What lessons can you learn from your colleagues when you prepare for your next sales call and are successful? Keep reading, and let’s find out their secrets.
1. Understand Your Specific Demographic
You want to make sure you have done the research before reaching out to your prospect, whether it’s a cold call or a planned sales call. If you go straight into cold-calling prospects without knowing about their business and needs, you will likely come across as annoying.
To help alleviate some of the anxiety accompanying the thought of irritating and turning a customer off, consider connecting them individually.
You need to be sure that not only are you speaking to them in a way that they will understand based on the product you are selling, but also how you speak to them based on their:
- Role within the industry
How you would talk to a 50-year-old male surgeon is probably not the same way you would approach a tech entrepreneur in their early 30s. You want to share the same information based on the wants and needs of these separate individuals, considering how they differ and being able to alter your approach appropriately.
2. Research the Prospect Before You Call
To succeed in sales, you must have a working knowledge of the industry and the people that make your industry tick. Without the ability to research trends and decision-makers, you may not be able to connect with the prospect at all.
Consider looking at their LinkedIn or other social media accounts. Pay special attention to the social media accounts of the company they are running or helping to manage, particularly if it's the company you are interested in partnering with.
Often those who are active on social media will post about successes and challenges they are facing.
If you can locate challenges they are facing and share valuable and helpful information with them, you are offering value and trust, breaking the ice with a potential client.
3. Call at the Right Time
Consider what time works best for you and what time works best for your prospect. When deciding when to call to avoid an immediate voicemail, take into account the following:
- Time zones (Where in the US or Internationally are they located?)
- Federal holidays
- Meal times (usually before lunch or after dinner, as long as it’s not after hours)
- Weekdays (often the middle of the week is the best time to receive a live answer)
According to recent studies, the peak engagement time for decision-makers is in the late afternoon, particularly between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Just behind that window, 3-4 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. also periods with high engagement.
4. Dress for Success
Although your prospect will not see what you are wearing, you will feel it and likely feel more professional and in control of the situation.
Sometimes confidence doesn’t come naturally, so dressing up may just put you in the mood to communicate effectively and build relationships with potential customers.
5. Put Your Personal Devices Away
Everyone seems to be addicted to their technology. Whether it’s their cellphones, computers, laptops, or tablets, these distractions are everywhere.
But to truly be able to listen to the person on the other line of the phone, you should put these distractions away.
If you aren’t using your cell phone, consider putting it into a desk drawer and turning off all notifications. Nothing can disrupt the connection flow more than a Facebook notification going off.
But use headphones. This will keep you focused and present and help you limit distractions.
6. Practice Before the Call
Of course, being extroverted with the ability to ad-lib is valued when you are in sales, but you want to make sure that you know the exact points you want to hit in a cold or planned sales call.
You want to be prepared for all possible scenarios, and having a script readily available to you is a great way to ensure this. The best way to prepare for these scenarios is to listen to old recordings of previous phone calls (which we will discuss later).
7. Have a Script — But Deviate When Necessary
There is no reason for you to memorize your cold call or planned sales call pitch. It’s lengthy, and you will likely stumble over the words or not come across as competent as you are.
Deviation allows you room to enunciate clearly, speak slowly and deliberately, and focus your thoughts concisely and knowledgeably.
8. Establish Call Goals
A key motivating factor when working in sales is sales goals and quotas. You want to accomplish these for commission and because you likely have a highly competitive nature.
Consider giving yourself call goals, including how many calls you want to make and the times you wish to accomplish them.
This will allow you to track progress and make calling less intimidating.
9. Have a Friendly but Authoritative Voice
It takes time to master a friendly introduction that doesn’t sound “too friendly” but also not “too sales-y.” Just remember, you are talking to another human being on the other side of the phone, and that is what they are looking for — to feel heard as not just a target but as a person.
You want to control the conversation, giving out information in a knowledgeable way. But don’t forget to be empathetic. As mentioned before, you are talking to an individual, and they will have different wants and needs than others, and this is an excellent asset for you.
10. Your Sales Agenda Isn’t Taboo
After you have mastered a friendly introduction, you should immediately establish who you are and what company you represent.
Although you are not planning to sell a device immediately on that first phone call, you do want to go in with some kind of goal — most likely to find time for an in-office appointment so that you are better able to gauge the interest and pain points in your prospect.
If you sound deceptive or like you’re hiding something, it will immediately turn off your prospective customer.
It’s the truth: people will not go into business with you if they do not trust or like you. Be forthcoming with them, and it will likely gain you their respect which is the first step to gaining their trust.
11. Listen More Than You Speak
Often in sales, we believe that we have to do most of the talking to convince our prospects that they should invest in our project. However, the best option may sound counterintuitive. You want to let them do most of the talking.
You want the person to be asking you questions, and you want to be doing the same, being sure to listen actively and intensely.
Take notes if you can so that when you follow up later, you can find common ground and potentially share information that will be helpful for them and whatever challenges they are currently facing — even if it’s not something that your product specifically can solve.
This makes you a trusted guide for future decisions and will likely result in them coming to you with questions and building a long-lasting relationship.
12. Prepare a Voicemail
Some people are not going to pick up the phone. Either they are too busy, or maybe they just don’t like phone calls. Around 97% of sales calls go to voicemail. If this is the case, you want to be sure you have a scripted, professional, and personable voice message ready.
This is your chance to pitch your pitch in 30 seconds or less without worrying about interruptions or objections.
13. Record Your Calls, Practice, and Improve
Now, you may have a few calls under your belt. You should study your performance like a sports coach will review the footage after a game. Take notes of what worked well, what could be improved, and where your prospect was the most responsive.
Once you have clearly defined these notes, it’s time to practice. Try to find ways to improve your scripts and sales pitches and how better to connect with prospects, even if it is just over the phone.
If you have difficulty identifying the differences, ask a trusted colleague and be open to constructive criticism.
After all, you are all on the same team, and each of you wants the other to succeed.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to sales calls, the process can be intimidating. If you’re just starting out or are looking for ways to finetune your skills before your next call, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your next pitch goes well.
From knowing your demographic to practicing, dressing for success, and listening actively, these tips can help you gear up for your next call — and ace it.