People seeking to master the art of making successful telephone sales calls are often crap at their job. What’s worse is that many have received some god-awful training which might as well be called ‘How to shaft the customer’…
For me, sales shouldn’t have such a bad name. But when you are repeatedly treated like a moron by people who seemingly don’t care about the customer, then those making telephone sales calls perhaps deserve their woeful status.
However, from my experience of working in the industry, some quality training from a recognised trainer such as Huthwaite can transform the performance of almost anyone making calls. But before highlighting my thoughts, here are three examples of recent bad experiences I’ve had of people selling to me over the phone.
Bad selling in practice
A car dealership (think German and 5 linked rings) rang in response to a car inquiry I made. When I took the call, the handset at the other end rattled noisily in my ear as it was picked up; Surprised by his apparent laziness, I was then subjected to a barrage of warp-speed waffle. The opening was a disaster. It went quickly downhill as a further onslaught of non-requested technical jargon was hurled my way. No sale.
A claims company rang about an ‘accident’ I had apparently experienced. “And when was this?” I enquired, simultaneously counting my body parts just in case I had inadvertently suffered a health mishap as well as a dose of amnesia. “We don’t know, but we can help you claim,” he replied, lying through his teeth. I told him he was talking bollocks and the call ended. No one wants to deal with liars. No sale.
And finally, an investment company salesman called and used a fast-paced, arrogant tone and this script which screamed ‘control the customer’.
“Hello Mr Harrington, my name’s ‘BlahBlah Posh’ calling from ‘Flipperty’ Investments. How are you today?
There’s nothing nice about this approach and certainly no question as to whether the timing of the call was convenient. So I ignored the inquiry after my welfare and asked why he was calling. Apparently he wanted to post a brochure about exciting new investment opportunities with nanotechnology. I suggested the information be emailed but I was told he had no email access. Really!? So being busy and disinterested I said it wasn’t for me. But instead of listening he simply changed tack because that’s what his ‘making telephone sales calls’ script said. Suffice to say, any kind of trust vanished up the phone wire. I wasn’t about to consider giving a complete stranger my hard-earned wonga. No sale.
Top 10 tips for making successful telephone sales calls
For me, the application of good sales practice can help any business flourish. Here are my thoughts on what you should do:
1 Train and practice
Whilst the goal for all salespeople is to make sales, no one will ever buy from you if they don’t like or don’t trust you. Since people only ever hear the words you use and your tone of voice, it’s vital you develop communication skills through good training and repeatedly practising the questions you want to ask and the statements you want to make (alongside someone who can offer objective feedback).
2 Become a problem solver
People typically enjoy buying but they don’t like being sold to. Making successful telephone sales calls requires an ability to solve problems. This necessarily means asking good questions first and listening before presenting solutions. Don’t be tempted into lengthy product descriptions just because it’s easier than asking questions of the customer. When you do solve a problem and thus meet or exceed expectations, people will be more inclined to like you and repeat purchase.
3 Take your time
Slow down and don’t rush the sales process. Speaking too quickly makes you sound nervous and unnerves the other person. Another point, pressuring people to make a decision when they really don’t want to either results in tension or people back off completely.
4 Build relationships and trust over time
Relationships take time to build, so don’t seek big decisions too quickly. If you’re calling a potential customer for the first time, keep the call and any requests simple. To build trust make sure you are honest, fulfil any promises and then get back in touch at the agreed time. Making successful telephone sales calls typically requires multiple conversations. If things work out quicker, it’s a bonus.
5 Take responsibility
Don’t expect the customer to work for you. If the person with whom you want to speak is not available then take responsibility for calling back and update records accordingly. Don’t leave messages asking to be called back.
6 Be a great listener
Listening is perhaps the most important skill to master when making successful telephone sales calls. Take notes when listening, never interrupt and let the other person finish their sentence before talking. These are all small skills that once combined, demonstrate you value the customer. You can also ask ‘Confirm’ and ‘Clarify’ questions to check what you’ve heard. All of this helps to build rapport between the buyer and seller.
7 Expect rejection
Expect to be rejected. No one sells every time even if your product is fantastic. Rejection is not personal so keep it in context; if you’ve done your job professionally there should be an opportunity to ask to call back at a future date to see if circumstances have changed.
8 Be positive
Use a positive tone of voice but also be you. People don’t enjoy monotonic sludge but at the same time salespeople who are overly cheery can come across as insincere and thus untrustworthy.
9 Deliver on promises
Always deal in the truth. Do what you say you are going to do and when an order results ensure you thank the customer. This behaviour builds rapport, sustains the relationship and enhances your chances of future sales and referrals.
10 Reward and review
After making successful telephone sales calls, schedule time to reward yourself and reflect. Be honest with yourself and don’t hide mistakes and errors by pretending what went wrong didn’t happen. To improve, discuss all learning with someone who can offer an objective constructive viewpoint
Key Learning Points: Making successful telephone sales calls is not easy. However, if you treat people as you would want to be treated, then here’s an inexpensive opportunity to build long-term sustainable relationships that will help your business grow.