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10 Phone Sales Skills You Need to be Successful

Row of Red British Telecom Phone Booths at night

A crash course in Phone Sales Skills is how a lot of people’s business lives got started. It pretty much went like this:  Here’s a phone and the yellow pages kid, now go makes calls. Early in my career even though in a business to business sales environmental with regular customers,  99+% of our sales and relationships were over the phone. It was selling ironically phone systems to a nationwide network of dealers (or today what would be called resellers or VARS)  

This was before email was really a thing. Every single customer interaction was a phone call outside of the occasional annual conference by a supplier for their partners. And the occasional fax first, yes, I am a dinosaur. One good thing about being as old as time is remembering the fundamentals of phone sales skills. The art of making sales and building business over the phone. So strap on your headset and get ready for a 3 part crash course in phone sales skills.

While we are locked away and can’t get face to face with our customers, let’s look to fire up our business with actual conversation rather than hiding behind Email. Today we’ll start with…

Phone Sales Skills 101

Yes I get it you are a high powered, face to face rain maker who closes huge deals before breakfast.  Sorry isolation may have warped my sarcasm filter. Want the truth? Yes you might be. However even the best performers are always looking to improve their skills, One such place is you phone sales skills. Not enough people spend enough time listening to their customers.  Here’s your chance to change that.  Have you ever watched really great executives work,  Want to know what they are doing?  The same thing the best sales people are; they are listening to their customers. Before we get to listening skills, let’s get to phone sales skills as a foundation.   

Manners Matter

  • Never Assume You Know What They Need – Unless you have already had a conversation, assuming you know a customer or prospects needs is a high risk game. You are better off asking good questions and fashioning a solution in response. Too often in the fast paced world of cold calling sales people assume they know the other person’s “problem”
  • Please and Thank You – as my friend Dorinda teaches old fashioned manners go a really long way. Be polite and genuine and you will be remembered positively.
  • Time Zone Awareness – With the world being a global market and even with the U.S. having 4 time zones if you are making calls, especially if reaching out to cell phones be aware that you may catch people still at home or late in the evening.   If there is a reason to call, an answer that is needed, etc. Then by all means make the call.  However, if not, try to stick to after 7:30am and before 6:30pm in the person you are calling’s time zone  

Set time aside and stick to it

  • Own the Time – Don’t let others get in the way of the time you have set aside to call your customers and prospects. Plan your day so that time is sacred and stick with your routine.
  • The power of One More – This was a popular mantra for teams I coached. One More. Each day challenge yourself to call one more customer, one more prospect, and one more new contact. Eventually that leads to one more follow up call, one more quote and one more sale.
  • Break Up the Day – make as many calls as you can before lunch. Afternoon calls can be more challenging because it’s later in the day and people already have too much on their plates. Plus…they are more likely to put a ‘watchguard’ on the phone… an administrative assistant or some other gatekeeper type person. Calls earlier in the day will more often be answered by the person you are trying to reach
  • Avoid the Email Trap. Emails are for confirmation. Phones are for conversation.  Sending out hundred of emails is simply not as effective for building your business as 100 conversations between you and your customer.

Background Noise

  • Public Places – If you are working in a public place, make sure it’s a quiet public place
  • Office Spaces – close the door if possible, so as not to disturb everyone around you. Equally as important, a closed door allows you space to think and be aware of what you are actually trying to do.
  • Cube Farm – ask those around you to be aware that you are making your calls and to be respectful of that time.

I grew up in a bullpen environment. No cubes, no offices, just 2O ‘l’ shaped desks lining both sides of the walls, a dull roar was a bad day. It was sales people hammering the phones talking to customers and prospects. It was as close to a boiler room as a legitimate business could be. Meaning we were a real business with real products and cared for our customers but every part of how we worked and called was all out. You could walk right up to the CEO at any time as he was at the head of things and in the mix. I loved it and miss it. In a lot of ways you learned both good and bad habits from those around you.

You could hear everyone’s conversations. It was it’s own master class on phones sales skills by people who were at the top of their game.  How did it manage and why did customers tolerate us? We all had dual ear noise canceling headphones. The people on the other end never heard the madness. The environment and energy fed us. The point is even in high energy high activity environments there are ways to keep the noise heard on the other end down. 

Signal and Bandwidth are King

  • Do you have signal. Is it a strong one so that your call won’t cut in and out
  • Are you Really Sure – Test your bandwidth to be absolutely sure
  • Is Wifi Calling On and are you using a “soft phone” (Computer or mobile phone VoIP phone program)? 
  • Will someone be streaming 14 shows on 14 devices and start gaming on your network while you are talking? No judgement, just asking. If so and you are on a cell turn off wifi calling. If at home and on a VoIP/Soft phone you should also be prepared. If you happen to be at the office and it’s 1995 and the IT and tech teams start playing Doom across the Lan at 5:15 every day don’t worry no one has a cell phone as a primary business device and VoIP isn’t a thing yet. Dial away. However I digress  

Make sure you’ve plugged in

  • Your headset (or that blue tooth is connected)
  • You have a charged battery if using a cell or wireless headset. There’s nothing worse than your cell phone dropping the call because your battery ran out. Been There. Done. That. Embarrassing.
  • Be prepared in advance if someone else is about to drive off in a car where your phone connects to the blue tooth automatically

Cadence and Clarity

  • Speak Clearly and at a pace that is not rushed.
  • Mic Position – Every mic and head set is different so be aware of yours.
  • Have an upbeat voice. But be genuine about it

Business Related Talking Points

  • Following Up (Hi…. I wanted to follow up on the conversation we had last week to see how you are feeling about the proposal we discussed…)
  • Gathering Information ( what other information/details do you need to make a decision?)
  • Providing an Answer (always get back to the person with the information that you said you would)
  • Relationship Building. Sometimes the call is nothing more except to advance the relationship
  • Prospecting – we must constantly be prospecting for new business. Now is a great time for that

Plan more dials than you think you need.

Always have extra calls prepared because some will go faster than you expect and others will be slower than you expect. BUT… you will be prepared because top sales professionals are prepared.

Grow your contacts rather than just the usual suspects

Don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction to someone else in the company. Going higher and wider is often a good strategy but knowing who is new and up and coming isn’t a bad one either.  Like most things in life the more places you have a relationship and the more people you can help out the better off you are when it comes to getting what you want or need. 

Build your relationships differently.

Be different from every other person asking for business. Become a trusted resource and a person known for getting things done. In times that are strange, tough or challenging like the ones we have in early 2020 rather than push ahead at all costs think about what the right conversations are to have.  Here are two examples from people I spoke with yesterday

Business Is Bad

My phone rang. “ All of my customers have canceled our meetings!” was pretty much screamed at me which was then followed by 5 minutes of indecipherable panic. What this person sells is technology related. I know that space a little bit (or a lot). They weren’t thinking about their Phone Sales Skills, what their customers might truly need in the moment and how they could help. Instead they were looking at a pipeline that was going to slip and a number they wouldn’t make.

We talked about what his customers were saying other than no don’t come to my office and see me because no one is there. They were in fact struggling with getting their teams who had never worked even for an hour outside the office equipped to do so.  The sales person in question with a little nudge from me got on the phone with his own technical support teams and asked if they could help his customer’s out.

Opinions, Advice, Guidance…not their usually stuff. They did and by the end of the day instead of asking for orders he was offering free help to his clients who needed it.  The cash register rang a few times, small stuff, not his mega deals but what he did was build the relationship based on the customer’s need in a hectic time and help just a little to solve a real problem. Along the way he got into conversations about how things were for them and their customers, what they were doing and how they planned to work through it all.

A little good will goes a long way

Things are Booming

Again my phones rings and it’s an old friend. We’ve been meaning to catch up with each other for months and kept not connecting live. Expecting like most people concern about sales I got hit between the eyes. He was worried alright! But instead of a loss of sales about how much they could deliver how quickly. His solutions allow remote workers to work more efficiently and managers to be able to ensure that quality service is being delivered. His teams phone sales skill were being challenged on the other end of the spectrum. Making sure they could capture all the things flying at them, get enough data to get accurate timely responses back out and set proper expectations.

Rescue Dogs Rooney and Tequila Rose look on at a Bowtie clad Tim Kubiak in slippers as he works the phones from the home office

No matter the situation or the business climate a great sales person and a top performer knows how and when to pick up the phone and what they can get out of that type of interaction. This the first part of our special week long series on working remote and phone sales skills.

Tim Kubiak is a Business Geek, Nomad, Aging Metal Head, Nerd, & Coffee Addict. Plus the only big guy at Hot Yoga. For over 25 years he's been building high-performance sales teams globally. With over 2 billion in lifetime sales in goods and services. Tim works as a coach mentor with Founders, Business Owners, Executives, and High Performing individuals to transform companies, bring new solutions to market and achieve their professional goals.

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