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Selling Is a Contact Sport: Keys to Effective Phone Calling

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By John Boe

RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011—It has been said that salespeople who avoid making phone calls have skinny children. Prospecting for new business is critically important. For the majority of salespeople, it is by far the most challenging and stressful aspect of their profession. Successful salespeople are proactive and recognize the importance of prospecting for new business daily. They don’t have to be reminded to ask for referrals or follow up on a sales lead, they do it automatically. This article is packed full of helpful phone calling tips and techniques which, if put into practice, will fill your appointment calendar with new business opportunities!

Don’t shoot from the hip, use a script. If you want to sound confident and competent, I strongly suggest that you write out your opening and closing remarks. If you sound in the least bit nervous or unprepared, people will immediately sense this and rightfully assume that you lack experience. Using a phone script for your opening and closing remarks is a good idea for several reasons. A well-polished phone script gives you a consistent approach that keeps you on message and guarantees you don’t leave out important information. Be respectful of your prospect’s time by designing your phone script to be short, sweet, and to the point. Once you have prepared your phone script, it’s now time to tape record yourself reading it aloud until you sound smooth and polished. While you might be tempted to skip this step, don’t do it. Recording your phone script role-play session provides you with a golden opportunity to critique your performance and improve your delivery.

During a face-to-face conversation, first impressions are based primarily on appearance. However, first impressions created over the phone are based on brevity, vocal quality, and attitude. An upbeat mental attitude is contagious and, unless taken to an extreme, builds rapport and creates a very positive first impression. Keep in mind that a smile can be heard over the phone. The best way to build trust and rapport during a phone conversation is to match your prospect’s energy level. This is accomplished by “subtly” matching their rate of speech and tone of voice. For example, if you have the tendency to speak fast/loud and your prospect begins speaking slow/soft, you will need to lower your voice and slow your rate of speech down to match them. The psychological power behind the principle of matching is based on the premise that people want to do business with salespeople who they feel are similar to them.

There is absolutely no substitute for preparation and practice. Like most successful endeavors, the key to effective phone calling has a lot to do with preparation and practice. Practice builds confidence through repetition. Ask your sales manager or an associate to schedule an hour role-play session with you. This session is important because it gives you a dress rehearsal and the opportunity to work the kinks out of your script. As they say in the military, train like you plan to fight. Create a realistic training environment by role-playing over the phone. Begin the role-play session with minimal prospect resistance and then, as your confidence builds, gradually inject typical prospect objections. While it is impossible to have a script that might address every conceivable objection, you must anticipate key objections and develop scripts to respond to them.

Remember to stay positive, polite, and professional. It is best to make your phone calls during the morning when both you and your prospect are rested and fresh. Be organized, do your homework, and take good notes. Before you contact your prospect, take a moment to research their company by visiting their website. By reading your prospect’s company newsletter, annual report, and press releases you become familiar with their products and services. Stay organized and save time by using a contact management system, such as ACT, to record your notes after each phone call. Relying on your memory alone is a poor business decision and is bound to cost you money.

It is important to keep in mind that the primary purpose of any prospect phone call is to make an appointment, not a sale. Most salespeople make the fundamental mistake of overeducating their prospect and dominating the phone call in an attempt to showcase their knowledge. Obviously you will need to respond to some questions. However, questions that require a detailed response become an excellent reason to secure an appointment. Use your precious phone time to gather information through the use of open-ended questions. Your objective is to build your prospect’s interest and arouse their curiosity through a series of well designed, probing questions about them and their organization. Just before you ask for the appointment, summarize the key points of your conversation for clarity and agreement.

Top producers don’t take rejection personally, because they realize that selling is fundamentally a numbers game. It really doesn’t matter what product or service you are selling; the key to your long-term success is directly linked to your ability and desire to prospect effectively. Phone calling in today’s marketplace is much more challenging than in years past, but fortunately the basics never change. Selling is, after all, a contact sport!

John Boe presents a wide variety of motivational and sales-oriented keynotes and seminar programs for sales meetings and conventions. John is a nationally recognized sales trainer and business motivational speaker with an impeccable track record in the meeting industry. To have John speak at your next event, visit www.johnboe.com

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