Sales calls require planning. So make sure you’re always ready to go.
By Julie Hansen
The telephone is still alive and well in sales—if you know how to use it!
While not as formal as an in-person presentation or pitch, don’t be fooled into thinking pitching over the phone doesn’t also require thoughtful planning, preparation, and execution.
There are also additional considerations salespeople must consider when pitching over the phone, like how do you “read” a customer’s body language or ensure your message gets across without the support of your product or presentation materials to lean on?
To help you plan, prepare, and execute well, here are my top 25 secrets for pitching successfully over the phone:
- Find your confidence. Don’t be fooled into thinking your customer won’t see you sweat. A lack of confidence comes through loud and clear in your voice. Quick tips for improving your confidence: Be prepared. Focus on the value you’ve provided for other customers. Or simply act as if you’re confident until the real deal kicks in.
- Dress the part. Flip-flops or dress shoes? How would you show up in person? Consider what makes you feel professional and confident. How you feel about yourself is strongly reflected in your voice, so choose wisely.
- Visualize your customer. The more you focus on talking to a unique individual rather than a generic customer, the more connected your customer will feel to you.
- Limit background noise. Whether it’s deliveries, notifications, phones, kids, pets—shut it all out.
- Keep talking points handy. Just because your customer can’t see you doesn’t mean they can’t hear you shuffling through your notes.
- Practice. You’ve heard it over and over and there’s a reason. There is no substitute for practice.
- Record yourself. Listen for both your messaging and your delivery. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Pick one or two things to work on at a time.
- Prepare an outline. You don’t have to use a script (and I suggest you don’t unless you can deliver it naturally), but you should lay out your pitch flow and memorize key points you want to make.
- Prepare your questions. Since it’s difficult to read a person over the phone, be prepared to ask questions on a regular basis to gauge your listener’s interest and comprehension. Don’t expect yourself to come up with a brilliant question at a moment’s notice.
- Don’t answer your own questions. It’s tempting but resist the urge to jump in and fill the silence. You train your listener how you expect them to engage early on in your call. Answer your own questions and you’ve set a dangerous precedent.
- Speak with punctuation. When you arrive at the end of a sentence, put a period on it and stop. Yes, silence feels deadly, but if you don’t leave some space in your pitch, you may never really know what the person you’re talking to thinks.
- Create a compelling opener. Your opening needs to reassure your customer that talking to you was a good decision. Try sharing a customer success story, an interesting industry statistic, or a fascinating product discovery.
- Answer a listener’s “So what?” attitude. With so many distractions available to your customer, you need to constantly relate everything you say back to how it benefits them.
- Narrow your focus. Don’t try to cover too much. Focus on making a strong impression with two or three key ideas rather than a blur of topics.
- Use open-ended questions. A successful pitch is one where the customer is talking at least half the time. Make it easy for them by feeding them appropriate questions.
- Have a backup plan. What if you get a voicemail while on the phone? What if the customer must cut your call short? You won’t panic if you have a plan.
- Smile. Research proves a smile can be “heard” in your voice. But make sure it’s a real smile by focusing on something you’re really happy about.
- Stand. Energy transfers across technology, but you do have to try harder on the phone than you would in person. Standing increases your energy and allows your body to fully support your voice.
- Cut to the chase. Don’t spend a lot of time on small talk. Get to what your customer is really interested in within the first minute.
- Warm up your voice. When communicating on a phone, a disproportionate amount of your success is riding on the sound, tone, and quality of your voice. Make sure your voice is at its best before you call by saying your pitch out loud, doing some tongue twisters, humming, or singing.
- Use your hands. Using gestures means you’re engaged and that will come across to your listener. Buy yourself a good headset so you can gesture freely.
- Show you’re listening. Your customer can’t see you nodding or smiling, so add in some listening sounds like “Uh huh,” “Mmmm,” “Right” along the way.
- Command the call. You asked for this call, so take charge. Confirm how much time you have, get agreement on the agenda, and park questions that may derail you.
- Summarize often. Summarizing is even more important on the phone when there’s no visual support of your message. Try summarizing at the end of every topic, after answering questions, and when you’re wrapping up.
- Have fun. Final piece of advice: If you’re not having fun, then neither is your customer. You don’t have to tell jokes, but your
call shouldn’t feel like a trip to the dentist or being kept waiting on hold on the phone.
Pro tip: Try plugging in a few of these tips at a time. As you master them, move on to the next ones. Good luck, and good calling!
Julie Hansen is a professional sales trainer, speaker, and author. She authored the book ACT Like a Sales Pro in 2011 and has been featured in Selling Power, Entrepreneur, and Sales and Service Excellence magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.actingforsales.com.