Selling on the Phone — It’s About the Appointment!

In over 20 years in sales, I have found selling on the phone is one of the most hated tasks of any business, yet, it is one of the most important and one of the most economical ways to generate business. It costs nothing to pick up the phone and dial (except for the cost of the phone line of course.) Here are 8 tried and true methods to increase your success on the phone.

  1. Remember, it's About the Appointment! You are not trying to close the sale, you are simply trying to get the person on the other end to say they will allow you to tell them more, preferably in person. Think of the GEICO commercial about "15 minutes could save you...". They are not trying to sell you insurance, they are trying to sell you to call in.
  2. It's Not You, It's Your Offer. Remember, you will hear a LOT more "no" than "yes" and you need to be prepared for that. If they say no they are not rejecting you personally, they are rejecting your offer. Don't confuse the two. Everyone doesn't need what you are selling (even though we like to think they do.) As the old saying goes, "Every no is one step closer to the next yes."
  3. SMILE! No, they cannot see you (unless it is video call) but it has been proven, when you smile while you talk on the phone the tone in your voice is more pleasant and thus is received better by the customer. In Air Force Recruiting they teach you to have a mirror on your desk so you can look at yourself from time to time and make sure you are smiling. Here is a great article on this.
  4. Walk Around. If you are like most people, walking when you talk gives you more energy and excitement. This energy will come across the phone line to your customer. The more energetic you are the more they are going to like you. If you normally talk with your hands in regular conversation get a head set so you can still use your hands while you talk on the phone. Sounding natural is the key.
  5. Build Rapport but Don't Waste Their Time. Take a minute or two to show them you are a real person, but, be respectful of their time. Talk to them in tone and mannerism like you would talk to a friend. No, they don't want to hear about your Grandma, but, you can still have that friendly tone in your voice.
  6. Have a Script. If you are starting out this can be a lifesaver! The last thing you want is to stumble and stutter trying to think of what you are going to say. No, you don't want to read from the script word-for-word, but, you do want to have it there to guide your thoughts and your conversation to make sure you sound like a professional. The more calls you make the less you will need to use it. Here is a great resource on phone scripts including a free template
  7. Tease Me. Remember, you are only trying to get the appointment, not a sale (unless you truly do all your sales on the phone.) You only want to dangle some of the benefits (not features) during the call (features versus benefits is another subject for another day.) You want them to want to find out more. If you tell them everything about your offer on the phone there is no reason for them to make an appointment to find out more. Plus, it is much easier to tell someone "no" on the phone that it is in person.
  8. ASK FOR THE APPOINTMENT! This is the most important thing you can do! Why bother calling if you are not going to ask them to take the next step. Give them a "double alternative", "John, it sounds like this could really be a benefit to you and add a lot to your bottom line. I will be in Boston tomorrow afternoon and Thursday morning, which one would be better for us to chat about this some more? I'll even bring the coffee." You didn't give them the choice of saying no, you asked which one of the two times is better to meet.

By no means is this list all-inclusive. There have been books upon books written on the subject but these steps will get you moving in the right direction. Remember no one is an expert the first time they try anything. You are going to have some terrible calls, we all have. Just pick yourself up and dial again -- immediately. Don't say you will do it later, get back on the horse. And, if you earn an appointment do not take time off to "celebrate", call your next customer right away. Success breads success and you are more likely to close a sales call immediately after successfully closing a call.

If you would like to know more about selling on the phone we are here to help. Here is where you can find more information about how we can help:

Eric Zdanowicz, MBA, is a business owner of two businesses (Millennial Center of Excellence, LLC and CFS Atlanta South), consultant, and a retired US Air Force veteran with almost 40 years of leadership experience. Eric lives in the Middle Georgia Area. For questions, feel free to email him at [email protected]

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