A successful sales call is often the first step in building a lasting relationship with a prospective client. That first contact is vital in establishing who you are as a business, why your products and service are valuable, and how you can solve the problems your prospects are experiencing. With these 10 strategies to help you prepare for sales phone calls, you’ll be well on your way toward being a master of professional phone etiquette.
When speaking to a prospective buyer or even a current client, it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to execute a perfect phone call. That pressure can be especially difficult to overcome while on the phone with a prospect for the first time. With the tips and strategies listed below, however, you can equip yourself with proven strategies to ensure your professional phone call etiquette is confident and successful in converting leads into clients.
1) Set an Agenda
As soon as you schedule a call with someone, begin setting up some basic talking points that will help ensure the forthcoming conversation stays organized and relevant to the prospective buyer’s situation. Once you’re on the phone, it’s okay - and sometimes recommended - to simply state the agenda of the call outright. Your prospect’s time is valuable - as is yours - so don’t be afraid to get to the point.
This means that you should have already gathered some preliminary information on the person you’ll be speaking to. That way, you already know something about them, their goals, and where they might be on their buyer’s journey by the time you actually get on the phone with them. If you use a comprehensive CRM like HubSpot, that information will be right at your fingertips and your agenda should be easy to set up.
Your agenda should always have a clearly defined goal, but the way you get there can and should be flexible. Even if you have an approximate idea of what the prospect is looking for, always be prepared for them to take the conversation somewhere else. It’s your job to listen to what they have to say and then guide them towards a solution that you can hopefully provide.
2) Know the Prospect
If you’re speaking to someone for the first time, odds are you won’t know a tremendous amount about them. However, since you had to set up the call, you will know something, and it’s important to make sure that whatever information you have is organized and accessible before the call begins.
Again, take advantage of your CRM if you have one. If your prospect has interacted with you or your website in the past, all of that information should be available at the click of a button. Once you know who you’re talking to, you’ll know how to follow up with them.
Who is the client? What industry are they in? Why did they schedule an appointment with you or you with them? Before making the call, review the prospect’s website and social media (if they have any), and after you’ve made the first contact with them via the phone call, you can even connect with them on social media platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn. Whatever knowledge you can gain and put to use on the prospect will only help grow and sustain your business with them.
3) Let the Client Talk
It can be tempting to begin a phone call by going into a prepared “pitch,” but you’ll need to fight that temptation. One of the worst things you can do on a sales call is to start monologuing. If you don’t listen to the prospect, they will quickly tune you out if your information isn’t immediately relevant to them.
To avoid this, ask the prospect what it is they’re looking to get out of the conversation, and then do your best to facilitate that. Once you know what their goal is, you’ll also know what kind of conversation to have with them - regardless of where they are on their buyer’s journey.
While your goal should be to convert a prospective client into a paying customer, it’s vital that you allow the prospect to steer the conversation. Your agenda should help keep things from going completely off-the-rails, but listening to a prospect and letting them have a role in leading your discussion is a great step in establishing the kind of respect and trust that will hopefully carry over into the sales process.
4) Build a Rapport
One of the best ways to understand your potential clients and their goals is to build a rapport with them right at the onset of your phone call. Use those first few minutes to get to know who you’re speaking with by using familiar tactics like:
- Addressing them by name
- Using your first name to establish familiarity
- Conversational icebreakers to get your client talking and comfortable
Are you talking to them on a Monday? Ask them about their weekend. Did their company just celebrate a milestone? Ask them how they celebrated. Remember, inbound marketing is most effective when personalized to the client. When you express a genuine interest in someone, you demonstrate that you’re not a mindless selling machine but a real person who wants to help them on their journey.
5) Smile! Yes, Really!
This one may sound silly, but it is arguably one of the most important tools at your disposal when on the phone. Gestures and expressions will show in your tone of voice, so use them, and use them often.
A phone call is just a conversation, and the more you treat it like one, the less robotic your voice will be and the more relaxed the prospect will feel. Show them that you’re a person, just like them. Don’t be afraid of hand gestures and facial expressions.
6) Speak Clearly
When talking on the phone, focus on speaking clearly and avoiding unnecessary “fillers” such as “um” and “like.” These may be staples in casual, everyday conversation, but when making a professional phone call, it’s best to stay away from them whenever possible.
They not only slow down the pace of the conversation, but they are especially noticeable on the phone and can be distracting for the listener. Let the conversation ebb and flow organically. Keep things moving, but not at the expense of clarity and quality of voice.
7) Use Plain Language
Just because you’re an “expert” in your field doesn’t mean you need to show-off. If you’re on the phone with a prospect, that means they’re already looking to you for guidance, so there’s no need to “prove yourself” to them with fancy jargon or difficult concepts. Instead, let your experience show itself through your accessibility.
Complicated “business-speak” will only confuse people, or worse, annoy them, killing your chance of building a relationship with them. Focus on being direct and plain in your language. See the problem from their perspective, and meet them where they’re at.
This not only helps you build that essential camaraderie, but also makes the solutions and offers you propose easier to digest, and ultimately, easier to buy into.
8) Don’t Be Afraid of Not Having All the Answers
As much as you may think you know how to make a sales call, there’s always a chance that the prospect on the other end will ask questions that you just don’t have the answers to.
Trying to solve problems you don’t have solutions for is a recipe for disaster. So rather than dancing around the prospect’s question, simply ask to place them on a brief hold or redirect them towards a relevant internal resource that may be helpful to them.
9) Ask Follow-Up Questions
During your dialogue, never hesitate to ask a follow-up or clarifying question to the things your prospect says. Not only does this ensure that you understand exactly what it is they’re expressing, but also shows that you’re actively listening to what they have to say and want to help them clarify their own message in the process.
This will prove vital as you outline who your prospect is and what their priorities are. The more you know them, and the more they know themselves, the better equipped you’ll be to help them on their way.
10) Stick the Landing
A good sales call that ends on a rushed or clumsy note will leave an unpleasant taste in the prospect’s mouth, so it’s important to end things on as high a note as possible. The best strategy for closing a phone call follows three steps: Summarize the conversation, let them know what comes next, and see if there’s more you can help with.
- Summarize the conversation
Regardless of how long (or not) the phone call may have been, it’s always a nice touch to wrap things up with a quick summary. This shows that you’ve been an attentive listener and primes the prospect to prepare for what comes next.
- What comes next?
After you have reviewed the contents of your conversation, you’re in the ideal position to point a prospect towards the next steps in their buyer’s journey. Offer them a follow-up appointment, or point them towards any relevant resources you have to offer them as they continue on their way.
- Is there more you can help with?
Finally, just before ending the call, be sure to ask one more time if there are any unanswered questions or concerns that the prospect may have for you.
This is customary, but also necessary, because it covers the rest of your bases and makes sure that your prospect hangs up the phone feeling satisfied and educated by their experience and one step closer to making a purchase with you.