While selling over the phone versus in person can present additional challenges, many have found incredible success in this version of the trade. You can too, by harnessing certain strengths and implementing practices that further your process.
- Build rapport/ gain trust through an efficient, confident approach. Never has this been more important in a phone sales role, because you are relying on establishing a relatively high level of credibility, sometimes in a short period of time, with someone who you may never meet. A big area of focus and attention needs to be paid to how you can achieve this buy-in over the phone. Can you rely on a name brand or known product? Do you have credible statistics to support the effectiveness of your product or service? Are there tools at your disposal that can show (not tell) a customer why your service is going to cure what potentially ails them? Do you have effective fact-finding questions to quickly ascertain your customer’s scenario and expose needs? Be unique in your approach; realize that others who have likely called this customer and failed have fallen into common traps: they sound salesy, they overload the customer with broad information hoping the customer latches on to something and says “yes” or they fail to establish a link and bond in this interaction. The customer will not make a decision to change their current scenario unless you give them a strong reason to believe you represent a solid alternative and dedicated support.
- Understand the probabilities and where you falter. Study the call and its dynamics, from start to finish. Even more so than a face-to-face sale, the call is regimented; it’s sales process and you are tasked with continuing to advance the process every step of the way. Make an effective introduction which announces you and your brand, quickly bridge into fact-finding and ask questions which show your interest in their business and vertical but also get them opening up. Utilize the information you learn to be conversational and keep the chat progressing toward needs analysis. Weave their needs and their own words into your pitch and utilize these very same nuggets when you overcome any objections. Show you have been listening. Say their name frequently. And when you find that there are segments in the call flow (intro, questions, pitch, close, overcome) that you are faltering on the regular, formulate a game plan to eliminate the obstacle. What is stopping you? Do you not have enough quality information to make your pitch? Do you not know enough about customer gaps in process to adequately present why your product is superior and overcome any objections they have? Heck – are you getting past the gate-keeper to even talk to the decision-maker (another topic entirely)? Likely you can review your calls and strategize with your manager, meaning you can diagnose where in the call your process breaks down; if you have a process to remedy this and your sales flow is solid, you will achieve the real goal here: advancing as far in the call flow as possible on each call. Some will end in no, but if you end each call with either a sale or knowing the specific reason a customer isn’t buying because it isn’t a fit, you did your job.
- Regularly gauge the level of buy in. While you are tasked with moving strategically through a call flow from one step to the next, optimizing each leg, you do need to make sure your audience is still tuned in (because you have no visual clues or body language to pick up on). Verbal clues are very important – the tone of voice can indicate right out of the gates what their level of interest in talking to you is. This is why the introduction is so important: you quickly have to set yourself apart from anyone else who has called to sell them, lest you’ll be lumped in with them and you lose before you begin. Establish yourself and your brand and quickly move to fact-finding questions that will get the customer actually opening up about their passions: their business. What’s their role? What do they envision as the positives and areas of needed improvement for their current method of doing what you propose they change? Don’t sound like you’re scripted (especially because you’ll be off the script often!): be conversational, get to know a little about them and what makes them tick. Ask them throughout the conversation: “Does this make sense?” “What questions do you have?” “If we were able to deliver the expected superior results, how much of a positive impact would that have on your business?” While avoiding yes or no questions, “trust check” verbally with the customer to maintain and ensure their level of buy in to your conversation. If done properly, they will often go from loose involvement early (as you have yet to establish yourself) to realizing you’re not a typical phone seller, listening to your pitch and believing it’s a better solution.
- The one call close and necessary follow-up. This is pivotal. Here’s the thing: sales is all about probabilities, like any other sport or game of chance. There is a certain chance of you getting a decision-maker on the phone. There is a lesser chance you will get them to advance through all legs of the call flow. Finally, there is a certain chance you will close the sale (the conversion rate), and these things are variable based on components like type of lead and time of day. That said, you have your best shot at closing a cold call, for instance, on the first call – mostly because the probabilities of getting them on subsequent calls diminish. Do not fret, however – in fact, many customers absolutely will not close on Call #1 for very legitimate reasons – need to engage a partner, talk to another decision-maker, weigh some statistics. Furthermore, in relationship-building scenarios, call #1 is often establishing some additional rapport and parameters so you can engage the right resources and gather the right facts and figures. All of that said, follow-up and responsiveness are two of the biggest reasons anyone buys. They want to be able to rely on their seller as a resource. Certainly, sometimes they just take advantage of your free expertise and they buy nothing (but you can’t take that chance); a customer will buy from the responsive, attentive seller and will value that relationship above price nearly every time. Give yourself the best probability at success by optimizing each call; if it can be closed in Call #1, do it. If not, quickly provide committed information, provide timely answers and follow up as promised (it’s important to set these steps clearly on each call). The longer this process drags out, the more the probabilities of closing the deal decline; some of these things are out of your hands, but control as much of this process as you can to keep the sales cycle as short as you can.
The more emphasis you put on not falling into traps every other seller who has called the customer before and failed has fallen into, the better off you will be in your quest to advance through each and every stage of the call flow to the goal of closure.
Be confident, be conversational, be unique. Time is valuable for both parties, so get to know your potential client quickly and effectively and carry with you all of the learning from each call prior – things you know about the industry and your competition will be invaluable.
Closing a sale over the phone – just like closing sales in general – requires rapport and trust, reliability and being in tune with the customer; give yourself a better probability of success by handling each leg of the call optimally and perfecting your process for each stage based on your experience and your strategizing with leadership.
Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” and sequels “The Salesman Against the World” and “A Salesman Forever” which take the unique approach of serving as sales/leadership books inside of novels showing proven sales principles designed to birth you into the top producer you were born to be. If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICRVMI2/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_yGXKtb0G
Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership. You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving.
Question submissions can be made via LinkedIn to Carson V. Heady, this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carson-V-Heady/125078150858064?ref=hl , Twitter via @cvheady007 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may post an anonymous comment as a reply to my WordPress blog at the bottom of this page: https://carsonvheady.wordpress.com/the-home-of-birth-of-a-salesman-2010-published-by-world-audience-inc-and-the-salesman-against-the-world-2014/