You’ve prepared extensively for the coming call. You’re in the right mindset, and you know everything possible about your client. Here’s what to do once you pick up the phone…
(1) What is your posture saying about you?
The way you feel will govern your posture and subsequently the energy you bring into a call. Once you’ve cultivated a positive mindset, and thanks to the pre-call preparation are feeling ready and confident, your posture will reflect the same, i.e. straightened, shoulders back, open hearted and positive.
So, take a moment to notice your posture. Is it upright, allowing you to breathe easily and fill your lungs, adding to your motivation and enthusiasm? If so, great – continue to the next point. If not, don’t try to force it. It won’t feel or sound natural, and your client will notice. Head back to the mindset and pre-call preparation sections to take a look at what’s impacting you and causing the slump.
Positive mindset = positive posture.
(2) Be your authentic self
Perhaps you have a colleague or mentor who’s ‘really good at sales’, and you feel you need to be more like them to succeed. Unfortunately, trying to ‘be like them’ will feel forced and uncomfortable – and your customer will pick that up. The same is true if you read from a script. Instead, aim to be your authentic self – your best, most professional genuine self – as you focus on understanding your client. If you’ve done the work on mindset from the first section and the preparations for each call from the second section, being authentic will come naturally and effortlessly.
Be the best version of yourself.
(3) Aim to help and rapport will follow
One of the biggest challenges of telephone sales skills is building rapport. Your ability to use body language and your physical surroundings to develop a relationship is temporarily out of reach.
Be fully present and engrossed in your calls. Turn off your emails, notifications and everything else on your computer and phone so you can focus. Start each call with a commitment to serve them, help them and be a solution provider. Rapport will then naturally happen, and the conversation will flow.
Rapport happens when you are genuinely focused on helping them.
(4) Know your intent for the call
Take another moment before you dial to get clear on what exactly is your purpose for the call:
• Are you trying to build a long-term relationship?
• Create credibility?
• Help the customer to buy from you today?
Whatever it is, make sure your intent is rooted in understanding them better and their needs, so you can help them. To do this, picture yourself next to them, on the same side as them. This visualisation helps set your motivation for the call to being one of integrity and genuine help. You’ll naturally emit that sincerity to your client through your words and tone of voice. They will see you as the trusted advisor and the solution provider.
Set clear intentions before every call.
(5) Take notes throughout the call
Jot down as much as you can of what your client tells you. Taking notes can help you stay focused on what they’re saying, and saves you having to keep information in a ‘holding pattern’ in your brain. You will be aware of their language and what they keep emphasising. It assists with confirming their pain points. Your notes form an essential guide for any follow-on email or proposal you send to the client after the call.
Stay focused by taking notes.
(6) Be aware of your voice
Don’t be over enthusiastic, you’ll just sound manic.
The untrained (unpracticed) voice speeds up and goes higher in pitch.
Being genuine is essential. Talk to your customer in a voice that’s authentically ‘you’ – the you who’s in your calmest, clearest, most reasonable and rational state. Convey your maturity, your trusted leadership status – someone your client can rely on to offer good advice and have their best interests at heart.
Find your most natural voice with the right mindset.
(7) Know your opening hooks
Hooks mean you are engaging the client with a tailored opening which is of interest to them. Pick something from your research and have it as your opener, ‘John, I see that you are using xyz for… just thought I would reach out as my company provides clients with this xyz solution meaning they can quickly get this … result’.
You have 10 seconds to make an impact. Hooks are essential for cold calling. Make it interesting and different if you can.
Hooks get the client intrigued and engaged.
(8) Connect authentically with gatekeepers
‘Gatekeepers’ and your client are one. We need to stop thinking of them as separate entities.
They have been charged with protecting the decision makers’ time, because many reps simply ‘spray and pray’ their features and benefits with no specific connection between what they have to sell and what the decision maker may need. You are different. So, everything you do, and every interaction you have, needs to demonstrate how different you are. That’s why connecting meaningfully with gatekeepers is an incredibly important skill. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘working around them’ or even thinking of them negatively, as that will reflect adversely in your interaction and on you.
Respect their job and consider pitching to them. They are determining who gets to talk to the decision maker, so you want to make sure you create and leave the right impression.
Believe that your client contact will want to engage with you because you know you can help them. Remember, you want to be seen as a calm, confident, trusted advisor.
Be respectful and genuine with gatekeepers.
(9) Know what not to say
As well as knowing what to say we also need to be aware of what not to say. Watch your language.
• “I know you are busy” (why remind them, this sounds like you have no value in what you sell)
• “Doesn’t sound like now is a good time” (why project your opinion of when is a good time onto the client)
• “It’s tough out there” (sure way to remind them to close their pocket and be risk adverse)
• “I’ll call back when you’re not so busy” (get them to tell you this, don’t you tell them that)
• “I’m finding it hard; the kids are driving me mad, how about you” (our personal life is now ‘tripping’ over into professional life, call up a friend and have that whine – rather let the professional you impress a client)
• “Sorry to bother you” (devaluing yourself)
• “Yes, you probably should be cautious and only get six of those”
• “If you’re not sure what’s coming up, why not only get a few now and we can always top you up later”
Be aware of what you are projecting onto the client.
(10) Less talking, more listening
To truly understand your customer, you need THEM to be doing the talking.
This starkly contrasts with what most salespeople do: they land up doing all the talking! They talk ‘at’ a client, ‘telling’ them what they need without actually knowing if it is indeed what the client needs.
Master being curious, investigative and intrigued. To provide the right solution and really get to grips with their situation, you have to pose the right questions. Ideally you need to have crafted and comfortably practiced a minimum of 100+ questions. Why? Because you never know where the conversation may go. If you’ve only prepared a few questions you will push your clients down your own question path missing out on valuable information.
A great sales call is when the salesperson is asking relevant questions and the client is doing around 90% of the talking. The salesperson will be listening, understanding the situation to now know / propose the right solution.
Your mantra is ‘Seek to understand’.
That way you will know how you can help and give the compelling reason(s) to buy your solution, aligning what they need with what you have.
Open questions are best at getting them discussing their situation, they will give you insightful answers that can help you understand them better.
You need to always go with what question feels natural and right at the time. It needs to be relevant and meaningful. Throughout the conversation it’s imperative you be mentally present.
Watch what you are asking (I.e. not overstepping the mark in your relationship with intense questions about their business if you don’t know them well enough or they don’t yet see you as the trusted advisor e.g. how much money that will make you). Basically, if it feels right to ask – it probably is, if it feels wrong – it probably is. If they are an introvert, then make it easy for them to chat, ‘walk me through’ is more appealing than ‘talk me through’.
Example open questions:
• Walk me through…
• What did you find was working well on [blah de blah]?
• Where does this fit [blah de blah], into the future?
• How would you describe your experience with … [blah de blah]?
• How does [blah de blah] work?
• When this situation happens, [blah de blah], what happens?
• What would be most helpful for you to know about [blah de blah] right now?
• How will your team manage this situation over the next 6 months?
• How will they handle this challenge?
• What are your main concerns or questions about
• What persuaded you to call us today/use someone else’s solution?
• If this [blah de blah] happened, how would that roll out?
• And why was that /why is that/why? (I’m assuming your tone and intent is honourable and as the trusted advisor here – not interrogational).
If your call is to a new client, then the first questions you ask will be ones to get them talking, so choose intriguing yet easy questions for them to comfortably talk with and open up to you.
A ‘hard’ opening question will put them off and they will divert and say they are busy. I.e. saying ‘how does the next 6 months look?’, would be suitable for a client who knows you, but unlikely to land well as one of your opening questions if cold calling, coming across as too hard and too personal.
Your mantra is ‘seek to understand’.
(11) Are you really listening?
A lot of the time we are too busy focusing on what we want to say, instead on what the client is saying. Really listen to what they are saying. You need to be 100% present. Clients will know if you are in a bubble with them or just thinking of your next thing to say.
You need to be aware if you come into a call with judgement and a predetermined outcome. We assume. This needs to be acknowledged and released, for you to be truly present.
Drop the assumptions and really listen.
(12) Observe and adapt
No two customers are the same, so you shouldn’t be saying the same thing to each of them. They have different needs, wants, motivations and beliefs. Pay attention to how each one responds to your questions, and then constantly adapt so that the conversation makes sense to them. It should always be relevant and meaningful.
Your questions, pitch and compelling message should be adapted for each call.
(13) The biggest hurdle on the call
Processing styles, recognising and adapting to them, is the biggest call hurdle we face. For example, some clients will process their thoughts outwardly and ‘talk them through’, while others will silently process things internally. When we are with someone, we can literally see this process take place. If you tend to process your thoughts outwardly you may be inclined to fill those conversational silences on the other end of the phone, by jumping in and repeating or giving multiple choice answers. Be aware of your style and then ensure you master patience. The call should naturally have pauses, ebbs, flows and gaps. These permit moments of mutual reflection and contemplation. The calmer you are, the calmer the call will be and allow the client space and time to think.
Ensure you allow space in the conversation, giving your clients time to process their thoughts.
14. Educate your customer
While your customer knows more than anyone else about themselves and their problems, it is YOU who knows more about what your offering can do for them. So educate them. Educating your client over the phone comes down to how well you craft your sentences. Now, what you say and how you say it, has to both sell your product or solution to the person you’re speaking with, as well as enable them to similarly relay and sell it on correctly to others in their organisation, their own clients or the end user. Building mini stories starting with phrases such as ‘others have found that…’ give your clients the exact phrase to easily sell it on.
Make it easy for your client to educate others.
(15) Excite your customer so they block out distractions
As you speak to your client, notice any obvious distractions that come up – either in the conversation, or in their background. Are they working in a space that’s completely different to their pre-crisis norm?
Those distractions may affect their ability to be present with you – however, there is no need for you to become distracted! Once you have a great hook with intrigue and master quickly showing your call value to them, they will be immersed in the conversation with you and ignore any distractions.
Keep your client engaged.
(16) Over empathising can be costing you business
Some of us are quick to empathise. We have been taught it’s a good thing.
If your mindset is negative, you’ll miss out on the positive signals and inadvertently reduce your clients spend. This over-empathising with them may seem a way to build relationships but agreeing with anyone’s negative state closes them down to hearing your solution. It sends them into a cautious, let’s batten down the hatches, risk adverse place. Don’t join them in the ditch!
Instead, you should listen until they’ve emptied everything out and then focus on a positive or promising aspect of what they’ve said (unless of course, they’re tearful… in which case, you’re better off just listening for now).
Be optimistic and your client will be too.
(17) Agree on a specific next action
On some sales calls, the ‘next action’ might be overtly asking for the sale – clearly, directly, and with certainty that the client wants to go ahead. On other calls, you might need to arrange a follow-up conversation with them. It may be that they need a proposal pinpointing how your solution solves their pain points.
By the time you’re at this stage of the call, you’ll have understood their situation, offered the perfect solution (delivered in a way that makes sense to them) and it’s a flow from prospect to client. The next action you’re seeking isn’t an answer to the question of ‘do you want to go ahead?’ Rather, it’s a movement sentence continuing the relationship. This conversation at the end of the call should be a logical and natural step.
For some salespeople they find that sentence tricky, so here are a few examples.
By the way, it’s ideal if the client has already been answering ‘yes’ to your questions just before, as then they are on a ‘roll’ of saying yes.
Movement sentences like these below can be particularly useful.
• ‘OK, we can get that happening by Friday. You ready to give it the go-ahead?’
• ‘Sounds like we’re ready to make it happen. Let’s get started’
• ‘Janet would like to get the backend of this lined up today. You ok with that?
Use movement sentences to glide from prospect to client.
(18) Trying to upsell?
Watch what you are thinking. Upselling can imply ‘pushing’ a product onto someone, whereas when your intent is to ‘seek to understand’ and ‘help’, you’ll naturally ask more relevant questions and find out more. It then becomes an obvious obligation for you to explain the most suitable solution(s) which will serve them best.
If your client is after ‘A & B’, yet with your questioning it’s clear that the right solution for them is actually ‘A, B and C, then your intent, language and demeanor are aligned. You are coming from a place of integrity and being the trusted advisor.
The same lesson applies if your intent is to ‘close’ then your client will pick up on that – meaning you are no longer looking out for their best interests but your own. Closing means ending. We would rather help clients and form long lasting relationships. What you think, becomes your reality.
Be aware of your language.
Did you miss part 1 or Part 2?