By John Taylor
Many new businesses that are just beginning to build market share rely on phone sales to get
started. Whether buying leads for outgoing calls or fielding incoming calls from new contacts,
it’s important to be able to convert these calls to customers. While it may seem easy to answer a few questions and close a sale, anyone who has tried phone sales can attest that it’s far more
difficult than it sounds. If you want to convert more customers and improve your selling ability
over the phone, here are a few critical tips to try.
1. Make sure that you are working with qualified leads.
Regardless of whether your company is buying call lists from lead generation services or you’re fielding incoming calls from potential customers, you need to make sure that every person you talk to is a qualified lead. This means that they are the decision maker and that they have the ability to close on a sale today. If either of those conditions is unmet, then you are wasting your call. That doesn’t mean that you want to be rude – you may be speaking to the right person but at the wrong time. After they get a paycheck or get approval from a supervisor, they may be precisely the person you need to speak to. In any event, be sure to qualify your leads so that you know whether you’re speaking with someone who is able to buy even if they want to.
2. Abandon the hard sell.
We’ve all seen movies or heard stories about people get a “hard sale” on a cold-call. These days, that doesn’t work. Consumers expect to be able to do their research and think about an offering before they decide. As a salesperson, that means you can forget the fast close. Instead, focus your effort on building rapport with your current and potential customers. Develop a relationship. This will help you to gain a better understand of your customers’ needs and goals, as well as limiting factors.
3. Change your focus.
When speaking with customers over the phone, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in our own goals. We see the conversation and the relationship from our side of the table – we think about how much work we’re putting into a sale, how many sales we need to close, and so on. Unfortunately, this is absolutely the wrong way to think about business if we want to be successful selling – on the phone or otherwise. Instead of thinking about your own goals or situation, shift your focus from making a sale to serving your customer. Try to learn what they’re going through. Understand their situation. Your job is not to make a sale, but to figure out how you can help a customer; what to provide them that will improve their own situation. This starts with asking and learning, not telling or teaching.
4. Make it easy for a customer to say "yes".
A lot of people think that the key to sales is keeping potential customers from saying “no,” when in reality most potential buyers – especially if you’re working with qualified leads – are happy to say “yes” if it’s made easy for them. As a salesperson, this means making sure that you aren’t inconveniencing a potential customer, and that they’re having fun interacting with you. It also means making sure that you have all the relevant information handy to answer questions or address potential concerns quickly and competently. Be able to help a potential customer resolve any concerns quickly, so they can move on to closing.
5. Practice... a lot.
Selling, especially over the phone, is not a skill that develops naturally. It takes considerable, intentional practice with fellow sales staff, supervisors, friends and family to be able to handle yourself well on a sales call. You need to know not only your product but, more importantly, how to relate to your customers and address their concerns. Working from a script may help, at least initially. You will undoubtedly refine talking points as you learn more about customer interests and typical concerns. You will learn how to quickly assess and understand a client’s needs, convey the most important points about your offering, and when and how to move seamlessly to closing once a customer is ready to buy.
Converting customers over the phone can be a prime driver of success, especially for many young businesses. Owners and managers of start-ups need to use time and resources efficiently to develop a base of revenue so they can sustain themselves while they build. Improving your phone sales skills takes a lot of work, but you can do it if you stay committed and follow the tips above.
About the author
John is a long-time professional with over two decades of experience in analytics and communications technology. He works as the Senior Data Analyst at Fone Dynamics, a leader in call tracking, voice, and SMS communication. When John steps out of the office, he loves to spend time with his family and bike riding.