Despite the abundance of online tools and the popularity of social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, basic communication skills - that's right, old-fashioned, one-to-one communications - still reigns supreme in the world of sales.
It's a fact of life for almost every sales professional that a large portion of business is conducted over the telephone. Unfortunately, without the ability to gauge body language and other visual cues, as well as not being able to have eye contact, it can certainly be a challenge to engage a potential or even a current customer over the phone.
You're certainly not alone if you dread making customer calls. Practically every salesperson has had their fair share of unproductive phone conversations. But, this article isn't all doom and gloom- quite the contrary. Rather, the good news is that there are simple techniques that you can use to greatly improve your chances of grabbing a lead or customer's attention and hopefully making a sale - all with a telephone call. Pardon the pun, but here's the "411" on successful business telephone communication:
Your hello is the handshake that starts the dialogue
People will make up their minds about the rest of the conversation within the first few seconds based upon your tone, manner, and inflection. Perhaps, you can change their impression, but isn't it simply easier to make a good impression right from the beginning?
Plan what you'll say before you make the call
Don't dial that phone number until you are certain about why you are calling and how you will say it. Nothing is more embarrassing and less professional than getting "brain freeze" just when someone picks up their phone. Don't start the conversation sounding unprepared. If necessary, sketch out what you want to say before you call to help you through the process.
Recognize the need to control the dialogue
You're the one making the call. Be proactive, not reactive. Don't expect the person on the other end of the line to do the work for you.
Have a fallback position
Not every phone conversation will go the way you want it. That's ok. But, make sure that you are prepared to gracefully change the direction of your conversation, if necessary.
Smile, smile, smile
Don't discount the importance of smiling while speaking on the phone. Your enthusiasm will come through, and you simply can't sound bored or disengaged if you are smiling.
Remember, you ARE how you SOUND! How you sound can totally contradict the words that you say. Think about that for a second. You might be explaining something to a customer, or asking them a question about their project, and should you sound gruff or perhaps disinterested, that's the impression they will have of you and your company. And let me ask you, have you ever wanted to do business with someone that wasn't interested in what you wanted or, at best, sounded a bit displeased.
You can improve your voice, tone and manner by doing a few simple things:
- The first thing to do is easy and that is to simply CARE about how you sound. That means that you reflect on your tone, manner and inflection in each and every one of your conversations.
- Speak at the right rate of speech to the person with whom you are meeting/talking. If you are speaking very quickly and they speak at a much slower pace then at least 50% of what you are saying is not being absorbed. Slow down. The onus is on you as the sales person to match and mimic the customer's pacing.
- Don't communicate in a monotone. Take care to vary your inflection and you will be a much more interesting communicator.
- Besides tone and manner, the audibility of your voice should also be considered. If the customer can't hear you then your very best sales pitch will go unheard. Speak up - or maybe tone it down - communication is a very personal thing.
- And while you are at it, the best way to know exactly how you sound is to tape record yourself while you are on the phone with a customer. Play the tape and conduct a careful critique. Adults tend to self-learn and so if there are things that need to be changed, you'll be in a better position to do so.
Adrian Miller is President and Founder of Adrian Miller Sales Training, a sales consultancy that she launched 20 years ago. Adrian provides real-world, highly practical sales skills training programs and delivers executive level sales strategy consulting. She is the author of "The Blatant Truth: 50 Ways to Sales Success" and is a highly regarded speaker and consultant.