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Top 14 Phone Skills for Navigating Sales Conversations

Last Updated on July 7, 2021

man on computer making sales cold calls

What are the top sales phone skills you need to dominate your sales calls? 

In this guide, we’ll discuss the essential phone skills that every sales agent should know and use during a sales call. By implementing the following tips, sales professionals will improve telephone productivity and focus, and convert more leads into prospects.

Let’s get started.

1. Set a Call Goal

Before you start your sales day, set a goal for how many calls you’d like to make before calling it a day. Turn it into a personal challenge. By setting a call quota, you’ll give yourself something to shoot for each and every day. You also reduce the temptation to stop calling by adding accountability to your day. Setting a goal will help motivate you to pick up the phone and start dialing.

Every business is different but a good rule of thumb is to shoot for at least 50 calls a day. Manually, this will usually take 2-3 hours. Alternatively, you can shoot for a certain number of conversations. Or appointment sets. Choose a goal that works for you and that sets you up for success.

To empower you to meet your call goals, consider using a power dialer. This way, you won’t need to manually dial each number, log the call, repeat voicemails or manually send emails, and other time sappers, potentially bringing that 2-3 hours down to under 1 hour. Now maybe you can 2x or even 4x your goal to 100 or 200 calls.

2. Get Comfortable in Your Environment

It’s also a smart idea to create a comfortable working environment. Tidy up your desk. Invest in a quality and comfortable chair. Or, use a stand-up desk. A lot of people find they have more energy if they stand at least part of the time while working.

Create a space that will inspire your best work. Have images that make you feel good. Some examples include friends, family, or a specific goal photo like a picture of a place you want to travel or a new car you’d like to purchase. Consider listening to upbeat music before calling – which can do wonders for some.

Oh, and buy a plant. They’re said to improve mood, boost productivity, and reduce stress. Just remember to water it.

3. Don’t Wait to Get Motivated to Call

If you’re cold calling, don’t wait until you’re motivated. The motivation to call may never come. Instead of waiting until you feel “ready,” call before start thinking too deeply about it. Better yet, set a time that is clearly dedicated to your outreach and don’t let meetings, calls, or procrastination get in the way. Cold calling is never easy, but the longer you think about it, the harder it is to do it. At PhoneBurner we recommend doing first thing in the morning to ‘eat the frog’ as Brian Tracy says. 

Also, willpower tends to fade as the day goes on. For example, did you know people are more likely to overeat in the evening than in the morning? The later it gets, the easier it is to let ourselves off the hook, or make excuses. This logic applies to dialing as well. Use this to your advantage and get your calls done first thing in the morning.

Another benefit of using a power dialer is that it keeps you in the flow once you begin. That’s because you make just one call to start your dial session, and the dialer handles the rest. This ensures your foot stays on the gas, and prevents call reluctance from being a factor until the last lead is called.

4. Be Prepared

power dialer software for sales teams

Cold calling before you’re ready means feeling the nerves, pushing through your natural hesitation, and calling anyway. But it doesn’t mean that you should call without a plan.

A plan could mean calling a very specific list, such as people you called but reached voicemail, or aged prospects who were once interested but have gone dark. In this case, you may only need to review notes while the line is ringing.

You can use a CRM to familiarize yourself with your contact. Or you can use your CRM to access your cold call script. This way, you’ll enter into the call with knowledge, which can make you feel confident and bullet-proof.

Related:  8 Common Causes of Sales Slumps, and How to Avoid Them

Sometimes a plan means doing cold call research. Thanks to Google and the popularity and near-universal adoption of social media, just about every prospect you contact will have a presence or bio available to see. their Before making a cold call, you may want to take a couple of minutes to research your prospect on the Internet. 

It kind of goes without saying, but preparation also means having deep product knowledge. Knowing your product (as well as your competitors) allows you to provide value, handle questions and objections, and help each contact understand how your product solves an existing need or pain point.

5. Follow a Script

As mentioned above, use a script when placing sales calls. A good opening script is critical to engaging leads and starting fruitful conversations. It’s the difference between hangups or “nos” and prospects who are willing to answer questions to see if your solution is a fit.

But don’t read from your script like a robot. You may need to read it word-for-word when you first start, but after you’ve made a few calls, you’ll likely feel comfortable using your script as a reference for your main talking points. Another tip is to use a bulleted list of ‘talking points’ to ensure you don’t read word for word. Regularly test new scripts and approaches and use what works best. Wingin’ it’ is not the recommended way to go.

6. Have a Defined Goal for Each Call

You shouldn’t be making sales calls to just “see how things go.”

Every call should have one specific and realistic goal or result that you’d like to meet. Are you trying to book an in-person meeting? Are you trying to get the prospect to schedule a demo? Launch a free trial? Evaluate a custom proposal and meet again at a specific date and time?

Always have a goal and actively structure the calls to lead the prospect toward that goal. This way, you’ll know if your call was successful or not. Ideally, every group of calls will have the same goal so you can get into the ‘groove’ of having similar conversations with a group of contacts.

7. Smile

The saying goes: “Smile when you dial.” The wisdom is simple. Your facial expression can dictate your tone. If you’re smiling, people can hear it. So, even if you’re not face to face, remember to smile when you’re on sales calls. It creates a friendly impression that your prospect will positively respond to.

Need a gentle reminder? Put a mirror up at your desk or turn on your webcam so you can see what you look like!

8. Role Play With Team Members

Whether you’re new to sales, or a seasoned veteran there is value to role playing. Ask someone on your team to role play sales calls. This has several benefits. First, it will give you practice which will prepare you for the real deal. Second, your team member(s) will likely provide useful tips, helpful phrasing, or alternate views on how to handle scenarios that give you a fresh perspective. And third, your test calls will give you a chance to improve confidence and comfort in your sales script and the flow. You can practice various stages of sales calls, from opening scripts, to qualifying prospects to objection handling, to closing.

For bonus points, have team members role play during full sales team meetings. This will make the pressure of calling people on the phone much easier, than role playing in front of their group of peers!

9. Listen to Recordings of Yourself

Whether you’re doing test calls or real calls, be sure to record yourself. This allows you to hear yourself, which admittedly will sound unpleasant at first, but it will also be a useful tool for learning how you may sound to your prospects. Are you talking too quickly? Are you enunciating? Are you saying the right things? By auditing calls, you’ll have an opportunity to correct issues, and edit scripts.

A system like PhoneBurner can do this for you automatically so that call recordings can be reviewed later.

Just be sure when recording calls that you are following local laws.

10. Build a Connection

At the start of your sales call, leverage opportunities you have to connect with your prospect. If you’ve spoken to contacts before, perhaps you have a note about an interest or shared experience you can bring up. For first time calls, perhaps you’ve researched the prospect and know something about them that can help you build rapport. If you have someone in common or are calling because of a referral, mention that right away, or consider sending a pre-call email to pave the way to a warmer call.

Related:  3 Things Your Prospect Needs to Hear You Say

11. Have a Plan for the Gatekeeper

If you’re calling businesses, you’ll likely run into a gatekeeper. But gatekeepers aren’t your enemy. They’re simply doing their jobs. 

One way to deal with gatekeepers is not to deal with them. Gatekeepers, such as executive assistants, tend to keep bankers’ hours (9 to 5), so call before or after those hours, if possible. This way, you’re more likely to reach the actual prospect that you’re aiming for (they tend to arrive early and leave late). 

But, if you do run into a gatekeeper, ask for your prospect by their name and do it with confidence. Honesty is the best policy here, don’t try to trick gatekeepers. Sometimes even befriending gatekeepers can help you get thru to your prospect.

12. Avoid Multitasking

You shouldn’t try to do more than one thing when you’re on sales call. The distraction can be felt in your conversation or impact your delivery. You risk seeming disinterested, or confused, by what they’re saying, because your divided attention will undoubtedly cause you to miss informtation or opportunities. If they can hear papers rustling or keyboard clicks in the background, it can even seem downright rude. 

Instead, give full attention to a sales call and then handle the other tasks in between calls. This means no instant messaging, checking stock tips or online shopping while calling. Even with a great power dialing system like PhoneBurner, you want to stay focused on the task at hand!

13. Be Persistent and Follow Up

Lead card for cold call followup

Every sales call should be a set up for the next step in the sales process. Maintain regular follow-up for prospects in your sales funnel with email and SMS in between calls. In general, you’ll need to reach out to the same prospect between six to 12 times before they decide to buy.

For prospects not yet in your funnel, don’t give up. Take every “no” as a “not yet” and continue to follow up unless they specifically tell you to not call them again.

Remember that your goal with each call or communication is to build trust and create value for your prospect. Over time, that will pay off. For a prospect to agree that your solution is a fit for them, requires both trust in you and belief in your solution.

Building trust works with gatekeepers too. Sometimes it can take many, many calls before you finally reach your prospect.

14. Be Prepared for Voicemail

Seven out of 10 calls end up in voicemail. This means that the majority of your calls will go unanswered. But don’t just hang up. A good voicemail script (paired with a good email or text) can absolutely generate callbacks, or increase the likelihood of a live answer on a subsequent call.

So have a plan for reaching voicemails. Because they are so time consuming, consider pre-recording messages and using software to drop your pre-recorded voicemails (and potentially send an email or text) in a click. This way, you get the benefit of the communication without additional time or effort.

What are Examples of Proper Phone Etiquette?

Now, let’s go over some telephone etiquette.

Introduce Yourself Right Away

When making your sales phone call, remember to introduce yourself and your company immediately. This is key to establishing trust in your call.

Avoid the Speakerphone

Speakerphones are the worst for communication. They pick up background noise and reverberation, and make it difficult for prospects to clearly hear you. If you prefer to be hands-free, invest in a quality headset with a microphone.

Do Not Eat or Chew Gum

It’s never good to chew while on the phone. Smacking, chewing, chopping, and other digestive sounds are just not appropriate for a professional call. Some people are particularly sensitive to those sounds and will react negatively when they hear it.

Related:  5 Sales Tools that Build You a Bigger Pipeline

Be Helpful Not Pushy

Successful salespeople solve problems. They don’t push solutions on people who don’t want or need them. Your tone should come from a place of curiosity as to the situation your prospect is in, and then a genuine desire to meet an existing need or solve a pain point. Your solution may do that. If it does, explore. If it does not, be respectful of that and have the courage to walk away without wasting anyone’s time.

Don’t Put Them on Hold Too Long

Try to avoid the hold button. But, if you must put your prospect on hold during a sales call, apologize and inform them why if possible. Then do your best to ensure they don’t stay on hold for longer than 30 seconds. This the standard maximum wait time before you should return to the call with an update (even if that means having to call them back).

What are Five Tips or Techniques that Improve Telephone Productivity?

Here are five tips to boost productivity during sales calls:

1. Use a CRM

CRM is short for customer relationship management software. Use a CRM to store everything you know or learn about a prospect. You can also use your CRM to ensure that you stay in contact with your prospect until they’re ready to buy. Your CRM can send you notifications when it’s time to reach out to prospects, or it can send pre-written emails and texts to your prospects automatically without you needing to lift a finger. Read more about our CRM here.

2. Use a Power Dialer 

Sales calls are hard. Let software do the heavy lifting and handle the tedious tasks, so you’re free to focus on what matters: high quality conversations. A power dialer handles repetitive tasks and workflows, so you can maximize talk time. And unlike other dialers, there’s no off-putting pause or connection delay at the start of each call. Check out our Power Dialer feature here.

3. Pre-Record Your Voicemails

In addition to pre-writing your emails and texts, you can also pre-record your voicemails. Since most sales calls end in voicemail, this will noticeably boost your productivity. Instead of waiting around to leave a voicemail, activate your system’s voicemail drop as soon as you realize you’ve reached their voicemail (which will wait for the voicemail message to play through and then leave your pre-recorded message). While it’s doing that, you’ll move on to the next call. Learn more about how voicemail drops work here.

4. Use Local Caller ID

What’s the secret to getting more prospects to answer your sales calls? One is to call from a number that’s local to them. People are usually more likely to answer from a local area code they recognize than one they don’t, or from a toll-free number. This simple tweak can improve your call productivity because you’ll be getting more live responses. Learn more about our local caller ID feature here. Note that you’ll want to test this with your list to make sure this works for your target market.

5. Automate Tedious Tasks

So much of your sales workday is probably spent doing the same tasks over and over again, such as sending follow-up emails and texts, moving contacts around the CRM, adding notes and tags, or building targeted call lists. The right dialing software and CRM can automate all of these post-call processes so you get more done, in less time. Who doesn’t want that? Learn more about workflow automation here.

Final Thoughts

Cold calling isn’t easy. The fact that you’re reading this means you have had success but can use a little motivation and some tips to make your performance even better. Add these cold calling tips to your process when it makes sense to and over time your cold call success will improve. Be smart about how you integrate these ideas into your workflow. The last thing you want is to try to take it all on at once and feel overwhelmed by too many changes to your daily routine. Start with the tips that will keep your energy high and go from there.