There is nothing quite as personal and as fast as a phone call, which is why customers still prefer to call, despite having other options such as social media or support chats. Customers prefer speaking to a live person as opposed to an automated program, and the instantaneous nature of phone calls also save customers from waiting for hours for an email. As phone calls are important to businesses and sales, phone call etiquette is just as important to businesses and their sales representatives. Losing a client on the telephone is easy, but how can businesses effectively gain clients through telephone sales? The answer is simpler than most people think. The following 10 tips will help any business improve their sales rate on the phone.
- Plan The Script …
What is the objective of a particular call? Is it to introduce the company? To introduce the product? Finalizing a sale? In each case, centralize your script around the objective. Focusing on the task will allow sales representatives to be perceived as professional and knowledgeable. Understanding the topic also minimizes discussion outside the topic, allowing for an efficient and effective phone call.
- … But Don’t Recite It
There are many reasons not to read off of a script. First and foremost, rehearsed lines tend to come off as being stiff and unnatural. As mentioned above, one of the reasons customers choose to call is to speak to a live person. By following a rehearsed script, the sales representative effectively negates this effect and may lose the customer’s interest. Second, due to the unpredictable nature of the customer’s questions, it is impossible for the conversation to follow the exact order of the script. It is better to have a few points of reference written down as opposed to lines of speech. Refer to the script to stay on track, but don’t rely on it.
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- Know Your Audience.
Who exactly is on the other end of the phone? Before the call, read the customer and their company’s name out loud. Practice until it sticks in your head. Write down pronunciation guides. Do some external research if necessary. Whatever you do, do not twist their names. It is insulting to the customer and humiliating to the sales representative. First impressions are important, so the last thing that businesses should want is an awkward scenario ten seconds into the phone call. To ensure that the whole process goes by smoothly, have the customer’s name and business somewhere in sight, in case your mind draws a blank in the middle of the conversation.
- Respect The Gatekeeper.
Sometimes, the person who picks up the phone is not the intended target, but a secretary or receptionist. Treat the gatekeeper with the same level of respect as the customer. They are no less important than the decision maker. In fact, they might be more important in their role of filtering out unwanted calls. Be polite but assertive in your approach. It is undesirable for companies to have a hostile relationship with the gatekeeper.
- Your Voice …
As the two parties cannot see each other, their voices becomes the most personal connection in the conversation. Tone and speed are two of the most important indicator of a person’s feelings, as nerves will raise both the pitch and speed at which people normally speak at. Try to maintain a regular pitch and an above average speed, as this combination allow sales representatives to be perceived as confident experts of their craft.
- … And Your Body Language
In addition to verbal effects, non-verbal cues such as body language also translate well over the phone. One technique to keep in mind is to smile when speaking. The customer will not be able to see it, but they will definitely be able to sense the warmth and enthusiasm in your voice. Another technique is the usage of hand gestures. Like smiling, hand gestures inject more emotion into one’s words, adding an extra sense of engagement and persuasiveness into the dialogue.
- Be Personal.
One reason why customers prefer to call is the human connection aspect. They want a live person who understands, and is capable of solving, their problems. That is why sales representatives should not shy away from using their customers’ names. In fact, this practice is strongly recommended. Speaking on a first name basis removes barriers and builds rapport between the two parties. That being said, do not overuse this tactic. Inserting the customer’s name into every sentence will only make the sales representative look like the creepy uncle at the dinner table. The customer will feel violated and is unlikely to ever do business with the company. Instead, speak as though you are speaking to a friend. Use their names no more than three times in a conversation. It is a subtle, but effective technique to convey that the company is more than just a business, but a friend that can be counted on in the long run.
- Ask Questions …
The purpose of every product is to satisfy a customer’s need or to solve a customer’s problem. By asking questions, the sales representative - and by extension, the business - can fully comprehend their customers’ needs and tailor their pitch to fulfill it. Like the last point, this should not be overused. Active listening alone should be enough for any sales representative to gauge the problem at hand, but thoughtful questions are used to fill the gaps between points for a complete understanding. The greater the company’s understanding of its customers, the more likely the company can close out the deal.
- … Especially Open-Ended Questions
Open ended questions are important for any sales representative. Unlike their close ended counterparts, these questions are not designed to elicit a specific response, but rather to build the dialogue. These open ended questions open the floor to the customer, which is important because they might reveal new information and improve the business’ operations. Another benefit of open ended questions is that it creates value for the customer, who is free to express his or her thoughts. Businesses must understand and connect with their customers to be successful, and these questions satisfy both of those points.
- Hang Up Last
Sales representatives usually have a lot of calls to make, so it is understandable for them to hang up immediately and move on to another customer, but this is actually a bad practice. The customer may have thought of an important piece of information or have another last minute question to ask, and hanging up on them would result in a missed opportunity. In more extreme scenarios, the customer may also mistaken this as a sign of rudeness and move on to another company. In sales, every deal matters and it would be foolish to lose a deal for a few extra seconds.