Telephone Selling

Filed Under (Tele-Sales) by Don on 15-04-2007

My earliest experiences in sales began without any formal training.  I simply enjoyed talking and meeting new people and didn’t want to be burdened behind a desk.  I soon began reading anything and everything related to sales and selling and attended every sales seminar I could find.   One day while out cold calling on prospects in the high rise buildings of downtown Charlotte I stopped into a restaurant for a lunch break.  I struck up a conversation with another fellow whom I presumed was a “lunch loner” like myself and soon learned that this gentleman was very gifted and knowledgeable business owner and salesman.  He and I began a business friendship that has lasted for many years and his experiences helped me immensely during my early years in sales and business ownership.  He was a valuable mentor in my sales and later business life. 

One of the lessons I learned was to not be afraid of the telephone to make sales.   As I mentioned in a earlier post one of my first jobs was writing advertising copy for a radio station.  It soon became apparent that I needed the ability to produce my commercials for the sales reps because the studio staff was too busy to get the spec tapes produced in a timely manner.  Not to mention oftentimes they didn’t understand the “picture” I was trying to convey in my copy.  Since I can be rather impatient I took it upon myself to ask the station engineer to train me on how to operate the production room equipment.  Since I’ve always been sort of a “tech geek” I rapidly absorbed the information and jumped right into production.  The station manager and some of the staff were very generous in their guidance and wisdom and I listened and learned with great interest.  The very first thing they taught me was to smile when I read the copy.  I thought that was the silliest thing I had ever heard!  However, they considered that one little thing so important that they placed a small mirror in front of the microphone every time I entered the production room.  I had to look at myself in that mirror and smile every time I had the mic turned on.  They explained that people can “see” that smile when they listen to your voice on the radio.  I soon learned that they were absolutely correct.  That should be your first rule of practice every time you are one the phone too!  This is an important rule for you to understand.  If you have a smile on your face when you talk on the telephone the person on the other end will “see” your smile and you will have began to break down those barriers of resistance.  I have practiced this for all these years and I can promise you it does make a difference.  That rule applies to your entire staff too.  Everyone in your business should smile when they talk on the phone no matter if they are having a good day or a bad day.  My son gets tickled with me when I am on the phone and says I have a ‘phone alter ego.’  He had stopped by my office the other day to catch me in the middle of several “complicated issues” that were drawing my ire.  My phone rang and when I answered the call my ‘telephone alter ego’ sprang into action.  I was instantly happy, smiling and acted as though I was talking to a long lost friend.  Nevertheless, my son was right.  I still practice the habit of smiling on the phone and being genuinely happy to speak to the caller.  

I know an office products dealer (I’m sure there are many) that has built a very successful business using only telephone sales reps.  To be a successful tele-sales person you must develop good habits such as the smile factor.  Please accept the fact that you are not telemarketing.  You are a sales professional calling businesses, not individuals at home, selling professional products and services to other business people.  You have to ask open ended questions.  You need a good prospect list from a reputable source such as a Chamber of Commerce or a Dun & Bradstreet or some other business journal list.  You need to write a good script.  Don’t just take a script out of a book and use it either.  Make the script fit the person making the calls and role-play a lot.  I cannot stress enough the importance of role-playing.  When I train our telephone sales reps we spend one day writing and re-writing scripts and spend nearly three days role-playing.  We continue to role-play even now to hone their skills and keep them on top of their game.  Documentation is the next critical piece in your phone skills set.  Document everything about your call.  Leave no detail undocumented and refer to those notes on every call back.  Be certain to set an established time period for call backs too and stick to it.  Record keeping is an important step in your success and so is accurate reporting.  Everyone hates paperwork but we need to be accountable for our activity. 

Remember that preparation plus opportunity equals success.  Only in the dictionary does success come before work.

One last word about selling.  Many excellent books have been written about selling and I doubt I could write one any better, but most of them omit the most vital ingredient: integrity.  The number one reason, in my opinion, that many salespeople fail is they lack conviction in the product, service, plan, idea or whatever they’re selling.  If you can’t be open and honest about the deal then the deal isn’t a good one.  I met a sale rep who bragged about taking remanufactured toners and placed them into OEM boxes and sold them as new.  I was not his manager nor did he work for my company, but I expressed my opinions about his actions to no avail.  I knew that kind of deception would cost him one day and it did.  Sadly he never learned from his mistakes and continued for many years being less that successful.  Good selling happens when a seller can pass their own convictions on to the buyer.  Treat people the way you want to be treated and quit being a wondering generality and become a meaningful specific!

Upselling for Dollars

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Tele-Sales) by Don on 05-04-2007

No, it’s not the latest game show but it is a game you need to know how to play and you should play to win.  You have enthusiasm and energy.  You’re excited and you’ve worked hard to learn your products;  their strengths and weaknesses.  You’ve done your homework and you know your companies capabilities.  Now the right techniques and words can make all the difference.  Your new skills are ready to “Up” the sell.

To “Up” the sell we take a product or service and skillfully sell the customer either a higher quantity of product or a higher profit margin item that will accomplish the task in a better form or fashion.  As a skilled listener and problem solver you can understand their needs and make informed recommendations.  You will ask open-ended questions to discover details of the customers’ experience and intentions.  You’ll ask closed-ended questions to find out specific information.  By utilizing techiques of persuasion a skilled rep can anticipate future problems, and solve current issues confronting customers thereby demonstrating that you genuinely care about the customers success and further cement your relationships.  Be innovative, curious and creative.

There are three big mistakes you need to avoid.

  1. The rep comes across as being pushy
  2. The upselling attempt comes across as a phony or feable attempt so the customer refuses
  3. No upselling attempt is made

Assume the sale in a positive tone.  Sell the product or service’s benefits not it’s features.  Remember everyone wants to buy but no one want to be sold.  Ninety percent of a sale is emotional.  Use words like “gain,” “improve,” “sale,” “free,” “new,” to appeal to the customers emotions.  Ask customers how they feel not how they think about adding a suggested item to their order.  Close on an up-beat note because your last comments will be what the customer remembers most.  Listen carefully for buying signals that are inferred but not spoken.  Using other customers stories of satisfaction about products is a good way to show that other people have enjoyed success and satisfaction with your product or service.  Relate things that other customers have said about your products and services is a good form or personal endorsement but only if the information is truthful and genuine.  NEVER lie to a customer to sell a product!  This is unethical and unprofessional and most companies and organizations have a low tolerance for such tactics.  

Utililzing up-selling and cross-selling techniques as a genuine way to build your sales and increase customer satisfaction and is another tool in your arsenal of relationship building weapons.  It’s all in the attitude so do not forget to smile if you are on the phone!  If your attitude is suffering then let me borrow a phrase from Zig Ziglar and suggest that you get a “Check-up from the Neck-up!” 

Yes! Is Your Best Reply!

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Tele-Sales) by Don on 26-03-2007

Isn’t it interesting that the most common answer to your customer service or product question(s) are typically answered with a “No”?   Is that available in a fine point or is that available in white instead of black?  We are quick to answer No because it is the easy answer, and perhaps it is the truthful one.  Where we loose the game is by simply stating the fact, the item isn’t available in a fine point.  We lost because we didn’t think outside the original question.  Observe the following series of questions and responses.

Customer:         “I really like this gel pen but would prefer it in a fine point, is that available?”

CSR/Rep:          “No, I’m sorry it is only available in a medium point.”


Customer:         “I really like this gel pen but would prefer it in a fine point, is that available?”

CSR/Rep:          “Yes!  It is available from a different manufacturer; would you like to receive a free sample to see the quality?”

The first example was an honest answer to a typical question.  No, it isn’t available from XYZ Pen Company.  However, our mistake was in not addressing the actual question, “Is it available in a fine point?”  We lost the potential sale because we didn’t think objectively and skillfully.  XYZ Pen Company doesn’t make that same pen in a fine point but ABC Pen Company does.  We didn’t approach the price question we simply offered another comparable product that will meet the customer’s needs and offered them a free sample to try.  Why the free sample?  By offering the free sample it shows that we not only care about the customer’s needs but that we are willing to go the extra step by giving them one to evaluate at no charge.  There are so many products in today’s market it is difficult to say that nothing isn’t available in whatever shape or form to fit the customer needs.  You might even up the sale by providing a superior product that is available and meets their needs and gives you a greater profit!  It is important to know your products and what is available.  It is very important to stay well informed about new products and product lines.  There are many web sites and periodicals available detailing this kind of information.  In order to become and remain an effective and proficient sales person you must practice self development and improvement on a daily basis.


Some years ago I was doing business with a large law firm that purchased a great deal of products and custom printing.  Their stationary was engraved which if you know much about printing you know that this process is very expensive and not many print houses offer this product.  Engraved stationary is the Rolls Royce of stationary and demonstrates the quality and professionalism of the finest businesses.  This product can easily cost three or four times the typical cost of a raised letter thermography process and most consumers will not know the difference.  However, this group of attorneys was adamant that they would only have the finest letterhead, envelopes and business cards on the market.  One year the office manager told me the firm was in a budget crunch and would be shopping my prices.  A statement such as this strikes fear into the hearts of sales people everywhere!  I had a good relationship with the paralegals and many of the attorneys knew me by name so I decided to take a different approach.  I told the office manager “Yes!  I think that is a great idea!”  I knew the products they used and I knew the people so I had a definite advantage.  I took one of the senior partners business card and had it produced using thermography instead of engraving and changed the paper stock resulting in a 70% reduction in cost of just one set of business cards.  Then after examining their other products I put together a list of equal to or better than substitutions, made up a sample packet for each attorney (15 altogether).  A couple of weeks later the office manager, senior partner and I sat down for a presentation.  When our meeting was finished the senior partner stated he was proud to do business with me and he appreciated my service.  I saved him over $2500 per year on his business cards and nearly $3000 per year on their supplies and services.  You are probably thinking that I lost business because I just gave up over $5000 in revenue.  Wrong!  I gained a substantial amount of business because they didn’t shop my prices, many of the products were replaced with higher margin items and I made and qualified numerous suggestions about the other items and equipment he used in his office resulting in new business.  One of my networked ‘friends’ was brought on board to service his equipment and I received spiffs for that and my customer saved a lot of money from his previous service provider.  There is more information on this that I have space to write but be assured that by simply saying “Yes” I was able to provide a real solution to a potential issue that could have cost me a very valuable customer.  In case you are wondering I am still doing business with this firm nearly 20 years later.

 Yes, simply stated means you won’t take No for an answer.  It means that you truly have the customer’s best interests at heart.  The bonus comes when you make the sale, keep the customer happy and best case is you might even make more money.  Woohoo!


Building Good Prospecting Habits

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Tele-Sales) by Don on 21-03-2007

If you have spent enough time in sales you know that in order to build your base you have to be very proactive at prospecting, otherwise known as lead generation.  Let’s take a moment and review some industry statistics.

  • It takes an average of 6 calls before the prospect buys

  • 80% of New Account Sales occur after the 5th call

  • 48% quit after the 1st call

  • 25% quit after the 2nd call

  • Only 10% make more than 3 calls

I sincerely hope you do not fall within the 73% of people who quit after two calls.  If you’re reluctant about making cold calls then get out of the business.  You are wasting your time.  It takes time to build the relationships and if you cannot be persistent then you need to develop some new, more productive habits.  The worst time to attempt a first call is Monday morning.  Business makers and decision makers are not very receptive to hearing from sales professionals they do not know first thing on Monday morning!  Spend your time wisely by placing follow-up calls or preparing your call list or area strategy for the week and/or mailing Thank You notes or some other information that will be of value (i.e. interesting) to your prospects.

The best time to make first contact is when you are at your best.  If you’re a morning person you will be at your peak performance level then.  This is when your comfort and confidence level will be demonstrated in your calls.  This isn’t to say that you only make calls on your “good day”.  What it means is that if you produce your best work first thing in the mornings then this is when you should concentrate on making your highest quality first contact calls.  If you are a slow starter and don’t really get moving until after lunch then make your first contact calls then and concentrate your early morning efforts to account follow-up calls.  First call prospecting is the most stressful part of sales and you should always schedule those calls when you are at your best!  Do not attempt these calls when you are tired, stressed out, burned out, or hungry.  Nor should you use these reasons to avoid prospecting for leads.  You cannot achieve your sales and prospecting goals by making excuses!

If you are calling previous customers your success rates will be higher since the customer has done business with you or the company previously.  Your selling ratios are typically forty times higher when calling on former customers.  Reviving old accounts will require you to first investigate the reason why they stopped doing business with you, so ask questions when you speak to the decision maker.  Once that is determined you will know what needs to be done to bring them back.  The business may have gone through a personnel change, had a bad experience, or perhaps felt they didn’t receive enough personal service.  Answer their objections with compassion and let them know that you care about their needs and will make every effort on their behalf to make things right.  Again, build rapport and develop the relationship.

Don’t inflate your personal expectations.  Set attainable goals and strive to reach or exceed them every day.  Persistence is critical when making these prospecting calls and the more information you glean the better prepared you will be when you arrive for your first appointment.  Always be prepared, don’t insult your prospect or their valuable time by not being adequately informed and/or prepared.  Network yourself aggressively; there are many networking opportunities in most markets.  There are other reps that may offer products or services that your prospect may be in need of.  By positioning yourself as a problem solver and solutions provider you create value and therefore your prospect sees the advantage in partnering with you.  You always want to sell your “Value Principle” before you try to sell your product.  Lastly, be unique and set yourself apart from the other sales reps.  You are a unique individual, one of a kind.  Be or do something different that makes you stand out from the crowd.  I don’t mean do stupid tricks or say something provocative.  Just dare to be different.    Be Smart.  Be creative.