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!

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