How to Sell Over the Phone

Most small business people go into business to make a living from the thing they love, whether that’s designing posters, printing or carpentry. But in order to make a viable business out of your passion, you need to be able to sell the services of your company – and that sometimes means selling to potential customers over the phone.

Using the phone is still one of the most effective ways of making a sale. Whether you’re calling an existing customer to find it if they have any more business for you, or even cold-calling a completely new contact, the phone works.

But like most things, using the phone to sell is a skill, and it’s one that many small business people find difficult. So how can you use the phone more effectively to make sales?

Overcome your fear of calling

The first step is to overcome your reluctance to call. Unless you’re on first-name terms with the person you’re calling – and even sometimes if you are – you may feel reluctant to call.

Don’t be. As long as you have prepared well, the worst thing that can happen to you is that they put the phone down. And the best thing that can happen is that you make a new customer.

Tone and research

Start off by thinking about it as a friendly conversation, rather than a means to a sale. You’re not going to make a sale most times, so begin with this in mind. Instead, plan to leave a favorable impression of your company, even if you don’t make a sale.

If you’re in a business-to-business market, always do some research about the company and, if possible, the people you’ll be talking to. This will help you start the conversation by talking about their business – something they will always be interested in.

Script it

Always have a script prepared. You should never, ever go into a call without knowing what you want to say and the order you want to say it in. This does two things: First, it helps to calm your nerves; and second, it makes you focus on the most important messages you want to get across.

You don’t always have to stick rigidly to the script. If a customer wants to talk to you about, say, other products you handle, don’t try and stick gamely to the one you want to talk about. Keep the conversation open and flexible.

The power of open questions

The easiest thing is for someone you’re calling to say “no” – so reduce the number of opportunities they have to give single-word, positive/negative answers by using open questions. Any question which encourages them to answer with a sentence will help to make the potential customer feel like they’re engaged in a conversation with you, rather than giving them opportunities to close the conversation down.

Make the gatekeepers your friends

If the person you’re trying to reach has an administrative or personal assistant, you will almost certainly have to get through them to talk to your prospect. The worst thing you can do is alienate them – if you do, the chances are you’ll never get to speak to whomever you’re trying to reach.

Remember that administrative and personal assistants are almost always a goldmine of information about other potential contacts in the company – and they are far less precious about the time of other executives than the person they are looking after.

Take time to talk in a friendly manner to them. They can be an important partner in helping you to reach the right person. Remember that their job is to ensure their boss’s time isn’t wasted, so be respectful and courteous to them.

If they can’t help you get time with their boss, they may well be able to point you in the direction of someone at the company who can help – and, in fact, the person they refer you to may even turn out to be a better contact.


In association with BT Business

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