The sound of a phone click used to make my stomach drop. Sales calls can be one of the scariest things to learn as a small business owner. But while a sales call is not always necessary, and should only be used in the right context, getting it right is critical.
Here are seven lessons I have learned over the years through transitioning to a telemarketer, salesperson and now business owner:
This is the first and most important step to a sales call. Start the call with confidence and optimism each time. If you feel the conversation going in the wrong direction, find common ground and try to steer the conversation back. Each time someone hangs up on you, reflect on why it happened and use that experience as feedback to improve for the next call. It is easier to be confident when you are well-prepared and well-researched. If you feel nervous, run through your call with a friend first.
You have already prepared and gone through your sales pitch. That doesn’t mean you can go on cruise control. Listen to every piece of feedback, have a full conversation and never interrupt. According to Get In Front Communications, “We listen to people at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute,” while “less than 2 percent of people have had any formal education on how to listen” in the first place. (Source: PRDaily) Paying close attention to what is being said, and what is not, can make you a more effective communicator.
Discomfort is easy to feel over the phone. Beyond relaxing, don’t try to be someone else on the phone. Effective salespeople aren’t always the most aggressive, loud and pushy. In fact, in my experience, a genuine connection can be much more effective. The most important aspect is to feel comfortable with your style and personality.
Speak at a normal speed.
There is nothing worse than trying to have a call with someone speaking too quickly or very slowly. According to research a more nuanced relationship between speech rate and persuasion has emerged: “When the message comes in too quickly, there isn’t time to evaluate and agree with it more. But, when it comes in slow, there’s plenty of time to evaluate the arguments, agree and be even more persuaded that you should be able to drink in bars.” (Source: PSYBlog)
Get to the point and be prepared. If there is a place where you can relate to the person on the other end, mention it, but don’t ramble on. That said, if the customer or client engages you in small talk, definitely go with it.
If you are cold calling, once you make your point, ask if this is a good time to talk. If it isn’t, ask when would be a good time to call back, and follow up via email to confirm the time.
Know the decision maker.
Whatever your reason for calling, identify the decision maker beforehand. For some of our clients, it is the head of marketing and sales. However, when I would sell products to stores, it was usually the accessories buyer. Find out who makes the final decision before you pick up the phone, or you will waste your time and theirs.
Sales calls can actually be really fun once you get a few big wins. And it only gets easier with practice.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Tanya Menendez is the COO and Co-Founder of Maker’s Row, a Brooklyn-based online marketplace for American manufacturers with a network of over 5,000 manufacturers and 45,000 designers and brands looking to create products in the USA. Before Maker’s Row, Tanya managed operations within Google, Goldman Sachs and a leather goods line, The Brooklyn Bakery.
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