Telephones are a strategic work companion for many people: taking purchase orders, contacting potential clients, responding to requests or complaints are just some of the activities we can handle with a phone in our hands. Among these, the most complex is definitely the active search for new business opportunities: we have dedicated a whole section of our blog to this topic.
As already done for e-mails, we have created a simple vademecum providing guidance on business phone calls, which includes a set of guidelines to avoid mistakes on the phone.
Mistake no. 1 – Starting in a negative way
The sentence you use to start a phone call is decisive. There is a substantial difference between “Goodmorning, my name is Alice Alessandri from Passodue, I was wondering if I could talk to Mr Rossi” and “Goodmorning, my name is Alice Alessandri from Passodue, can I talk to Mr Rossi?”: in the first sentence all verbs are in the past tense, whereas the action is in the present and this time shift expresses awe and distance.
Instead, you need to convey strength and confidence, avoiding also the use of conditionals – e.g. “Could I talk to XXXX?” – as a form of kindness. Be careful also with negative introductions, such as “Sorry to bother you… I hope it’s not a bad time… I’ll just be 2 minutes”: being more direct and asking “Can you talk right now?” is preferable.
Prepare a kind and confident expression to start your phone calls
Mistake no. 2 – Not allying with the “filter”
You have probably been asked the question “What are you calling about?” by a switchboard operator. Avoid the “nice guy syndrome” who goes into too much detail and prepare a clear and concise reply that reveals your need to talk directly to the person concerned. However, try not to give too little information and don’t be too abrupt because of the request: if you don’t give value to the “filter” you risk having the door closed forever.
Engage the person who answers the phone, he/she will let you through
Mistake no. 3 – Using an uncertain voice or sounding too aggressive
Being aware of the quality of your voice is a determining factor for a successful phone call: volume, speed, rhythm help you convey a balanced mix of kindness and resolution to your interlocutors.
Para-verbal communication is the mirror of your state of mind, therefore our advice is to do everything that might help you feel more confident and relaxed when dealing with a phone call, as for example sending an e-mail beforehand to introduce yourself or to mention a mutual acquaintance. Finally, remember that your voice also depends on your posture: straight back, open chest and relaxed neck will convey determination and elegance.
Take care of your voice as if it were an instrument, because it conveys your emotions
Mistake no. 4 – Not profiling your contact person before your phone call
Nowadays it’s easy to find the name of the contact person to turn to: company websites, LinkedIn, events and mutual acquaintances can help us in this research which is essential to set up a customized phone call.
Before making your phone call deepen your knowledge of the company, so that you can ask pertinent questions and make clear and precise references. Be open to the dialogue with your interlocutor, without any preconceptions.
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash
The aim of profiling is to understand who we are going to meet and to get an idea of how we can help them with our products and services.
Prepare your phone call collecting all the information you might need
Mistake no. 5 – Being the only one who talks
Remember that, before answering your phone call, the person on the other end was probably busy in some other activity. Therefore it will take him/her a few minutes to tune in. Start your conversation with a few words of introduction, then adjust the dialogue so as to engage your interlocutor.
A series of questions to understand your contact person, to gather insights and customize the following steps is preferable to self-referential monologues. Try to avoid the polling effect that you get when you ask closed, rhetorical or invasive questions. Show your genuine interest by asking open and respectful questions, aimed at understanding and giving others the space to express themselves.
Ask specific and precise questions, with a clear aim
Let the other talk
Mistake no. 6 – Not talking in “profitable” terms
There will be a time during the conversation when you will have to explain the reason of your call. In order to catch the attention of your interlocutors you will have to mention something they consider “of value”, e.g. presenting a service that facilitates their work or that allows them to achieve better results. In other words you will have to highlight the benefits that you, your company and the services/products you offer can bring to your potential customers. Therefore replace the boring lists of operational and technical specifications with a list of the benefits you can offer, always explaining the advantages that your listeners can obtain by doing what you are suggesting.
Make your interlocutors become the protagonists of what you are describing, anticipating the advantages you can offer them
Mistake no. 7 – Not having a clear goal
When you’re making a business phone call you need to have a clear goal, such as making an appointment, inviting to an event or planning a demo. Only with a prefixed goal will you be able to guide the conversation and make your potential client feel safe from any waste of time.
Be ready for an alternative goal in case the main objective is not achievable, e.g. scheduling a new contact appointment. Planning your goals and dividing them into small steps will help you not to show too much anxiety and not to force the issue.
Set challenging – yet achievable – goals for your phone calls: only if you know where you want to go will you get there
Mistake no. 8 – Not anticipating possible objections
During the conversation your potential clients might express doubts or raise objections about your products/services or even about the convenience of being on the phone with you. Don’t be afraid of this kind of confrontation because it’s their way to tell you they need to be reassured and convinced about the convenience of continuing the dialogue with you. Prepare a detailed script i.e. a summary of the phone call, where you plan what to answer to the prevailing objections: it only takes a few phone calls to register the typical doubts raised by potential customers. Every answer is an opportunity to convey the value of your offer and to highlight the advantages for your listeners.
Prepare in advance how to answer to objections and consider them as an opportunity to prove your differential value
Mistake no. 9 – Not keeping control of time
Don’t let the other take control of time by ending the phone call with “Let me know” and don’t lose the rhythm of the relationship with general statements such as “I’ll talk to you later”.
Remember to make clear arrangements which are your responsibility, engaging your interlocutors with a question that commits them: “I’ll call you in 2 weeks, is that ok for you?”
Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash
It takes rhythm and perseverance to achieve results from the commercial activity, especially when it is carried out over the phone. Dedicate a weekly set time to make your phone calls, avoiding Monday mornings and Friday afternoons; if you have a telephone appointment with a client, keep it at all costs!
Then carefully organize the following steps and the follow-up.
Manage time with accuracy, care and elegance
Mistake no. 10 – Not updating the database of potential clients
All the information collected during a new business phone call must be registered in the database of potential clients. You will need it to customize future contacts, plan further actions to be taken and share all the details with the company.
Take also note of the date of each contact, both to keep track of your phone calls and to measure the redemption of your work. It is advisable to take note of the dates scheduled for the next calls, of the contact’s state and of the agreements made. All these data will be useful to plan the next steps and to monitor the efficiency and the effectiveness of the action.
Use your database to organize your action and to measure your results.
Only if you know where you are can you get where you want.
Many sales professionals think that talent is enough to do their job.
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We are convinced that to achieve excellent results you need to prepare and commit yourself everyday, especially when you are using a complex tool like the telephone.
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If you found this article interesting, take a look at the last post we wrote on the subject: Cold calling: getting past the filters.
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