"The Navigator" News Blog

Let’s Talk About Phone Work

One of the most basic elements of selling today is the ability to sell on the telephone.  I’ve said, and continue to say, that teleprospecting is still the best, most controllable, and most predictable, means of generating new business.  Yes, you can sometimes snag a prospect through email (if you’re willing to send out enough of them; the numbers have to be very large and the return rate is small) and social media.

For most of us, though, picking up the phone is still the best means of selling.  It’s also one of the preferred means of contact for many of your customers.  And yet – it seems that salespeople (and people in general) are getting worse and worse at dealing with actual, voice to voice, telephone conversations.  The list of guaranteed call-killers used to be small, but it’s getting larger and larger.  Here are some of the newer issues I’ve seen with telephone selling:

  1. Auto-dialers.  Yes, I hate auto-dialers with a passion.  There’s nothing worse than picking up the phone to answer a call, saying hello (or however you greet a caller), and then hearing a moment or two of silence and saying, “Hello, hello?”.  Then you hear that little click that lets you know that an actual person has come on the line.  Usually that click is when I – and most people – hang up.  And phone numbers get blocked.  If you are using an auto-dialer, STOP IT.  NOW.  Whatever you might gain from the efficiency of quicker dialing, you lose in terms of call completion.

  2. Unintelligibility.  This is the second big sin that I hear on the phones.  If your customer can’t understand the words coming out of your mouth, they will not buy from you.  Period.  DOT.  This is an issue that has a number of different causes.  One of the biggest causes is a phone that simply isn’t a good telephone; instead, it’s a pocket size computer that just happens to have a phone app.  When I shop for a new phone, I always position my wife outside the store.  I then call her cell on their demo phones, and we compare notes on call quality.  I’ll sacrifice a little bit on other features to have a good phone.

    The second cause is bad technology.  There are some calling apps that absolutely trash your phone voice and make it sound like you’re calling from the bottom of a barrel.  Going down Niagara Falls.  If you’re going to use some tech app, again, test the quality.

    The third cause is simply handling the phone.  When a voice goes in and out on the phone, I know that they’re probably not holding it like a phone, with the microphone toward the mouth and the speaker to the ear.  That can greatly vary the tone and volume of your voice.  There’s nothing worse than having to say, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” during a call when information is coming out that’s important. 

    The fourth cause is speakerphones.  Speakerphones can be just fine or they can be awful.  Most of it depends on where the participants are during the call, how close they are to the phone, and what physical objects are between them and the phone.  For instance, if there are a couple of books between the participant and the phone (or something similar, this can really hurt the call quality.  Again, TEST.

    My advice to be intelligible is to get a quality headset and use it consistently.  And by “a quality headset,” I mean one that has a good speaker and that positions the microphone in front of the mouth.  Mine is a blueparrott B250-XT.  And, full disclosure on my part – I resisted getting a headset for years.  Finally, last year, I had to do a 3 hour webinar and I knew there was no way I could do that with a phone held to my ear.  So I bought it – and now, on any phone call longer than about five minutes, I feel weird if I don’t use it.  And I’ve never had a client say they couldn’t hear me. In fact, more often, clients will comment on how it sounds like I’m right in the room with them.

  3. The last big problem I see is simply a lack of focus.  Technology can be a great aid in our work, but it can also be a problem.  It becomes a problem when we allow tech to get in the way of our dialogue.  If you’re returning emails and texts, or reading something on your phone while a call is going on, you’re misusing technology.  The exception to this would be if you are taking notes on your CRM on a laptop while talking on the phone (this, I highly encourage).  But let your customer know that you’re taking notes so that when they hear the keys clicking (and they always do), that they don’t think that you are answering email.

Now, does this cover the entire length, width, and breadth of calling problems?  Of course not – but these are the most common, and emerging, issues I see with salespeople today.  The bottom line is this – if they can’t hear you, they won’t buy from you.