by Jeb Blount
While attending a conference last month a Sales Guy fan walked up to me and asked, “Do you think outside sales is dead?” The question set me back on my heels for a moment. I’ve been in outside sales my entire career and the last thing I wanted to ponder was the demise of my chosen profession.
Can You Effectively Sell Over the Phone?
But then I thought back to January of 2009. The Great Recession was kicking in high gear. Our customer’s were slashing their advertising spending and suddenly cost reduction became a front and center issue for my company (SalesGravy.com). One of the easiest expenses to control was travel and entertainment. The fear however was that cutting travel would cut sales since we did so much of our selling and relationship building face to face. That was until we issued a challenge to ourselves: Could we save money selling over the phone using web and video conferencing technology?
I’ll admit that I was afraid that we would not be effective and would lose sales. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Since we issued that challenge, our sales actually increased. I personally closed more than $3 million in new business without ever visiting a client for a face to face meeting.
Why were we successful?
Why Selling Over the Phone Works
The number one reason for our success was we became more efficient. We could cover far more ground over the phone. Therefore, we were engaged with more accounts and developed a larger pipeline. We also found that sales meetings by phone took far less time than in-person meetings. That afforded us more time to research and qualify prospects, which meant that when we were on the phone. we were engaged with more qualified buyers.
Telephone Meetings are Good for Customers
Another key reason to our success was that our buyers appreciated the time savings as well. In fact, it was far easier to set an appointment for an online demo than an in-person meeting. With the recession, buyers were taking on greater responsibilities. As the head count at their companies was slashed, they had less time to spend meeting with salespeople. Telephone meetings made it easier for them to take time out of their day to listen to our presentations. We originally thought that buyers would demand to meet with us face to face but quickly discovered that they appreciated the time savings too.
In the end we traveled less, sold more, saved lots of money and improved our quality life. However, this did not mean that outside sales was dead.
Outside Sales Is Still Important
When practicing the right techniques, you can close deals with just a phone and Internet connection.
We still got on planes and into cars to visit customers. Getting face to face with clients is still the most powerful means of building and anchoring relationships. We also had a few prospects who demanded a face to face meeting. In both cases, because we had done so much work on the phone beforehand, our face to face meetings were more effective and allowed us to developed deeper relationships. We have saved so much money on travel that we have been able to invest more in marketing and trade shows--where we have the chance to meet many of our clients and potential clients face to face in an informal environment.
How to Effectively Sell Over the Phone
If you are in Outside Sales you can become more efficient and effective by learning how to sell over the phone. However, there are some important actions you need to take:
Invest in the right technology. There are dozens of web conferencing tools available today. We use Go To Meeting – who sponsors this show – as well as Glance, depending on the situation. It is critical that you evaluate and choose the tool best for your industry and sales presentation. We’ve compared a dozen or so of these services side by side. If you would like to see our comparison just visit www.FreeSalesStuff.com
Practice pausing. Selling over the phone is more difficult than selling in person because you cannot observe body language. Because of this you will find yourself talking over your customers more often. Learn to pause for a least three seconds after your prospect stops talking before you say anything.
Check your prospect’s pulse often. Likewise, because you can’t see your prospect’s facial expressions when you are presenting you need to stop often and check with your prospect. Ask them questions to ensure that they are still engaged, if what you are presenting makes sense, and if they have questions.
Be a great listener. Listening is the key to becoming great at selling over the phone. You must develop the self-discipline to remain completely focused on your prospect and avoid distractions. When you listen you will find that you build amazing connections with your buyers and uncover real problems that lead to closed deals.
So can you really close deals in your flip flops? For us the answer is yes. In fact we’ve learned that when practicing the right techniques, we can close deals anywhere we can find a quiet place with a phone and Internet connection.
This is Jeb Blount, the Sales Guy. If you have a sales question please send it to email@example.com.