Tips for Productive Sales Calls

Whether you are a seasoned sales pro or getting started in your first job as an inside sales rep, several tried and true practices increase productivity and increase your chance for successful calls.

From a high level, the name of the sales game is numbers. Do what it takes to fill each section of your sales funnel, right? Nurture your prospects and move them down the funnel towards closing. Of course markets and the people that make them up are unique, so there are a variety of methods for filling the funnel. For some consumer goods markets and even some B2B product/software markets, content marketing and inbound strategies may work well. For other markets however, direct sales (phone work and face to face meetings) still net the most fish.

But let’s set aside theory and the macro view and consider sales from the seller’s perspective.

A recent software launch I worked on required me to make a high number of cold calls in a short period of time. I spent almost two weeks going through product and industry training with the company. I familiarized myself with all of the features and benefits and how to position the software (and company) in front of prospects. Then I turned my attention to readying myself to call strangers and try to convince them give me enough time on the phone to take them through a software demo.

Now, let me say I’ve been on the receiving end of more sales calls than I care to remember. For the past five years, I was a B2B software provider’s prime suspect. I’ve heard probably hundreds of fast-pitch phone introductions, power voicemails, and “FOMO” (fear of missing out) pitches. For many of them, I either politely declined to take anything past the intro call, passed the caller to a colleague (guilty!) or in very few cases where a caller was too persistent or pushy, offered a curt “No!” and hung up. Thinking back on those calls – the unsuccessful and successful ones – has been a helpful form of self-advice. What was it about the ones that got past the first few breaths and pregnant pauses and caused me to say, “Sure, I’ll listen.”

I’ve learned for me there are a few key ingredients to getting in the right mindset and kicking a day of calls off on the right foot:

  1. Develop and maintain a mental and physical edge. To be a peak performer, you need energy. For me, this means finding time each day for exercise and also for thinking/meditation time.
  2. Write an honest script. By honest I mean one devoid of slick sales pitches. Just figure out the quickest way to explain in plain terms why it is you’re calling.
  3. Smile when you dial. This is an old and often used phrase and for good reason. It works. If you don’t believe me, read Smile by Ron Gutman.
  4. Be positive! Think positive thoughts but not at the expense of ignoring reality. There is definitely a point of diminishing returns.
  5. Adopt a consistent approach. Have the conviction to make the next call even when the last one really sucked. Be persistent.
  6. Listen more than you speak. This quote from the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus is great advice – “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” You’ll learn a lot about your pitch just by listening to how prospects respond.
  7. Throw out the script! Once you know the material, you shouldn’t need one anymore.
  8. Practice! Role-play and rehearse your pitch with someone. Ask for their critical feedback. This also helps you develop key phrases to overcome common objections.
  9. Tweak your speak! Revise and optimize your pitch as you make calls. By listening, you’ll pick up what phrases and cadence works and what doesn’t.
  10. Have fun with people. It’s ok to joke and be jovial with prospects but don’t ever make them feel like you are wasting their time. Get to the point quickly but do it with a smile.

Books that have helped inspire and motivate me recently include the following:

Software that helps me stay productive and organized:

  • Trello
  • Google Docs
  • Pocket – For bookmarking articles and sites I need to read.
  • Skype – For keeping in touch with team members and making calls.
  • TeamViewer – for desktop sharing and presenting demos.

What helps you stay productive?