17 Phone Sales Tips from the Experts to Help You Make Better Sales Calls

Phone Sales Tips

A phone is a powerful tool when it comes to lining up and closing sales. Whether you’re initiating contact with a new lead, making a cold call, or following up with a prospect, knowing how to make sales calls effectively can prove integral to your success.

Telephone sales have an advantage over other interactions in that they occur in real time, unlike digital messaging, and are less reliant on a stable internet connection than video. More importantly, 57% of senior-level buyers and 47% of managers prefer to be contacted by phone according to RAIN Group.

If you know how to make the most of your cold calls and follow-ups, you should be able to qualify more leads and spend less time pitching new prospects.

Use these 17 phone sales tips from the experts to improve your calling strategy and close more deals.

Table of contents

Over-the-phone sales tips for going in prepared

1. Know the best time to call

2. Set a calling goal

3. Research your lead’s competitors

4. Be prepared to go to voicemail

Phone sales tips and tricks for cold calls

5. Make your introduction count

6. Use a script for better time management

7. Practice desensitization

Phone sales tips for better follow-up calls

8. Make time to follow up

9. Aim for authentic rapport

10. Listen for key information

Phone sales tips for closing the deal

11. Combine discovery work with demo calls

12. Learn to work through objections

13. Know when to close the deal

Tips on how to make sales calls more effective throughout the sales cycle

14. Practice your voice skills

15. Generate excitement around outcomes

16. Take advantage of automation

17. Focus on building relationships

Over the phone sales tips for going in prepared

1. Know the best time to call

According to a study conducted by CallHippo, the optimal time for a cold call is between 4 PM and 5 PM (in your prospect’s region) on a Wednesday or Thursday. While you may not be able to cram all your cold calling into two hours a week, you should take advantage of those times whenever possible. 

Why it works

Customers are less likely to view your call as an interruption once they’re in wind-down mode at the end of the workday. Plus, by mid-week, they’ve not only had a chance to catch up on their to-do list, they’re not yet ready to start wrapping things up for the weekend. 

No matter when you call, however, persistence is essential.

While it may take multiple calls to get through to a prospect, research from Rain Sales Training suggests that 71% of buyers want to hear from sellers in the earliest part of the buying process because that’s when they’re looking for new ways to drive better results.

2. Set a calling goal

Make sure you figure out exactly what you want to achieve with your cold call before you hop on the phone. 

For example, your aim may be to:

  • Better understand your prospect’s workflow
  • Find out who’s involved in their buying decisions
  • Set an appointment for a follow-up conversation

Planning a specific set of questions will help keep the conversation moving toward your objective. 

Why it works

By establishing your ideal outcome—and learning a few details about the person you’re planning to contact—your conversation will sound less like a cold call and more like an offer of help.

Sales training expert Phil Gerbyshak recommends this five-step, 90-second procedure.

  1. Find out your lead’s preferred name (and how to pronounce it)
  2. Know their job title and role
  3. Understand what their company does
  4. Prepare three key statements in addition to your questions: an attention-grabbing introduction, a statement or two for dealing with brush-offs and a memorable voicemail message (we’ll discuss all three shortly)
  5. Practice your call until it sounds natural

3. Research your lead’s competitors

Part of your sales call planning should include identifying your prospect’s biggest competitors and determining their:

  • Unique selling proposition
  • Marketing strategy
  • Brand image

You’ll be in a better position to tailor your solutions to your client’s needs if you understand what they’re up against.

Why it works

By auditing your lead’s competitors, you may spot an opportunity to help them out. For example, if your solution can help them target a specific geo, you could say “One of your closest competitors is neglecting a key demographic. What if you jumped in to fill the void?”

Garrett Mehrguth, CEO of the digital marketing agency Directive Consulting, finds that auditing your lead’s competitors can also help you develop a rapport.

“I have found that when you talk wisely about a lead’s competitors, they feel like you understand not only their business, but also their industry,” says Mehrguth. “That comfort lends itself to better conversations and more deals closing.”

4. Be prepared to go to voicemail

Be prepared to leave a succinct, but memorable voicemail should you fail to connect with your lead.

You’ll find plenty of voicemail-specific scripts online, but here are some tips to keep in mind: 

  • Immediately highlight the reason for your call
  • Use humor, enthusiasm or key findings about the customer’s company to help you stand out
  • Keep your voicemail under 30 seconds

You should also keep notes and be ready to jump straight into conversation when your prospect calls back.

Why it works

Research from Forrester suggests it may take eight to twelve attempts to reach a decision-maker by phone, so arming yourself with a personalized set of voicemail messages can raise the chance of getting a callback.

According to sales trainer John Barrows, voicemail tactics play an especially important role in a contact strategy that includes a mix of calls, emails and social selling. “If your contact strategy includes quality and relevant messaging each time,” says Barrows, “it increases the chances of someone responding.”

Phone sales tips and tricks for cold calls

5. Make your introduction count

You may not get a lot of time to make a good first impression. So, use these telephone sales tips to quickly connect with your lead during your sales call introduction.

  • Always address your prospect by name
  • Immediately move to the reason for your call, emphasizing “what’s in it for them”
  • Follow up with a couple of easy-to-answer questions to get the customer talking (your initial research will come in handy here)

Remember to focus predominantly on your prospect, not on your product.

Why it works

The cold call is your first and best opportunity to begin a lucrative new sales relationship. Keeping your introduction brief and customer-centric shows respect for your lead and their time.

In her article on sales call intros, inside sales advisor Lauren Bailey says, “I’ve heard folks pack in their full bio, a short company history, the obligatory value prop, and get a good 1/3 down their product list before taking a breath. Five seconds is the target folks. And the goal is to get THEM talking ASAP, not the other way around.”

6. Use a script for better time management

Many professionals rely on pre-scripted cold call templates to boost their time efficiency and maintain better directional control over their sales conversations.

Why it works

 It will help you:

  • Present yourself confidently and professionally
  • Plan key talking and listening points in advance
  • Feel less anxious about cold calls (so you’ll be more likely to make more of them)

Choosing a script that can be tailored to your specific needs and situation will improve your cold calling success. For example, CEO of JPM Partners Jessica Magoch utilizes a “choose your own adventure” approach.

7. Practice desensitization

Cold calling can be intimidating, even for seasoned sales professionals. But you can practice desensitizing yourself to rejection by remembering that: 

  • Most cold calls won’t end in a sale
  • You will lose every sale you don’t initiate
  • You may not be able to control sales results, but you can take control of your actions

Sales guru Brian Tracy suggests getting over your cold calling fear by making 10 or 20 sales calls a day over a one or two-week period, without worrying about the results.

Why it works

Worrying less about outcomes helps you stay calm and confident as a sales professional. 

Says Tracy, “If you make 100 calls as fast as you can with no concern about whether or not people are interested, you will actually start to uncover good potential prospects. You will start to make appointments. You will actually start to make sales.”

Phone sales tips for better follow-up calls

8. Make time to follow up

Some sales and marketing professionals get so caught up in administrative duties that they stop prioritizing follow-up calls. Following up isn’t just the best way to secure a deal, it builds customer trust that can lead to additional sales or valuable testimonials and references.

Scheduling time for follow-up calls into your daily agenda will make them more likely to happen. 

Why it works 

Not only do sales statistics from the experts suggest that 47% of buyers would like a rep to provide personalized communication, 82% accept meetings with sales prospectors who proactively reach out. 

So, whether you’re following up on a cold call, email, meeting, demo or ongoing sales solution, the more time you spend touching base with leads, prospects and customers, the more revenue you can expect in return.

9. Aim for authentic rapport

Building authentic rapport with a potential client may begin during your initial phone call, but it continues well into the follow-up process. 

Aim to develop a positive, sincere connection by:

  • Being yourself (friendly is generally better than formal) 
  • Finding common ground (look for shared backgrounds or interests, for example)
  • Conversing with empathy (taking a genuine interest will help you craft the best solution for your prospect)

The better you get to know your sales contacts, and the more likable you are, the better your chance of selling.

Why it works

The stronger your connection with someone, the more comfortable they’re going to be sharing their thought process. Understanding what potential buyers want, need or are struggling with is the key to closing more deals.

In his review of Art Sobczak’s book Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling, Bob Silvy (VP, Corporate Marketing, American City Business Journals) noted, “You get only one chance to make the right impression in sales. If a top prospect gets a hundred calls a week, you want to be the one he remembers and buys from.”

10. Listen for key information

Listening actively by giving feedback to show you’ve heard and understood what’s been said is one of the phone sales tips every sales or marketing professional should consider. 

When you listen effectively during a sales follow-up call, you’re more likely to: 

  • Establish trust
  • Encourage your prospect to elaborate on their issues
  • Learn exactly what your client wants and how you can help them

To shift from pushing a buyer with your sales message to compelling them based on their needs, try asking "how" and "why" questions and listening carefully to the replies. 

Why it works

According to LinkedIn’s report, not only do 42% of buyers highly value active listening, 56% strongly agree that they’re more likely to consider a brand when a sales rep “demonstrates a clear understanding of our business needs”.

Every buyer wants to be heard. When you listen for key information and use it to steer phone conversations toward your prospect’s objectives or challenges, you’ll find it easier to deliver a convincing sales solution.

Phone sales tips for closing the deal

11. Combine discovery work with demo calls

Understanding what discovery and demo calls are, and how they work together, will help you close more deals.

  • A sales discovery call is a fact-finding mission to learn all you can about your prospect’s goals, challenges, expectations and buying decisions
  • A sales demo call is a sales presentation you give over the phone (often with the help of online screen sharing) to demonstrate the features of your product or service, and the value they’re designed to deliver

Ideally, a successful discovery will lead to a demo, while a well-crafted demo should help close your sale.

Why it works

In phone sales, discovery and demo calls often work hand-in-hand. 

Your sales demo will prove more successful, for example, if you first use discovery work to:

  • Develop a clear understanding of your prospect’s needs
  • Build a presentation that caters directly to those requirements
  • Drive your demo objectives accordingly

Says sales trainer and author Mark Hunter: “You can refine your needs and you can add to the needs, but the framework of their needs must have been discovered before you get to the demo.”

12. Learn to work through objections

Common sales objections range from a lack of budget or need, to a lack of trust in your company. 

Doing your due diligence in terms of client discovery and follow-up work will help you head off concerns like these for the most part. However, some prospects will still experience cold feet and start second-guessing their buying decision.

Rather than giving up, try reframing your customer’s perspective by exploring and working through their objections together.

Why it works

When you stay calm and attempt to overcome sales objections as a sales partner, rather than simply a salesperson, it reassures your prospect that you’ve got their best interests at heart. By adopting a partner mindset, you’ll find it easier to team up with your buyer and brainstorm ways to resolve their concerns. 

Remember, however, that your sales solution isn’t going to be right for everyone. Sometimes customer objections are a sign you need to better qualify the leads in your pipeline.

As Napoleon Hill (author of Think and Grow Rich) said, “The best way to sell yourself to others is first to sell the others to yourself.”

13. Know when to close

The time comes in every sales conversation when you have to finally stop selling. 

You’ll know it’s time to lead your prospect toward a purchase commitment, for example, when:

  • You’re confident in your solution’s ability to meet their needs
  • You’ve fully described and demonstrated that ability to them
  • Asking for a yes or no answer feels like the next natural step in your sales conversation

Knowing when to wind down your sales pitch and switch to closing is important so you don’t take valuable time away from other deals.

Why it works

According to Jim Keenan, sales coach and CEO/President of A Sales Guy Inc., “Deals close when everyone involved, every stakeholder, influencer and decision-maker feels the impact of going with your product or service will change their world for the better and that your solution is key in reaching the goals and objectives they’re trying to accomplish.”

Staying attuned to cues that you’ve addressed all your customer’s pain points is a good skill to practice.

Tips on how to make sales calls more effective throughout the sales cycle

14. Practice your voice skills

Phone sales conversations are unique in the sense that you can’t rely on facial expressions or body language to support your messaging or attempts to connect.

To achieve greater success with your telephone sales voice, try this.

  • Record your cold call sales pitch and note your energy level and talking speed
  • Present to a colleague for a second opinion on how engaging and coherent you sound
  • Continue practicing until your delivery feels and sounds natural

Many sales professionals invest in voice training to help them connect with more prospects.

Why it works

When you use your voice to project confidence, friendliness and professionalism, you’re more likely to put customers at ease and establish a solid rapport.

Sales leader and bestselling author Mike Weinberg suggests losing the “sales voice” altogether. “The best prospectors talk like normal humans. I suggest that you speak like you’re calling a friend. Calm. Casual. Comfortable. Confident. Real. Human.”

15. Generate excitement around outcomes

One of the top phone sales tips and most effective ways to generate phone-based excitement around your product or service is by selling outcomes, not just solutions. 

To help get leads and prospects excited about meeting their goals:

  • Use hard data to demonstrate how successful your product has been
  • Describe special deals you’ve been authorized to offer, or add-ons they can benefit from
  • Tell a compelling story about how you’ve helped similar customers with similar challenges

Remember, prioritizing what your customer cares about instead of the many features you offer is what sets outcome-driven selling apart.

Why it works

When people get excited, they’re easier to engage and are more likely to act or make a decision. Excitement can be fleeting, however. So, it’s important to follow up until you’ve turned that positivity into a successful sales outcome.

Not sure what that looks like?

Paul J Henderson, author of The Outcome Generation, describes a success outcome as, “An ongoing business result that top management of the customer regard as success. And for which the vendor is the primary external provider.”

16. Take advantage of automation

Automation tools let you take advantage of technology to improve your telephone sales productivity. 

A CRM, for example, can help you:

  • Manage your sales contacts
  • Track your sales numbers
  • Evaluate your performance so you can reach your sales goals

You can even use VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and call tracking with your CRM to make your sales call activities more efficient.

Why it works

Using VoIP in combination with a call tracking tool or add-on allows you to multitask online while you track and record pertinent information from incoming sales calls. 

Call tracking makes it easy for marketers to connect specific calls back to the sales channels that spawned them. And when call tracking insights and data are captured within a CRM tool like Pipedrive, they can be shared in real time with inside sales reps. 

Pipedrive’s updated Caller feature lets you make calls directly from the web or through a smartphone, enabling fast call tracking, recording and insights all in one place: your Pipedrive account.

17. Focus on building relationships

Taking a sincere interest in your prospects’ day-to-day work world and proactively building up your sales relationships should be your underlying focus right from the earliest phone call. 

As Jerry Hocutt explains in his book Cold Calling for Cowards, “Cold calling is no longer about getting a list of unknown names, calling them, and speed talking. Cold calling today is about initiating contact, building relationships, and keeping in touch.”

Why it works

People don’t just buy from other people, they tend to buy from people they know, like and trust. So, building mutually beneficial relationships throughout your sales cycle can improve the odds of:

  • Securing more sales
  • Retaining more customers
  • Benefitting from more sales referrals

When asked during a recent interview how sales professionals can close more deals, UK sales expert Karen Dunne-Squire shared this simple piece of advice, “You can’t close a sale until you’ve opened a relationship.” 

Final thoughts

Finely tuned phone skills hold real value whether you’re doing the selling, or you’re looking to improve your call center training

Try committing to one or more of the expert phone sales tips outlined here, then use your CRM to track your progress in terms of:

  • The number of cold calls that lead to a follow-up
  • Your success rate in dealing with sales objections
  • The speed with which deals move through your pipeline

No matter what you sell, learning to handle yourself confidently over the phone will put you ahead of the game success-wise any time you need to introduce yourself to somebody new or influence their perspective.

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