The desk top/office phone is going the way of the eight-track, VCR, tapes, CDs, fax machines and many other older technologies being replaced by smartphones and social media. Inside sales organizations are ghost towns these days with the only sound being the pitter patter of little fingers typing away on keyboards. More and more executives are coming to me expressing their frustration that they never hear reps on the phone any more. Regardless of the results of the team or how effectively they are applying “social selling” (whatever that means to you) to produce those results, it’s becoming a point of contention with managers who are just sick of walking through their offices and not hearing any activity.
Most sales executives today grew up in the bullpen days where all we had was a phone and a printed out spreadsheet or even better, the Yellow Pages. You had to make more calls and be louder than your cube-mate to stand out and get ahead (think Boiler Room or Pursuit of Happyness). So these days of silence just don’t feel right regardless.
The lack of calling is somewhat justified since it seems like most people rarely pick up the phone anymore and the response rates from voice mails average in the .02% range. The younger generation even admits they think an unannounced call is an interruption and rude. This perception coupled with the low response makes the avoidance of the phone understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.
Professor Albert Mehrabian’s communications model helps us understand why. A general overview of his findings breaks down how people communicate as 7% words, 38% paralinguistic (the way that the words are said) and 55% facial expression or body language. Or, to translate that into sales – 100% of the way we communicate is achieved through in-person meetings, 45% is achieved over the phone and only 7% is e-mail.
Those statistics help show why our sales efforts can be so much more effective if we can get someone on the phone, even for just a few minutes, instead of going back and forth over e-mail. We’re a rather sarcastic group here in Boston. Have you ever tried to put sarcasm into an e-mail? How’d that work out for you? Over the phone you can at least hear that sarcasm or recover from it if someone doesn’t get it. You can develop rapport and help build relationships over the phone. You’re a person and not just some text on a digital screen that can get deleted or dumped into a spam filter. You can qualify much more effectively and quickly over the phone than you can over e-mail. And by the way, like it or not, the decision makers in today’s world grew up before all this social media and even e-mail. I’m “only” 37 and I can still remember going to college and having just a few computer rooms on campus that you had to wait in line to get in to use a dirt slow desktop computer with limited search functionality.
E-mail is obviously the number one way of communicating in business today but in my opinion it should really only be used for two reasons: 1) as part of a contact strategy to set up phone calls/meetings and 2) to follow up from phone calls/meeting. E-mail should not be used as a form of conversation or a qualification method. With that, our initial e-mails to prospects should be short, sweet and to the point (think 2 scrolls on your smartphone), add value and have a strong call to action. They should be coupled with effective phone calls as part of our overall contact strategy. Everything we do through e-mail should be to drive that call/conversation.
Here are a few tips on how to make your calling more effective:
- Stand up when making your calls – you’re more confident and your voice resonates far better
- Start every call off with this phrase: “The reason for my call today is…” and make sure you have a reason for your call
- Remove “weak words” from your vocabulary
- Leave voice mails for yourself to hear what you sound like over the phone
- Leave voice mails for your colleagues and managers and ask for feedback
- Schedule “Power Hours” once or twice a week – grab 2-3 of your colleagues, your lead lists, a conference room and a speaker phone. Everyone stand up and make round-robin calls to see/hear/learn what works and what doesn’t in live situations
- Have fun with it. We’re not curing cancer here.
Good luck and happy selling.