I’ve seen a lot of posts over the years about how the phone is dead in sales and I completely understand why. People simply don’t pick up the phone and many don’t even have voicemail boxes anymore. Add that to the fact that Millennials didn’t grow up using the phone, that the open office environment is awkward, and now you have a perfect storm of why it is presumably on the way out. However, I think the phone is going to make a comeback and be a skill that is even more important moving forward in sales.
I’ve talked about The Death of the Average Sales Rep and how I think automation and artificial intelligence is going to have a significant impact on every industry including sales. I knew we were in trouble when I saw IBM Watson beat up the best Jeopardy players of all time and I’m starting to see the reality of it with all the new tools and technologies coming out right now.
For example, a large part of my training in the past was teaching reps how to research and write a highly-customized e-mail to an executive they wanted to get a meeting with or referral from. It took a little while to craft one of these but when done right the response rates were 15-20% higher than the template e-mails marketing sends out. The key was the research and personalization since marketing automation tools couldn’t replicate that. Now they can. I saw an AI tool for writing e-mails the other day that created a customized message better than I ever could. You would have no idea a robot was behind this e-mail.
Add AI’s ability to create a personalized e-mail to the cadence tools out there like SalesLoft and you now have a solution that can write and execute a highly customized, multi-touch campaign to a target account without the need for much human involvement. So where does that leave the millions of sales reps right now who are cranking out template e-mails? What value can they add moving forward? What can we do that a computer can’t? The answer is: get on the phone!
The phone is the one place that computers have a hard time connecting and communicating. Clients still want to talk to someone before making a large purchasing decision. They still like to know there is someone they can talk to if they have an issue. Much of these interactions with clients over the phone aren’t associated with prospecting and are at later stages of the sales process – qualification, negotiations, customer support, etc. However, the foundation for good phone and conversation skills are built in the early stages of a sales reps career which is usually when they are prospecting. With that, I think it is vitally important for sales reps to build their phone skills early and use the phone when prospecting so they can still add value as AI takes over more and more of the process.
Here are some tips on how to get the most out of the phone:
• 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 voicemails for yourself to hear what you sound like over the phone.
• Leave voicemails 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. Have everyone stand up and make round-robin calls to see/hear/learn what works and what doesn’t in live situations.
• Focus on making calls into one specific persona with one specific message for an hour so you can build momentum and find out what works.
• Have fun with it. We’re not curing cancer here.
Make it Happen!