How to Make Telephone Sales & Appointments

Last Updated
August 22, 2009


Many people would agree that the best way to make a sale would be through a direct sale, say, from your shop, or on the Internet. Consequently, telemarketing is commonly overlooked, but in fact telemarketing is responsible for millions of sales each year. Telemarketing is currently going through a growth phase after many years of doubt and is being adopted by all businesses – small to large.

For those people that telemarketing is new to, it may take time to become a sales expert on the phone (just like it would for most tasks) but once you have mastered the technique, it can become a strong marketing tool.

Telemarketing is not solely used to make an instant sale, but also to make appointments that may lead to a sale.

The area of telemarketing is extremely wide and so we aim to introduce you to the basics of the subject by pointing you in the right direction for a successful campaign.

First Objective

What are you trying to achieve when you first make contact with a customer by telephone?

  1. A meeting?
  2. A commitment to buy?
  3. A sale?

In most instances you should only try to fix a meeting. All too often prospective customers are being lost not due to your product, but by the attempt to get the customer to buy something they have not seen, by someone they do not know. The pressure of trying to sell over the telephone is almost without parallel. How much simpler the whole process would be if you just concentrated on getting the appointment.

By concentrating on the appointment you can avoid the specifics of product/service performance and instead concentrate on:

‘We have something here that I know will excite you, and if you can give me 30 minutes (be honest with the time) I would love to show you how it will immediately improve your profitability’ and,

‘We have a new product/service that has a number of new/advanced/interesting/cutting edge/low cost advantages and I’m sure you would want to be one of the first to see them’.

Appointment Vs Direct Selling

Through the Internet and emerging countries, such as China, the customer has more choice of supplier than ever before, with the need to understand what the customer wants at the forefront of today’s sales methods. ‘Consultative selling’ – providing products/services orientated to the customers specific needs – is of paramount importance, and nowhere can consultative selling be more effectively conducted than ‘face to face’ with the customer.

Asking a customer ten questions over the telephone is a high-risk strategy and is very rarely considered a benefit by the potential customer. However, enquiring tactics when interacting with a prospect in person is easily projected as personal and responsible selling: we would all prefer to be asked what we want and not told what we need.

The Gatekeeper

The ‘gatekeeper’ is any person between you and the contact in the company that you are calling: any member of staff, an under manager, a receptionist, a secretary, a personal assistant, his wife etc. Depending on how well you have researched your telephone list you will get a certain level of response.

When you call a prospective customer you can be sure of one thing: you are not the first person to call them today to sell something. If your product/service is of a general nature, say cleaning services, you will have to be an excellent communicator to reach the decision maker. However, if you are selling batteries to a car supplier you have a good starting point.

Al ways assume that the gatekeeper is an important individual in the company: you will never succeed in reaching your target if you fail to offer respect to this person. That said, keep your initial introduction short. Say to the gatekeeper, ‘Hello, Bob Williams please’. By keeping it short you are displaying a degree of closeness to the target, and you give the gatekeeper nothing to work with. The gatekeeper will probably ask for your company name, and if very good, whether your call is expected.

Give your company name and say that you are following up your letter of last week: because you have sent a mail-shot to these people, well I hope you have! If you are told that the target is unavailable ask when they will be available, ‘would you do me a favour and tell me the best time to call’. You now ‘know’ this person (the gatekeeper) and your next call will be ‘remember me, you said I should…’

Tips to Help You Sell Successfully on the Phone

The first few seconds are crucial

Just like you would when writing a sales letter or press release, you should fill the first few seconds with as many key words and phrases as possible to gain an immediate interest from the customer.

You may only get chance to get out two or three sentences before the customer stops you to say they have no interest, so make them count.

Don’t assume they need something – this is very off putting. Instead ask the question and explain how you can help.

However you start your call, be sure that it will get their attention and interest as quickly as possible: letting the phone call drag is wasting their time and especially yours.

Keep it Simple

You are more likely to succeed in your goal if the customer fully understands what you are offering or require. Consequently, keep your reason for calling clear and make sure that you can get to the point quickly (and effectively!).

Be Natural – Use the Right Equipment

It has been proved in many businesses that customers respond better when the seller (telemarketer) is talking naturally i.e. not holding their hand to their head (holding the phone), or balancing the phone on their shoulders, etc.

To compensate, headsets are extremely useful for allowing you to talk more naturally on the phone – as if you were talking to them face-to-face being able to use your hands, etc.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practising before you begin your telemarketing campaign will pay off allowing you to build your confidence and rectify mistakes early on: role plays are ideal. Of course, your skills and confidence will develop more through experience, but practising will give you a head start. Listen to yourself on a tape recorder – would you develop an interest?

Don’t Go Blank – Use Notes

Stick notes to your desk, phone or wall to help ‘jog’ your memory for persuasive words, phrases, discussion areas, etc. There is nothing worse than pausing to collect your thoughts and comments when trying to sell over the phone: be ready to reply to anything.

Avoid Insulting the Customer

Obvious, right? Well, people do it without even realizing by using comments like “did you understand that?” and “are you following what I’m saying?”. This automatically shrinks the customers’ intelligence and ability to catch on. It is down to your own ability to make the customer understand and therefore if you feel the customer is failing to do so, use comments such as “did I explain that clearly” and so on.

Give the Customer a Friend they can Trust

Make customers feel as if they are talking to a friend by making yourself come across as the person that everyone wants to know. Be friendly, be concerned, assure them, praise them – anything that makes them develop a sense of trust: trust goes a long way.

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