Hunter S. Thompson famously was quoted as saying, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right”. Sales directors should paint this quote on a sign for reps to slap on their way into the office, like Nick Saban’s Alabama football players on game day. If reps lived and breathed this mantra, they could positively impact every area of sales, and maybe, just maybe, they start using the phone effectively.

Wait! This isn’t another post about whether or not the cold call is dead. Cross my heart. I mean, after 15+ years of debates, I think we can agree that a multi-touch approach is the best approach and move on. Think of this post more like the ‘First Ever Guide to Using the Telephone’.

I’ve received, answered and (yes) made literally thousands of sales calls over the years. Nothing amuses (and surprises) me more than when someone doesn’t leave a voicemail or hangs up on me when I don’t immediately agree to a meeting (can you imagine doing this?) or being subjected to a lightning-fast sales pitch I can barely comprehend. Too many sales reps use the phone badly without understanding how it negatively impacts their company’s reputation and odds of securing whatever their objective was (a lead, a meeting, a sale, etc.).

The telephone is a powerful weapon and if not used correctly, it morphs into a weapon of (your own) mass destruction. Instead of sabotaging sales with bad phone behavior, follow these simple, but highly effective, guidelines.

DO leave a voicemail—every time

You spent the time doing research, you dialed the phone. Why on earth would you NOT leave a voicemail? It’s not your fault they didn’t pick up the phone and it’s certainly not a waste of your time. If you don’t leave a voicemail, the prospect still doesn’t know who you are or why you are calling. A voicemail message is a free, 25-30 second, uninterrupted advertisement for you, your company and your solution. Don’t throw away that golden opportunity.

DON’T avoid the Gatekeeper

You’ve probably heard this before, but I implore you to seek out and engage the key player admins, aka The Gatekeepers. They really aren’t gatekeepers but if you treat them as such, you will get exactly what you fear most—frosty, unhelpful blockers. Instead, treat them as a “tour guide”. They have their finger on the pulse of the organization and can be your best friend in the prospecting process! And this may go without saying, but always say “please” and “thank you”. Manners matter!

Don’t hang up after leaving your voicemail

The average rep does some research, calls a contact from a list, leaves a voicemail, hangs up and goes on to the next call or is so exhausted, they go grab a cup of coffee. Get in the habit of not hanging up. After leaving a voicemail, hit ‘0’.  Sometimes it will lead nowhere, but often you’ll be kicked back to an admin or a receptionist who can help you further. Engage that person to uncover other key players you typically speak with to further the sales process. With the average B2B sale involving 6.8 people, you’ll likely connect with someone else involved in the decision-making, which only increases the odds of the sale.

Do maintain honesty and integrity

Nobody likes sneaky behavior. And sneaky sales behavior is the worst. Prospects are naturally suspicious when you or anyone else calls but don’t take offense to that. You likely feel the same way when someone calls you.  The Limbic system in the brain is activated the instant the phone rings and reacts; “Who is this? Friend or foe? Fight or flight?” It’s just human nature.

While you can’t totally eliminate the suspicion, you can minimize it by doing the following:

  • Identify yourself (first and last name please) and your company name
  • Describe how you got to that person, if applicable. (i.e. Sally in Joe Smith’s office suggested you were the right person to speak with etc.)
  • Get right to the point. If you lower the suspicion level, being direct is the best way to keep it lowered. State the purpose of your call and ask the person how to best accomplish that request. Avoid fillers like “How are you doing?” or “How’s the weather in Toronto?”. Nothing screams ‘cheesy salesperson’ like mindless banter.
  • Above all else, be truthful!

Like him or not, my favorite Donald Trump quote of all time was in his book, The Art of the Deal. Donald said, “If you are going to think anyways, you might as well think big.”

If you are going to use the telephone anyways, you might as well do it right!