Back to the Future: Pick Up The Phone


“Picking up the phone is the scariest part of selling.  Building relationships is the hardest part.  Selling is the easiest.”

LinkedIn and email can get you appointments. But there’s another tool that you have to know how to use—the phone. (And getting appointments with prospects might just involve all three approaches with a text message thrown in.)

If you have difficulty using the phone to schedule appointments here’s a checklist that might help.

1. Block out time in your calendar each week to schedule appointments. View this as an ironclad commitment—like a regular meeting that you can’t miss.

2. Give yourself a goal. Whether it’s 10 calls or 2 appointments with prospects, the important thing is that it’s doable.

3. Get organized before you start calling. That means having your list of calls and all your notes at hand. It also means being absolutely clear about what your value proposition is for each prospect you will be calling. Why would they want to meet with you? (Hint: It’s not so that you can “learn about their business” or some other blather that holds little benefit for them.)

4. Know how you are going to handle it if: (a) The person you are trying to reach picks up. (b) An administrative assistant answers the call. (c) You find yourself in voicemail.

5. If you need to practice before you pick up the phone, do so.  Small children are OK to start with but you might want to test your approach on a colleague. Standing up calms the nerves and gives you energy. Warming up your voice isn’t just for opera singers if you find yourself warbling.

6. Make a minimum of 6 to 10 calls at a time. It gets you in the groove. If you don’t like rejection, call a few customers or friendly COIs first to set up appointments with them before you tackle your prospects.

7. During the call remember the following rules:

* Shorter is usually better.

* No reading from scripts.

* Listen to what people say.

* Take good notes.

* No games with AAs. (If your prospect isn’t expecting your call, don’t say that he is or that you’re an old friend if you’re not. The tricksters always pay a price in the end.)

* This isn’t life or death. If you don’t get an appointment with a prospect this time, so what?

8. Pay attention to what works, and what doesn’t.

A Bonus for Sales Leaders from millennial workplace guru Lindsey Pollak on 3 ways you can improve the phone skills of your team (click here for complete post)

I. Explain how being a savvy phone talker can offer a professional advantage.
Sure, most professional situations and requests can be handled via email. But, it’s smart to point out that actually talking to someone is powerful for a number of reasons:

  • You can hear tone—important when you consider how often an email or text is taken the wrong way simply because the reader misunderstood the tenor of the request or conversation.
  • You save time by eliminating the back and forth inherent in scheduling an appointment or negotiating project details.
  • You build relationships through small talk.
  • You might find you’re more tactful on the phone; it’s easy to write inflammatory thoughts that you would be hesitant to voice.

When used strategically, this communication medium can be an important tool in millennials’ professional repertoire and become a strength if they have better phone skills than others. After all, a senior executive is bound to be impressed by the one millennial who can pick up the phone and talk something through.

II. Give them training.
If they’re not used to introducing themselves, articulating their viewpoint succinctly or even leaving a concise and coherent message, you don’t want their first phone fumbles to be while making a sales call or setting up a meeting with an important client.

Let junior colleagues listen in on your calls to get a sense of conversation flow and voice inflection. Then, have them practice in low-stakes situations, like scheduling a meeting or making a reservation.

III. Clue them in to some best practice shortcuts.
Most people wouldn’t think of practicing a phone call, but it can be wise to roleplay the dialogue, just as you would rehearse an in-person presentation. (Maybe you can play the part of the disinterested potential client or errant vendor to give them some pointers.)

Show them how to write a script or bullet key points to have in front of them in case they get tongue tied. And remind them that sometimes the hardest part of a delicate call is just psyching yourself up to pick up the receiver and dial.

For more resources on prospecting check out our Prospecting Strategies webinar series at or call Ned Miller at 484-433-2378.


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