How to Sell by Phone

The telephone is one of the major channels for customer contact. Research indicates that customer's perceptions of service by telephone are in decline. Centralisation of operations into call centres means that many companies have lost that local, friendly feel. This where you can score by showing that personal touch. The main use of the phone in selling is: 

  1. Cold calling prospects
  2. As a follow-up to a sales letter - to make an appointment or secure a sale
  3. In response to someone contacting your business wanting more information or to place an order

The main advantages of selling by phone are:

  1. You can contact potential customers from anywhere; your desk, home or even whilst travelling around
  2. Many potential customers can be contacted in a relatively short period of time
  3. Usually, with persistence, you can get through to the decision maker

The main disadvantages are: 

  1. You cannot show your product or sales materials
  2. You cannot see their body language
  3. Most cold calls receive a rejection
  4. There is a code of conduct which you must follow (see the first pages of your BT telephone directory)

But, like most worthwhile things, to have the best chance of success you need to do your preparation. You need to have a plan, know who you are calling and what you are trying to achieve.

Discipline Yourself!

  1. Chain yourself to the phone
  2. Set a time limit easy on yourself (between half and one hour)
  3. Do not replace the receiver between calls (except to make important notes – try to keep the records whilst on the phone)
  4. Don’t hang on – call back
  5. Don’t be distracted or let anyone disturb you
  6. Don’t give up
  7. Sell only one thing, normally an appointment
  8. Don’t be smart
  9. Don’t use the phone because you need an appointment


  1. Keep to your story
  2. Smile
  3. Stand up to talk
  4. Be enthusiastic
  5. Ask questions
  6. Be polite
  7. Treat yourself if you succeed

Handling Set-backs

If we know why people say 'no' on the phone you can relax and let the phone work for you. So why are callers rejected?

  1. Every phone call is an interruption
  2. The prospect thinks the salesperson will take too much time
  3. Salespeople are not interesting on the phone
  4. The suggested appointment time is not the best for the prospect

One of the main reasons the prospect says "No" is that the time is wrong, around 70% of the time. So they are not rejecting your proposition but they are busy at that particular time. So ask for alternative times and dates!

Don’t take “No” for an answer. The professional will wait for 7 Nos! Remember if you give up, the prospect has no chance of benefiting from your ideas. How often have you given up without checking that it was the time that was wrong?

So let’s use a telephone technique to mitigate this. What is the sweetest thing you hear? Your own name. With this technique the prospect first hears:

* their own name three time

* two cushions

* an idea that will benefit them

All this before they hear

* your name

* the name or your company

* his name “please” and “thank you” cushion the interruption, and an idea that benefits them makes you more interesting in their eyes

So what is the magic script?

Brrrng - “Hello”
“Mr Jones?” - “Yes”
“Mr Jones?” - “Yes”
“Thank you Mr Jones {positive pause}, we have a service that may save you over 300% of your marketing costs and secure more profitable clients. A short meeting can determine if this is appropriate for your organisation.
My name is Laurie Bernard I am with the BSP may I come and see you at 3.50 on Thursday afternoon?”
Most people ask for an appointment on the hour or half-hour. When you ask for an off hour appointment e.g. 10.50 or 10.20 the prospect is more likely to think you will only be there for ten minutes! Also the unusual time can arouse their curiosity.


* Have you planned your call objective – do you know what you are selling?

* Know the purpose of the techniques you are using

* Definition of a sale is “getting a decision in your favour”

* What do you use the telephone for?

* Sell only one thing on the phone

* Know the reasons why people are rejected on the phone

* Ask for appointments off the hour & half hour

* Discipline yourself to make calls e.g. for one hour per week

* What the prospect hears – “Name, please, name, thank you (positive pause) name, we have a …”

*Don’t be afraid of your prospect

What have you to lose – go for it!