Connecting on an Outbound B2B Sales Call

By Matthew Robison

Let’s face it: Nobody likes receiving sales calls. Those of us who aren’t millennials remember the days of the landline ringing at dinnertime and having to listen to someone trying to sell us a vacuum cleaner or get us to contribute to the latest fund-raising event. The timing was never good, and there was always the internal struggle of being rude and just hanging up or waiting until we could politely say we weren’t interested. Over time salespeople got better at recognizing this and developed the technique of not pausing where we expected them to while giving us their spiel, which would throw us off our game of ending the call as quickly as possible.

Since the advent of the Do Not Call (DNC) list, most people rarely have to deal with solicitors at home. But what about at work? For many, those dinnertime phone call memories are still ingrained, and the hairs on the back of their necks automatically go up when they receive a sales call at the office. So how do we counteract that reaction when we’re on the other side of the phone line? 

Ditch the Salesy Talk: Picture wanting to buy a used car and having to deal with one of those salespeople. What happened when you read that? Did your heart start beating a little faster? Did a deep sense of dread envelope you? For so many people, that’s the feeling they get when they receive an unsolicited sales call. It’s our job—in a matter of seconds—to try and assuage those fears.

Start by being a real human being. Use the same tone of voice you would use when speaking with a manager at work. Be friendly and engaging while still showing respect. You’re not your prospect’s best friend, but you also don’t need to be overly formal.

Another salesy turnoff that most people hate is answering the phone and hearing the salesperson say, “How are you doing?” You may think you’re being friendly, but until you have developed a relationship with that buyer, asking him or her that question right away will most likely earn you a terse “Fine” that does nothing to move you down the path toward a sale.

Instead, introduce yourself politely. Ensure that you have the correct person, and start by letting them know you will be taking only a few moments of their time. Then state the reason for your call. When you actually sound like a human being instead of a salesperson, you’re much more likely to be responded to as a human being. 

Ask Questions and Be Engaging: A fundamental rule about human beings is that we love to talk about ourselves. What questions can you ask your prospects to learn more about their business (thus helping you with the sale) while getting them to open up? Depending on the product you’re selling, it can be extremely important to find out what processes they’re using. Learn what they do on a daily basis at that facility. Ask how long they have been with the company.

There are many great questions you can ask to get people to open up. The key is to always be ready with a few questions—and most importantly, to listen when they answer. Many times telesales representatives are so worried about what they will say next that they don’t truly listen to the customer.

The most powerful weapon you have is your ability to ask questions and listen to the answers. When customers are willing to share even the most basic of answers, you have a great opportunity to find out what’s important to them and what their current pain points are. This information can give you fantastic insight into knowing how best to sell to them.

Connect on a Human Level: If you are lucky enough to reach a someone who is willing to hear you out, it’s extremely important to somehow connect with him or her on a human level. Be personal. Customers want to buy from people, not companies. Is it Monday morning and you’re calling Bob in Wisconsin? Bring up yesterday’s big win for the Packers. Does Jane say something about being behind today because she was in charge of the carpool this morning? Ask her how old her kids are and briefly mention your own. Any chance to connect on a personal level can be helpful in building the bridge toward a sale.

Conclusion: In spite of the fact that our society runs on technology, there is still a need and desire for good human interaction. Unless you are selling a one-time purchase item, your goal should always be to develop a long-term relationship, not to just go for the one-time sale. If you can provide value while also connecting on a human level, you’ll go a long way toward becoming a valued partner for your customers.

Matthew Robison has spent over ten years working in call centers in a variety of roles. He is currently sales manager for a nationwide welding and safety distributor.

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