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Industry Commentary

Less Stress, More Sales


January 7, 2003

Do you want to talk about stress? Nothing is more stressful than receiving a stone cold phone inquiry and knowing that you have precious few seconds to develop rapport and set up a date.

Telephone sales is definitely the most difficult of all sales techniques to master. When you meet a prospect over lunch, you have time to establish a working or even personal relationship. In person, you can read someone’s body language and social style. But over the phone, you must be able to read someone’s intentions through long distance telepathy.

You must then be prepared to react to need-statements and deliver value within seconds. Talk about pressure!

Many salespeople consider the phone something from which to hide -- the phone rings and they freeze. Others can’t wait to get on the phone and book an appointment.

It is the use of this basic sales tool which can make the difference between a mediocre producer and a superstar. Here are some very basic telephone techniques which one must follow in order to successfully conquer telephone sales:

Be up all the time. This is the secret to successful telephone sales. Many feel that their prices or experience are what will attract someone over the phone, yet consumer surveys continuously show that people are sold over the phone by an empathetic voice. In other words, consumers buy from those they like. Being up is not always easy -- we know what your offices are like. Sometimes there is someone screaming in the hall or someone else jumping out the window, but you still must pick up the phone and let the person on the other line know how glad you are to receive his or her call. And it is not what you say. Plenty of people answer the phone and say that it is a great day. If you are feeling low and say it is a great day, it sounds worse than yelling at the caller. The solution? Don’t answer the phone until you are ready.

Follow up. The secret to great sales? Intelligence? Great looks? None of the above! Just follow up with vengeance. Following up is a basic business principle. It is done so poorly in this day and age, any attempt to shine will actually exceed your customers' expectations.

Control the conversation by listening. The art of sales is rightly known as the art of listening. The person in control of the conversation is not the one talking. The person in control is learning something. You may not know this, but any time you talk too much over the phone, the caller on the other line turns you off mentally. If they had a remote control they would just switch stations.

Ask questions. You get someone else to talk by asking questions. This means that you must have your questions prepared in advance and committed to memory. Asking questions is more than a sales technique; it is a way of life. There are some people who are so adept at answering questions with another question, other people swear that they have never given a straight answer in their life. If they were asked for their last wish in the electric chair, they would say, "Why do you ask?"

Use enabling statements. Don't just start asking questions. This will be considered rude by the caller, whose main purpose is to learn something from you. You must ask for the right to ask, which entails the use of an enabling statement. A simple enabling statement would ask if it is all right to ask a few questions so that you are able to provide them with the correct information.

Don’t forget to close. All the questions in the world are not worth anything unless you recognize the opportunities to close. The purpose of questions is to uncover needs. Closing is not a matter of rote techniques such as the alternative close or the Ben Franklin close. It is a matter of filling a need at the proper time. And after you get the appointment, do not continue to close. Too many people have lost sales because they tried to educate over the phone. If you turn over all your value, why wouldn't the consumer use this information to get a better deal somewhere else?

Practice, Practice, Practice. Yes, telephone sales is pressure. You must meet an objective with very little to go on in very little time. But you do have an advantage because you know the person on the other end of the line is going to say, "What's your rate?" If you know what consumers are going to say, it is a simple matter to devise a reply which will stop and make them think: "Do you want the rate in quantum mortgage components or Klingon '32s?" or "Have you fully studied the impact of this program on your financial situation?"

Have you ever hung up the phone and then said to yourself, "I should have said that"? There is a basic rule of telephone sales -- you can’t get the conversation back. You must practice, practice, and practice some more. Role playing with your peers is an excellent way of furthering your telephone skills.

The alternative? Less sales and more stress!

Dave Hershman is the author of seven books, including two bestsellers for the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. An advertiser for MortgageDaily.com, Hershman also is a speaker for the mortgage industry and heads www.OriginationPro.com Mortgage School.

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