A significant part of whether salespeople can successfully communicate with their prospects has nothing to do with the words they use. In fact, a rep’s voice tone might matter more than what they’re actually saying.
There’s a reason Michael Saraf, Sales and Marketing director at Adiabatic Solutions, titled his book It’s Not What You Sell -- It’s How You Sell It.
According to ContactPoint, how you’re understood is impacted six times more by voice tone than by your words -- voice tone accounts for about 86% of a listener’s experience, while words comprise just 14%. This means it’s not only what you say that matters to the prospect -- it’s also how you say it. If reps use the wrong voice tone, buyers can lose interest after the very first sentence.
Below are three common voice tone-related mistakes reps make when talking to prospects and three ways to improve conversations going forward.
3 Common Voice Tone Mistakes
1) The rep’s tone is robotic.
Some companies approach sales with a one-size-fits-all mentality. As a result, some reps rely on prepared scripts for their sales conversations, including counters to objections and ways to “provide value.” Instead of the call sounding like a free-flowing conversation about what’s best for the prospect, it sounds like the rep’s only interest is getting the prospect to buy.
“When a prospect receives a call that sounds too ‘salesy,’ they tend to immediately tense up and are not likely to freely give any in-depth information to the salesperson,” according to Invenio Marketing’s blog. “In contrast, a call that has a casual, non-sales focused tone will help the prospect to be more comfortable giving key information to the sales rep.”
To counter this problem, HubSpot’s Dan Tyre, who has been in sales for more than 40 years, reminds sales reps to act human.
“A sales rep’s secret weapons are voice tone and a sense of humor,” Tyre said. “Your voice tone can put people at ease or on edge, and an ability to make people laugh will go farther in making them trust you than any sales pitch.”
2) The rep sounds bored and distracted.
Some salespeople are always thinking about what’s next on their schedule. When reps are distracted, their voices turn monotone and flat, making prospects feel unimportant and souring the relationship.
REALTOR Magazine’s Melissa Dittmann Tracey writes that prospects can easily tell when you’re distracted.
“[Conveying focus] also means eliminating distractions and staying completely focused on the person you’re speaking to; even when on the phone, people can tell if you’re distracted (say, when you’re trying to sneak a check of your e-mail),” Tracey said.
There are several apps available to keep you focused such as BlockSite, Freedom, or StayFocusd. These tools limit your internet access during times you select. Actively listening to your prospect also enables you to pick up on details you might miss out on otherwise, such as pain points and goals.
3) The rep allows negative emotions to affect their voice.
Even if a rep is having a tough day, they still have to push through their sales calls. Unfortunately, a salesperson’s voice tone can reveal their negative emotions and have a detrimental impact on the call’s success -- even with the most excited prospects.
If you have a bad sales call, don’t carry the rejection with you during the day. Check out this list of psychology-backed methods to get over a rejection, including positive affirmations, remembering it’s not personal, and setting short-term goals.
3 Ways to Improve Your Voice Tone
1) Keep the conversation upbeat.
Focus on being upbeat when talking with a prospect and you’re likely to keep the conversation positive. When the sales rep is positive, the prospect is more likely to mirror those positive emotions.
“There needs to be passion and enthusiasm for your customers. When those qualities are present, everyone benefits,” Barry Himmel writes. “Your customers like to do business with people who want their business and know how to show it. You feel better because your upbeat tone becomes contagious and can be carried over to the customer. They will treat you better and the transaction will be much smoother.”
An upbeat tone creates excitement in your prospect for your product. Staying positive isn’t a major challenge either. Keeping your tone positive can be as simple as learning to smile when you’re on the phone.
2) Emphasize specific benefits with your voice tone.
When you’re speaking about the value your prospect is going to see from your product, make it clear with your voice tone.
“[Executives] know that not everything that gets said is as important as everything else,” Tony Parinello, an expert on executive-level selling, said. “So ‘lean’ on important words and phrases.”
The easiest way to emphasize your point is to repeat it or to speak at a higher pitch pitch to make the statement stand out. Granted, you don’t want to go too high -- but you do want specific benefits to stay in your prospect’s mind.
3) Be serious when it’s time to be serious.
Although building rapport through laughter can be great, when it’s time to get down to business, it’s best to adjust your tone -- as long as you don’t slip into being robotic. A serious tone reflects the importance of the conversation.
“The intricate acoustic patterns which comprise speech affect how we’re seen in terms of our personality, our emotional state, and even our professional competence,” David Cox wrote in The Guardian.
When the time comes to discuss important items, make sure your tone reflects that. Not only does your serious tone impact how the prospect views the product, it also impacts how they view you and whether they’d like to work with you.
A sales rep’s voice tone is one of the determining factors influencing a prospect’s decision to buy. While having a great product to sell puts you at an immediate advantage, in certain situations, it’s how you sell that product that makes the difference.