The Sales Script Is (Mostly) Dead: 2 Tricks for Better Interactions

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Tom Paton
Tom Paton



You heard that right -- sales scripts as we’ve known them are dead in the water. The truth is, your prospects can sniff out a super-scripted pitch a mile away.


The realization you’re hearing a prepared spiel will trigger one of the following responses:

  • "Not another spam call! I thought I had my number on the do not call registry…"
  • "I’ve never bought anything from a telemarketer before and I’m not about to start now."
  • "This person doesn’t have a clue who I am. Why should I give them my attention?"

If you’re paying real people to make sales calls -- then giving them a strict step-by-step script to follow -- you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to make personalized interactions which actually provide value for your prospect.

You want to have an exchange of information. That’s the only way your team will get to the bottom of your prospect’s needs and explain how your product/service is the solution.

Static pitches are the work of robocallers. 48 million of these automated calls were made in the United States in 2018, and Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with them. You’re here to develop a genuine connection with your prospect, not just dictate to them. Do this and you’ll easily stand out from the crowd.

Remember, it’s still important to provide your team with the support they need to relay the right message to different prospects or leads. The last thing you want is the conversation getting off-track.

However, it’s even more important to ensure that your agents have the flexibility to effectively handle objections, answer questions, and demonstrate how your product will provide value to the person on the end of the line.

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Don’t believe me?

I work for contactSPACE, cloud-based call centre software that helps inside sales teams conduct better outreach.

One of our clients noticed a massive 50% increase in contacts per hour after moving away from static scripts. In the same 12-month period, their team grew from fewer than 10 sales reps to more than 50.

Another of our clients saw a 30% reduction in call-handling time after ditching a clunky dedicated scripting program. Their team was able to make calls more efficiently with an integrated, all-in-one solution, while still maintaining their conversion rates.

So, how should sales teams use scripts to their full potential?

When to Use Scripts

There are exceptions to every rule. Let’s look at a few situations where static scripts could prove useful.

1. Your data is limited

If you’ve just got a list of numbers, there’s very little you can do other than make a pitch and hope it sticks.

One reason scripts are ineffective is that they leave little room for personalization. You want to make a genuine connection with the person you’re calling by using whatever data you have on hand.

This could include very basic facts about your prospect, such as their name. But better results can be achieved with more complex data points that would be almost impossible to integrate into a static script. For example:

  • Your prospect’s previous purchase history from your organization.
  • Your prospect’s previous interaction history. Are they likely to know/remember who you are? When did you speak last, who did they speak with, and what did they say?
  • Your prospect’s job, role tenure, and the solution their team is currently using.

Using this information correctly is the easiest way of demonstrating empathy -- a crucial part of showing that you understand your prospect’s needs.

Only around 20% of the population has an innate ability to see things from another person’s point of view, which is why providing support in this area is so crucial.

Without quality data, it’s almost impossible to develop genuine connections with your prospects, even if you’re a naturally empathic person.

However, if you’re limited in the quality of the data you can get a hold of, you can develop scripts based on customer personas.

Create a profile for each of the different types of prospects you’re targeting, and then create a script for each of these personas.

Or assign a script to every stage of your sales pipeline, to progress your prospects towards your ideal outcome. For example, a referral will require a different pitch than someone who’s never heard of your organization before.

As you learn more about your prospect, you’ll want to move towards more personalized interactions. The easiest way of doing this (for low-volume operations. at least) is to assign a dedicated contact owner once your team has qualified the lead.

2. Your team is still developing

New team members require more support than those who have been with your organization for a while.

As a part of the learning process, it can be worth providing some basic scripts which new reps can use to make it past gatekeepers or introduce what you’re selling.

It’s also important that new hires have the right support as they learn to articulate the benefits of your product and think on their feet. They should be able to develop individualized responses to objections, and craft original value statements based on who they’re calling.

Let new team members learn from their mistakes. Studies reveal the human brain is wired to warn us of impending mistakes. So, if your rep is allowed to make an error, chances are, they won’t repeat it.

On the other hand, if your reps rely entirely on scripts, their performance will be tied to the quality of the messaging you provide.

If things go wrong, this may be the mistake of the scriptwriter -- and since your rep will be unable to deviate too much from the provided content, improving performance will be much tougher.

In effect, there will be a cap on how well your team can perform until you go through your scripts and update them. You must give your agent the power to define their own results or their upside potential is limited.

Excessive scripting is the worst form of micromanagement in an inside sales team. While it may help underachievers improve their performance, scripting restricts the abilities of your top salespeople. Allow your team to spread their wings and some reps will thrive.

3. You must maintain call quality

Are you required to say certain things during every call?

  • The FTC requires you identify who you are and why you’re calling at the beginning of every cold call.
  • In the United Kingdom, you’re required to inform the prospect the call might be recorded.
  • You might also want to use a standardized greeting to maintain a set level of formality.
  • When selling certain products -- especially in financial services -- you might read standardized terms and conditions the customer must accept before making a payment.

In these situations, scripting is essential to ensure call quality and regulatory compliance. But this doesn’t mean you must script the rest of the call as well.

Scripting Alternative One: Data-Driven Pitches

As we touched on above, you need quality data to deliver effective, ultra-personalized pitches to your prospects.

69% of buyers say that to improve the sales experience, sales reps should pay more attention to their needs. The first step in this process is profiling your prospect and understanding who they are and how your offer may be perceived. From here, you can craft lead-specific questions that cut to their deepest desires.

sales-scriptSource: HubSpot

Assuming you have quality data on hand, there are a number of outbound strategies you should consider to make the most of this information:

  • When should I call this person in order to maximize my chances of connecting? What time zone are they in and are they likely to be at work?
  • If a prospect doesn’t pick up, when should I try them again? Should I try them at a different time of day or day of the week?
  • How many times should I dial the number before shelving it?

Once your team has connected with a prospect, your challenge becomes how to display the right data in exactly the right place.

For example, it would be useful to know the contact’s name, their previous interaction and purchase history, and what lifecycle stage they’re in.

Having a comprehensive CRM solution, like HubSpot, can keep this data collated in a way that’s easily accessible, while also enabling you to report on your sales funnel outcomes.

Scripting Alternative Two: Guiding Your Agents Through the Call

Instead of providing a single script for agents to follow, it’s possible to develop smarter strategies enabling your team to have truly engaging conversations, rather than just making wooden sales pitches.

Consider including some rough guides to keep your team on track, instead of a word-by-word script for your team to follow.

After introducing yourself and explaining what you do, you might give reps this script:

"Here at Acme Bananas, we have a pretty simple philosophy: the freshest, ripest bananas, delivered straight to your door! For as little as $15 a month, we’ll ship out a massive box of the best 100% organic bananas you’ve ever seen, every single week. No commitment required -- just continue your plan when you’re feeling like having a bananaful month."

Approach new prospects by asking them about their banana-eating habits. This ensures the call sounds conversational, and it allows the rep to develop a much more personalized pitch.

Instead of using this script, you could provide the following guidance:

  • Ask: "Do you regularly buy bananas at the grocery store?"
      • If yes, ask: "Great. How many bananas do you and your family typically consume per month?"
        • Based on their answer, tailor the pitch. Present higher-tier plans to families or the cheaper option to individuals who consumer fewer bananas.
      • If no, ask: "Does anyone else in your household ever buy bananas?"
        • If yes, ask to speak to the decision-maker.
        • If no, pitch: "Were you aware of the amazing health benefits of bananas? They’re an excellent source of nutrients and can even help promote weight loss."

You do need to use caution here. Endless If/Then rules can get very confusing, very quickly.

Having a roadmap of how to proceed during your call can be helpful. Consider displaying this information on the rep interface, with buttons matching the different stages. "Introduction," "qualification," "payment," and "signoff" are great ways to organize the information you’re providing your team.

The Future of Scripting

So, I guess I misled you a little with my title. Scripting isn’t dead. It’s just dead as we know it.

Keeping your agents on-message -- especially if they’re new to your team -- is critical. To achieve this, preparing words and phrases is still a great idea.

However, pure scripts cannot take into account the intricacies inherent in a conversation.

If a pre-written spiel is all you’re giving reps, they’ll find themselves under-equipped to win the battle to convert your lead. Scripts fail to account for the nuances of the prospect’s situation, and they lead to dead-ends when the conversation heads in an unforeseen direction.

You need a solution with the best of both worlds: guidance for agents, with included record-specific data, but also the freedom to try out different communication strategies.

Only then will your team be able to get to the bottom of what each specific prospect really wants. This will enable them to achieve incredible results.

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