Even in field sales, prospects don’t want to have a first meeting with a stranger in person. They prefer an introductory phone call. If things go well, they’re open to the idea of a face-to-face meeting.
This creates an interesting scenario for outside salespeople. While they aren’t going extinct – certain industries will always require outside sales -- they do need to learn how to become highly competent inside salespeople for the first call.
Read on to see what my company, Sapper Consulting, has learned from scheduling thousands of sales meetings every month on behalf of hundreds of clients.
The Benefits of Virtual Connect Calls
Running virtual intro calls has several benefits. First, reps don’t need to constantly cross the country for meetings that are often rescheduled. Anyone who has ever worked in field sales knows this struggle all too well.
Let’s say you schedule a meeting in Milwaukee and leave the house at 4 a.m. with the perfect Spotify playlist downloaded for offline use, only to find when you find that your meeting has been rescheduled. Your entire day has been wasted.
This approach also helps you set more introductory meetings. If your company insists on sticking with face-to-face meetings, your whole outside sales team’s opportunity set will decrease. I know, I know: Your closing rate goes up when you meet people in person.
But you’ll miss lots of opportunities by ignoring prospects with no interest in meeting strangers in the flesh. Plus, if you push for a face-to-face meeting, you may look desperate.
How to Sharpen Your Inside Sales Skills
Phone sales and in-person sales require different skill sets. It’s like playing poker online versus in person. Online, you can’t physically see the other players, so you need to pay careful attention to bet sizing and incorporate more math into your strategy.
In person, you pick up on physical tells. You can also talk casually to learn information that might help you out later. When you go from playing online to in person, you still use the math skills you’ve sharpened from playing online so much. The same thing is true in sales. On the phone you can’t see your prospect, so you get good at recognizing voice inflection, managing silence, and so on.
If you’re used to working strictly with outside sales, how do you take the leap and master inside sales skills, too? Here are a few ways to get started.
1) Practice with role-plays
The best way to practice phone sales is to role-play on the phone. I see lots of sales teams practice phone meetings while sitting across the table from one another. This is a mistake. You can’t master your phone skills if you’re still bringing your in-person skills into play during practice sessions. Practice like you play, and record those practice sessions so you can ask for plenty of verbal and written feedback from your team and your manager. That feedback will help you consistently improve.
2) Master a consistent, effective sales call process
Your company should implement a consistent sales call process to which you and your co-workers are held accountable. The last thing you want to do is confuse a sales call process with a sales process. There’s a big difference, which is why you need a blueprint to follow when converting from a pure outside sales role to one with some inside sales requirements. Without it, it’s easy to feel lost.
3) Ask for a demo
There is nothing we salespeople hate more than being told to do something we haven’t seen done. It makes us wonder if it’s even possible. If your boss isn’t the kind of person who can get on the phone and perform an amazing intro call, seek out a salesperson who can.
Being dubious is understandable -- you’ve probably had your compensation plan changed, your territory shifted, and your commission clawed back. So if you’re struggling with the idea of confidently learning to make an intro phone call, ask to watch someone who can. If your job asks you to master these skills, it should be something the higher-ups at your company can do, too.
Outside sales positions will never go away completely, but with the insane growth happening for inside sales roles, you need to have skills in both arenas. It can feel intimidating to learn a whole new skill set, but these tips will help.
Originally published May 25, 2017 6:30:00 AM, updated October 29 2019