Have phone sales gone the way of the dinosaur?

by Kris Katseanes – October 2013

Consider these changing dynamics of society:

  • More than 2/3 of event tickets are purchased online
  • The increasing number of homes with no land line, relying exclusively on cell phones:
    • Must consider legal solicitation rules/challenges
    • Increases chances of reaching someone in the middle of another activity as opposed to at home with time to talk.
    • Increases difficulty of finding appropriate number for household decision-maker
  • Sales professionals are the third hardest position to fill in America’s workforce (2012 poll)

Is texting killing us?

One reason we find it hard to fill new sales spots among young people is their mentality of text messaging.

Consider these statements from a recent USA Today article, “Would you break up by sending a text?

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”550px” height=”” background_color=”#FFFF99″ border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]And the survey says…

“People are uncomfortable using the phone. A text message is easier. You can think exactly what you want to say and how to craft it. Over the phone, there’s this awkwardness.”

“I don’t love phone calls. It’s a lot more work than a text.”

“We tell ourselves we don’t want to disturb someone. Sometimes it’s true, but more often, it’s because we can’t get them off the phone. In texting, we don’t have to talk to people or listen to what another person has to say. We decide how we want to encounter or whether we want to encounter other people. Technology gives us tools for controlling our relationships.”[/dropshadowbox].

This is the way the next generation, and many others, feel about texts versus phone calls.

With as much as we use our phones, the reality is our consumers and employees aren’t very comfortable talking on the phone. They really don’t know how to effectively communicate with it.

What’s next?

Do I think phone sales are going away? No. Will the need for phone messaging go away? No.

What do we need to do?

First, we must recognize the cultural battle of using the phone. Second, we must become wiser about how we use the phone as a sales messaging tool.

I continue to see sales representatives find success with phone sales by using these simple principles:

1. One touchpoint. The phone call cannot be the only touch point to communicate with consumers. As one of a series of touch points, a phone call  communicates urgency and purpose.

2. Be specific. Call with a specific message, establish a clear agenda for the call, and get a commitment for ‘time needed’ and ‘agenda’ from the outset.

  • Calling with a clearly defined, well-articulated, BRIEF, message is respected and appreciated.
  • Those interested will make the initial commitment and allow for the call to continue.
  • Don’t waste time with those unable to make a time commitment right then. Conduct further outreach for the same message at a later time or a new outreach with a new message in the future.

3. WIIFM. Be sure the message includes the WIIFM (what’s in it for me). They will not give you time without knowing the potential benefit. Benefits may be financial, physical, or emotional in nature.

4. Preview the next touch point.  If you receive a voice-mail tell the customer to watch for an email later that day. Tell them why they should open it (to further illustrate point #3). This preview may be the one thing that causes your email to be opened not deleted.

There are many other ideas and techniques to make the phone a successful sales tool.  We’ll need to be creative and adaptive to be effective, but some things will always be tried and true if conformed to meet consumer standards.  I personally see picking up the phone and having conversations to be a sales anchor for years to come.

What do you think?

Since everyone is dealing with these issues, I asked a few other sales managers and trainers for their input on the subject.

Jeff Berryhill
Jeff Berryhill
Bryant Pfeiffer
Bryant Pfeiffer
Clark Beacom
Clark Beacom

“Sporting events are emotional entertainment and in most cases purchased for the emotion that it invokes.  The best way to sell this is through a human voice full of emotion and not words on a screen.” Clark Beacom, Vice President of Sales, Columbus Crew

“Phone and face to face sales are here to stay for the foreseeable future.  While there is no doubt the dynamic of ticket sales is shifting, face to face and phone sales will continue to thrive as long as people still have the instinct to negotiate.  Fans are very comfortable purchasing single events online, but when it comes to larger packages they will feel the most comfortable talking through the purchase with an expert.” Jeff Berryhill, Director, National Sales Center, Major League Soccer

“At its core, sales is built on rapport, trust and relationship building skills.  Online tools certainly assist a salesperson in penetrating a prospect’s attention and in some cases accelerate the communication process. But, I find it hard to believe they will ever completely replace the overall impact of creating a connection with someone by hearing their smile come through on the phone or the feeling of warmth that a firm in-person handshake can create.” Bryant Pfeiffer, Vice President, Club Services, Major League Soccer

What do you think? Comment or click the Tweet button (#phonesales) and let us know: @BHillMLS @clarkbeacom @bpfeiff @kats_kris


 

Cover photo courtesy of Michael Varhol.

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