More and more people are working from home in the midst of the current national emergency. Between their computers and phones, an incredible amount of business is being conducted. These devices are keeping companies open for business.

I’ve always felt phones are one of the most awesome tools we have available, especially to salespeople. We have all had years and years of experience using a phone, so why are so many people bad at using it?

Here are a few tips I would like to pass on to you with the help of Art Sobczak, president of Business By Phone. Art has helped sales professionals prospect and sell effectively by phone for more than 35 years.

The first objective of every sales call is to have a plan of what you want to accomplish. Prepare your questions and decide how to persuade a prospect into taking action. Art also advises you to have a “secondary objective for each sales call ... something you will strive to accomplish at minimum, every time.” It could be as simple as sending the prospective customer your literature.

Always treat the gatekeeper or call screener with respect. Ask for their name and use it. Gather as much information as you can about the gatekeeper as well as the decisionmaker. Knowledge does not become power until it is used.

Once you reach a decisionmaker, it’s important to first ask if this is a good time to talk. Start the conversation with good news and also have a positive close. Focus on the prospect and listen to what they have to say. The goal is to pique their curiosity and interest. Art says, “You must answer, ‘What’s in it for me?’ for the listener, or they will immediately begin the getting-rid-of-you process.”

If people have questions, be prepared. Have the information handy or know where you can get it fast. Ask only one question at a time and avoid questions like, “Is everything going OK? What are your needs? Are you having any problems now? How is your service?”

Quantify the problem whenever possible. “How does that happen? How much do you think that is costing you? How much time does that take?”

Art says: “Resist the tendency to present. Some reps get so excited when they hear the slightest hint of an opportunity that they turn on the spigot of benefits.”

When it’s finally time to get a commitment, think big and ask large. Buyers will often move down from a large recommendation but rarely move up from a small one. Remember to never ask for more than what is in the best interest of the customer. The important thing is to ask for a decision. “Maybe” is the worst answer a salesperson can get because a maybe can last forever.

There will always be objections, so be prepared for them and resist the tendency to be defensive. If you have an indecisive prospect, Art advises that you get their mind off the buying decision and on the problem or pain. For example, “Jan, let’s look at this another way. What would happen if you did nothing about the situation?” Price is one of the biggest objections, but don’t be too quick to offer price concessions.

Chances are you will be sending some information out to the prospective customer. Tell them what to look for and make it meaningful. Always summarize the agreed-to actions by both parties to avoid disagreements. Agreements prevent disagreements.

Keep your attitude up despite dealing with rejection. Rejection is a part of life. But you can’t let the fear of rejection paralyze you from the start or you will never get any sales. Don’t take rejection personally.

Art said: “Imagine every day is the end-of-quota-period day,” noting that sales reps tend to pick up their pace when they reach this time and try to get a few more sales.

Mackay’s Moral: You can ring up more business when you dial up your phone skills.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail