I learned how to sell over the phone each time I made a call.
With each disconnect, with each click of the transfer button, with each hang-up, I was being molded into an elite salesperson.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
You see, growing up in a non-sales household, I never knew selling over the phone was a career option. I’d had a few awkward interactions with door-to-door salespeople — that was my idea of what a job in sales looked like.
It wasn’t until I was 17 and took my first job in a call center as an SDR (sales development rep) that I was introduced to the idea of selling over the phone. I had no idea what I was doing when I started.
I simply read a script in a room full of strangers. The hiring manager felt I did it better than most, and he offered me a shot that lasted nearly 14 years.
While some days it felt like I was pushing water up hill, I am thankful for the experience because it enabled me to come up with a framework for selling over the phone.
Keep reading to learn how to sell over the phone, PLUS my CAT Framework for Mindset Mastery, which is key to real success as an SDR.
The process for selling over the phone is easy: pick up the phone, dial a number, and go through your script. When the call is done, do it again.
You and I both know, there’s more to it than that. When learning how to sell over the phone, you’ve got to master some basic sales skills:
Fortunately, you can learn most of this on the job through training and coaching. But there’s another, more important skill that you’re less likely to get training on, and that’s mindset mastery.
Which brings me to the CAT Framework I’m going to give you in this article. This is, in my opinion, the difference between success and failure as an SDR.
In phone sales, you’re going to get a lot of hang-ups. People will be rude and angry. And you’ve got to be able to shake it off and call the next person on your list. All day. Every day.
If you can stay positive, you’ll find huge success as an SDR. But if you let it get you down, you’ll wash out. Sad but true.
What I’m going to share with you now is the secret to staying upbeat, so you can master your mindset and truly succeed in phone sales. Let’s dive in.
As you learn how to sell over the phone — and throughout your sales career — confidence is key. Like me, you may not have much confidence when you begin, but you’ll develop it through two channels:
Confidence Builder #1: Belief
Dictionary.com defines confidence as belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.
I love this definition because belief is such a huge part of having confidence. This was something I struggled with early on because I was so green to the world of selling. I would find myself stuttering, losing my place in the script, looking around for cheat sheets, etc.
Belief came in the form of countless training sessions I attended.
We would often be randomly pulled off the phone for quick training sessions, and each session gave me more confidence and belief in the skills I had learned. This allowed me to fully grasp that I was capable of a career in sales.
Confidence Builder #2: Action
Once I learned the skills that led to success, I make sure I took those same actions over and over again. It was through those repetitious actions that I developed confidence.
I become an expert because, day after day, I was living and breathing the tasks that would make me successful. As hours passed at my desk, I focused every minute on finding ways to become better, whether that was reading a magazine article, a positive non-fiction book, or a script from a colleague.
Another repeated action I found incredibly valuable for building confidence was coaching.
As hard as it can be to receive feedback from people in positions higher than mine, it really did help mold me into a better person. I developed thicker skin, and I also showed those around me that I indeed could be molded into a version of myself I never thought possible.
So be confident. You’re the expert!
When learning how to sell over the phone, focus on your attitude. In phone sales, the people you’re talking to can’t see you, so you’ve got to have an attitude that “embodies selling.”
I’ll explain what I mean by that in just a minute, but first, let’s talk about why this is so important.
On the sales floor, it can be a bit of a revolving door. Not all new reps can cut it. But I’ve noticed a common theme: People who “don’t work out” are usually the ones with a poor attitude.
When you walk in the door with your head down, no energy, excuses ready to fire — you have already lost the day.
Treat each day as a blank canvas. When that door opens, you need to bring a positive attitude to the table.
Positivity never cost someone a deal. In the worst of times selling over the phone, my attitude is what has closed deals, talked people off the ledge, and ultimately led to more folks buying from me than not.
I think of my attitude over the phone as my “game face.”
A simple way to ensure I’m in the right attitude for the day is to have a mirror at my desk. It doesn’t need to be a large one — just big enough to see my whole face and to remind myself to smile. It may sound crazy or even kooky, but this is a great best practice.
Having a smile on the phone also pays dividends. I recall a day when I was particularly down. After receiving a barrage of hang ups, I threw my headset onto my desk and buried my head.
A supervisor was kind enough to leave me with this advice, “Smile, it will make a difference.”
In the end, I was able to turn my day around. When it’s all said and done, people won’t remember your numbers, but rather your attitude and the positive influence that it had on others.
In phone sales, you have to be mindful of your tone. This is a soft sales skill that’s vital to your success.
When teaching coaching callers how to sell over the phone, this lesson almost always elicits the same response: “Oh, so you want me to sound fake?!”
My reply? “No, not to sound fake, but to sound genuine and upbeat.”
When you’re selling over the phone, people will immediately sniff out when you are being “salesy.” Don’t be that person. Be yourself, and people on the other end will genuinely appreciate it.
Tonality plays such a key role in selling over the phone because your voice is your biggest asset. The person on the other end of that line has no more information to understand your message than what is coming out of their phone’s earpiece or speaker.
There’s a tone that communicates firmness — such as when you are asking for the business or firming up an appointment. There’s a tone that communicates, “Tell me more,” when you are in the discovery phase. There’s also a tone for expressing concern when you’ve caught someone at a bad time.
You need all of these.
What I’ve found in my selling career is that maintaining a genuine, authentic, and enthusiastic tone makes you more relatable.
One of the best compliments I ever received was from a prospect who praised me for having a conversation with him and not just “selling the product.” He had mentioned he usually ignores most numbers he doesn’t know, because over the phone, salespeople have a hardened, take-it-or-leave-it perspective. I truly love having conversations, so I make the most of every one I can.
My CAT Framework is simple: When you combine Confidence, Attitude, and Tone, you create a recipe for successfully selling over the phone.
Remember, your cold calling technique is important. So much so, you’ll likely get on-the-job training for that.
Your mindset, on the other hand, is up to you. It takes practice to stay confident and positive, and to communicate through your speaking tone. But it will make all the difference.
If you want to learn how to sell over the phone, you’ll need to learn all these skills (the technical skills plus your mindset) and practice them daily.
I promise, over time they’ll become second nature, and you’ll find they’ll help you improve your life on every level.