As sales is shifting to more of the process occurring over the phone and via video conferencing, the speaking voice is becoming an increasingly critical skill for sales professionals to develop and perfect. While complete control isn’t possible (unless you take voice lessons), there are some fundamentals to follow both in your actual physical speech and in the flow of the discussion.
- Adapt Your Tone to the Situation.
The energetic, cheery bon vivant vocal tone stereotypically associated with sales reps can work. But it’s also not appropriate to all scenarios in a conversation. For example, when a prospect frowns and raises an objection, a chipper voice runs a high risk of irritating, if not outright alienating, them. Instead, consider adopting a serious, yet calm tone as you seek to probe the objection and respond to it with the appropriate answer.
Conversely, if you’re dealing with an expressive customer who is excitedly talking about how great their results were last quarter, even if your default tone is solemn, you should respond with a slightly high register of congratulations or other signal of enthusiastic appreciation (without going over the top of course – many people have very good insincerity detectors).
- Ditch the filler and hesitation.
Um, I was going to uh, suggest ah, that like, you should kinda maybe think about like not using like empty words and sorta be determinedish in the things you say.
Satire aside, yes, dispense with all those meaningless sounds people often use to fill in conversational gaps while our brain scans for the right word choice. It’s Public Speaking 101 type stuff, but it also applies to sales discussions. You want to appear confident and poised.
As for the hesitancy words (kinda, sorta, maybe, determinedish in the above examples), those should go, too – unless paradoxically needed to precisely and accurately answer a question. Even in those instances, enunciate to “kind of” “sort of” in most situations. Again, this is about inspiring confidence and illustrating competence. Using hedging language can subliminally plant seeds of doubt in the buyer’s mind.
- Speak clearly.
You’d think this would be an obvious one and it is. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with sales reps who mutter like they’re the next mumble rapper. No one is saying you need to have Eliza Doolittle’s post-Henry Higgins diction, but you need to be sure to speak loudly and clearly enough that the buyer can hear you correctly. There’s few things more vexing than a conversation punctuated by “What?”, “I’m sorry?”, “I didn’t catch that” – especially if you’re talking to the C-suite, who are frequently pressed for time.
The other aspect of speaking clearly – control your rate of speech. A lot of sales reps will, without even being aware of it, talk as quickly as a toddler on a sugar binge. This can cause your client to be confused, and much like the unclear voice, means they have to ask you to repeat yourself. We get it – you’re watching the clock and have a lot of adrenaline going. But slow down. Speak at a moderate speed that’s easy for your partner to understand.
- Create an actual collaborative conversation.
Ever been involved in a call with sales or customer service that feels like a police station interrogation? It’s not fun for anyone. While getting information is important – especially in discovery – engaging in a Q&A session doesn’t do anything to build the relationship. In fact, it turns you into a survey taker, which could be done via email or an AI chatbot on the company website. At best, it’s a missed opportunity. At worst, it’s off-putting and salesy.
Along the same lines, while you might know, or think you know, the answer to a question you pose to a customer, resist the temptation to rush ahead and respond to your own query. You’re not a one-person theatrical performance. Give the buyer time and space to think about your question and answer it. If you were right, it’s further proof and confirmation. If you were wrong, you haven’t accidentally put your foot in your mouth by making a donkey out of both you and the buyer.
Although sales reps sometimes don’t think about the way that they talk or the flow of the conversation, they should. Paying attention to the details we’ve outlined here will make for a much more pleasant sales discussion, develop the relationship, and increase the probability of movement along the sales process.