Let’s start off today’s post with a quick poll. When doing sales presentations, which format do you prefer: in person or over the phone?
My experience tells me that salespeople tend to be evenly split on this one, but they somewhat lean slightly toward meeting prospects in person. Face-to-face meetings let sales folks put their people skills to use and allow more time for conversing with the prospect. More importantly, in-person presentations enable salespeople to read prospects and get to know them even better from visual cues.
When you’re meeting prospects face-to-face, it’s fairly easy to get a feel for how interested (or disinterested) they really are. Once a prospect slumps down onto the chair with eyes wandering and chin resting on one hand, these are dead giveaways you’re losing your prospect’s attention—and that you better switch gears or risk blowing up the deal.
You obviously won’t get this level of visual feedback during phone-based presentations. Sales meetings done over the phone only provide salespeople verbal clues on whether or not a prospect is really into your conversation.
That’s a huge information gap, considering that 93% of communication is nonverbal.
Still, phone presentations play a key role in the selling process. There’s just no substitute for the convenience and efficiency that phone calls deliver. In some cases, for example, the telephone remains the most viable option for many companies that can’t afford their own field sales team or businesses whose target prospects are too far away.
That’s why it’s crucial to refine your phone-based presentation strategy. Conventional sales wisdom offers a ton of useful advice on substance and delivery that you should definitely pay attention to. But data to support (or disprove) these best practices are hard to come by—until now.
The data scientists at Gong, an AI-enabled language platform for improving sales team performance, crunched the numbers from over 25,500 sales calls earlier this year. Their analysis found some surprising things about many of the sales profession’s time-honored calling tactics. Among other findings, they uncovered several qualities that the best sales calls have in common.
Here’s a rundown of five actionable tips based on Gong’s study that you can (and should) apply to improve results from your phone-based sales presentations:
1) Listen 1.3 times more than you talk
This is prospecting 101, but salespeople seem to have forgotten this lesson. Gong’s research finds that the average sales rep takes up 65% to 75% of the total call time with prospects. Even more importantly, the study reveals that talk-to-listen ratio impacts win rates:
- The ideal talk-to-listen ratio for the most productive sales calls is 43:57.
- Increasing the prospect’s talk time from 22% to 33% significantly improves opportunity win rates.
The numbers speak for themselves. Let your prospects do more of the talking. Just listen.
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2) Talk about price 3 to 4 times, but build value first
Gong’s analysis also uncovers a strong correlation between the number of times pricing came up in a sales call and the likelihood of closing the deal. They find the sweet spot to be between 3 and 4 times:
- When reps mention pricing less than three times or more than four times in any given call, win rates decline.
- If price comes up three or four times in a call, that’s a buying signal.
Moreover, there’s the right time to talk about price in a sales call. High-yielding sales calls tend to bring up price-related discussions around the 40- to 49-minute mark. This indicates that top-performing reps build value before talking about price, while low-performing and average reps mention pricing throughout the call.
Related: Ditch that Pitch: The Case Against Selling to First-Time Prospects
3) Ask (11 to 14 questions) and you shall receive
In another analysis (this time involving 519,000 sales calls), Gong’s data science team concludes that there’s a clear relationship between the number of questions a rep asks and his chances of closing the deal.
- Asking 15 to 18 questions during a call is “only marginally more effective” than asking 7 to 10 questions.
- The most productive sales reps ask 11 to 14 questions in a sales call.
So, what type of questions should a rep ask? The research also identifies that questions about your prospect’s business pain points exert the most impact on win rates. Elementary. By that, you should read this later How to Use the 3 Levels of Pain Points for Better Sales Conversations.
4) Distinguish between caution and hesitation
Needless to say, prospects’ responses indicate a sales call’s likely outcome. But some remarks appear to be more telling than others, particularly the following replies to timeline questions:
- If a prospect uses “probably” in a response like “…probably in 2 weeks”, the forecasted time horizon is 73% accurate.
- Answers that resemble “”We need to figure out…” are negatively correlated with win rates.
Responses that indicate caution can imply that your prospect is seriously considering your offer. Responses that suggest hesitation, on the other hand, can mean a lack of interest.
Related: Using Social Signals to Spot Sales-Ready Leads
5) Use language that embraces and soothes
Every sales rep knows that their style and tone matter as much as the message itself. Gong’s findings seem to support this idea. Some specific words and phrases apparently influence a rep’s chances of closing the deal.
- Top-performing reps are 10 times more likely to emphasize collaboration than low performers.
- The most productive salespeople are 5 times more likely to use words and phrases that focus on mitigating risk than other reps.
In other words, reps who focus on collaboration and inspire confidence tend to close the most number of deals.
Related: How To Improve A Lagging Inside Sales Team
So there you have it, five practical ways to improve phone-based sales presentations backed by solid data. Most of you are probably already following some variations of these best practices, and the study findings cited here only serve to vindicate your calling methods. The most important results, of course, are those generated by your own campaigns. What other tips and tricks do you apply that are supported by hard numbers?