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Manners Maketh Man: Sales Phone Manners & Why You Need Them

4 min readJanuary 25, 2018

“Whatever dude.”

Just the other day, I answered our company’s general line with “Revenue.io, this is Kanwar how can I help you?” I was greeted by a prospecting sales rep on the other end. A rather disingenuous conversation followed, where I simply and repeatedly tried to gather who he was, where was he was calling from, and why he wanted to talk to one of my employees. The caller first said his call was expected, then said it wasn’t, then just wouldn’t tell me why he was calling. After we went back and forth a few times, he said “Whatever dude,” and hung up. Since he didn’t even tell me what company he was calling from, I had to pull it from the Caller ID.

I have to wonder if the call would’ve gone differently had he done a little research and realized that he reached the COO of the company. Regardless of titles and roles, proper phone manners are not only necessary in sales, but are expected no matter who you are and who you’re talking to.

92 percent of all customer interactions take place on the phone: Cold calls, demos, follow-ups, negotiations, deals, and customer service are all done via a call. Chances are, if you’re selling, it’s on the phone. That’s why it’s imperative that both you and your reps have polished phone manners. A lack of phone etiquette will not only frustrate your potential and current customers, but it can significantly impact your company. Here’s how…

Cost your Company Opportunities and Customers

When a rep is unclear, indirect, disingenuous, or downright rude, it will turn leads off of your company, possibly for good. If a negative conversation with a rep takes place during a lead’s initial contact with your company, it is likely they will form a bad first impression, and will disregard any further attempt at contact, effectively costing your organization a valuable lead. If a detrimental discussion occurs as part of an ongoing conversation, it can definitely sour a deal. Even if the reaction isn’t immediate, contacts can second guess advice coming from your company and make untrue assumptions, leading to a loss of potential revenue.

Negatively Reflects on Your Company’s Brand Image

Even if your products are truly the solutions on the market, an undesirable conversation can place your brand in a bad light. The wrong conversation can shift the perception of your brand that your marketing department has worked so hard to achieve, placing it behind your competitors. A mannerless conversation can also create a foundation for a confirmation bias, causing your leads to falsely justify and believe any negative point your competition says about you, fabricated or not.

Furthermore, in today’s close-knit industries, news may spread to other companies, or it can be carried into new positions, causing further loss of revenue in the future.

Cost Your Reps Their Jobs

If your organization does not support that particular sales strategy, and a rep has ruffled enough feathers, they may be asked to leave. This leads you without a full team, positions to fill, quota to hit, and now you have to spend more money and time hiring, onboarding, and ramping up a new rep.

How to Improve Phone Manners

The key is to ensure your reps are as honest, straightforward, clear, and concise as they can be. They should always know who they are talking to and work to solve their problems. Especially in smaller or start-up companies, you never know who will be picking up the phone. Instead of a secretary or receptionist, it may be the CEO or COO who just happens to answer the general line.

As a general framework, reps should:

  1. Research company and prospect beforehand. They should know the company, what they do, and the problems their lead is likely trying to solve.
  2. Be polite and well spoken. First impressions are clear and you catch more flies with honey.
  3. Make their introductions quick and clear. Be upfront about who they are and why they are calling. Purposely being unclear only confuses and frustrates.
  4. Respect the gatekeeper. You never know who will pick up the phone, and reps are dependent on those who answer to get their call or message through to the right person.
  5. Have honest conversations. Don’t make up answers to questions and don’t say they can fix things that they can’t.
  6. Ask questions and listen. An excellent way to get leads interested is to ask real, thought-provoking questions. Also, good questions make the leads do more talking.
  7. Always try to end the call in some sort of agreement. Whether it’s about a date for a demo, a future call, or that it’s just not a right fit.

But what if your rep is having a bad day? How can they leave behind the negativity when they pick up the phone?

First, reps must remember that they are the faces, and voices of the brand. They represent it and much act as such. After a bad call, our own SDRs suggest that reps simply take a break. Go for a walk, take a breath, listen to your favorite song, and refocus on the task at hand.

Jill Konrath suggests that they leave negativity behind. Turn everything from a negative experience into a learning experience. When something bad happens, make it something that you can learn from. Study why it happened, what resulted from it, and what could have been done differently.

At the end of it all, sometimes it’s just better to not pick up the phone. There are other channels for prospecting, whether it be email, social, etc., and all should be used in a well-balanced approach.