7 Phone Skills Reps Must Master to Get a Black Belt in Inside Sales

In karate, there are a lot of skills that you need to master before gaining a black belt. You might be better at breaking boards with a high kick than anyone on the planet, but that skill alone is not enough . Sales is kind of like karate in the sense that there are a lot of individual skills that must be mastered in order to become a master. Martial artists have their dojos, but for sales development reps (SDRs), that dojo is the telephone.

karate kidAs a sales sensei, it’s your job to help inside sales reps improve their phone skills. In one of my favorite all-time films, The Karate Kid, master sensei Mr. Miyagi begins teaching his student Daniel Larusso karate skills one at a time. In fact, Daniel-san doesn’t even know that, when Mr. Miyagi is teaching him how to wax his car, he is actually teaching him a vital karate skill. And just like Mr. Miyagi, you can help your reps achieve mastery by honing in on one call skill at a time.

Here is a list of seven crucial phone skills that all inside sales reps must master in order to achieve mastery.

Product Expertise

If a rep is going to sell a product, that rep should have a deep understanding of how that product works. In B2B tech sales, this often entails understanding what’s involved in implementation, possible integration points and more. The better a rep understands what she is selling, the easier time she’ll have conveying that product’s value. Begin by making sure that reps have their 30-second elevator pitch down. But then go deeper by ensuring that they truly are an expert in what they’re selling. This is key, because people buy from experts not novices.

Qualification

Reps need to be able to quickly identify whether a lead is potentially a good fit. This entails asking the right questions to ascertain a lead’s budget, needs and other factors in order to establish suitability. Help reps understand which questions to ask prospective clients based on roles. Using buyer personas can help train reps to tailor messaging to specific buyer roles.

According to Andy Paul, author of must-read sales books Amp Up Your Sales and Zero Time Selling, “If the prospect isn’t in general agreement with your estimates of the value that they receive from your products or services then, then you don’t have a qualified prospect.”

Rapport

We buy from salespeople we like. If a rep sounds like a robot or is just pitching a mile a minute without building rapport, it can diminish that rep’s ability to succeed. However, some reps spend too much time building rapport and not enough time talking business. In a fast-paced sales environment, reps probably shouldn’t be spending fifteen minutes talking about their March Madness picks with a prospect—even if that prospect is a fan of college hoops.

Tone

A rep’s overall tone should blend eloquence, authority and affability. If reps are stumbling, sound detached or seem timid, they will need some guidance. Try doing practice calls. Your whole team can even get together and offer reps feedback on tone. This skill takes a while to master, so don’t expect your rep to sound like Tony Robbins overnight.

Conveying Value

Why is your product valuable to a particular prospect? Being able to convey value requires getting inside the heads of customers. Train reps to see your offering through the eyes of customers. Again, using buyer personas can help reps understand how to tailor messaging to buyers in specific roles.

Overcoming Objections

Reps will nearly always be hit with various objections. Maybe a prospect doesn’t have the budget set aside. Perhaps they need to get approval from other team members. Sure, some prospects aren’t suitable, but for those that are, it’s important that reps are adroit at handling objections.

To quote TOPO analyst Bryan Gonzalez “In prospecting, the vast majority of objections are simply knee-jerk reactions from busy people who don’t yet see the value in working with you.” The good news is that a lot of objections can be overcome by communicating your value early and starting small. According to Gonzalez “Don’t sell the product, sell the next step…If they ask a product question, recommend that you show them in the next meeting.”

Defines and Achieves Objectives

Every sales conversation should have an objective. Sometimes the objective is to schedule a demo. Other times it’s to simply qualify a prospect in or out. Inside sales reps must be aware of what their objective is for 100% of their calls. And then, they must steadily move conversations toward that objective. This is perhaps the most important of all sales skills to master, because it’s what moves deals forward.

In order to help you train your sales reps to be “black belts” in inside sales, we’ve created the Ultimate Call Evaluation Checklist. This checklist will help you identify where reps are excelling and where they need improvement. So that you can help your reps master every skill they need to be master salespeople. 

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About the Author

Jesse Davis

Jesse Davis is a sales and marketing strategist and Sr. Content Marketing Manager at RingDNA. Over the past decade, Davis has honed his business communications skills working as an inside sales manager, business writer and agency marketer. He is a proponent of utilizing platform technology and evidence-based methodologies to optimize creative campaigns, marketing ROI and sales performance.

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