Every inside sales rep needs to build a skillset that enables them to successfully sell over the phone.
They need to learn how to trigger interesting conversations, come across as experts, and build trust with prospects with whom they have never even shaken hands.
- 1. Do Your Research
- 2. Know Which Questions to Ask
- 3. Show Your Knowledge of the Industry
- 4. Avoid the Anchoring Bias
- 5. Provide Value
- 6. Work on Your Elevator Pitch
- 7. Use Time to Your Advantage
- 8. Build Rapport
- 9. Use Psychology
- 10. Be Swift and Responsive
- 11. Resolve Objections
- 12. Be Persistent (but Know When to Quit)
- 13. Keep an Eye on the Competition
- A Door-Opening Skill
In this post, we give you 13 inside sales tips that you can use to continue progressing towards sales mastery.
1. Do Your Research
Before placing a call or sending an email to a prospect, you should have already researched them and their company.
When you understand the context within which the person is working, you can better frame your conversations.
For instance, if you reach out to a VP of Marketing and speak with them as though they had responsibilities far below their pay-grade, you will fail to achieve much success in building rapport.
There are two main steps to any quality prospecting research.
1) Research the Company
Check out the company’s mission statement and vision, and think about how your product or service can help them achieve those goals.
Also, head over to the company website and jot down the main traits of the company:
- Company size
- Number of employees
- Who are their clients?
To dig deeper, you can skim through their blog and their social media accounts. Figure out what they are talking about, what matters most to them, and any big events they have coming up.
2) Research the Prospect
You want to learn the goals, motivations, and pain points of the person to whom you are reaching out. That way, you can talk about features and services that are relevant to their job duties.
Sometimes, of course, you won’t learn the desires of your prospect until a call.
However, in the meantime, you can find some information that will help you make educated guesses about their needs.
For instance, if you know that they are the VP of Sales of a 100-person sales team, you can infer that they care about the financial success of the sales team.
Conversely, the day to day operations of their business development representatives won’t be at the top of their list of priorities.
Besides their titles and responsibilities, you also want to figure out who they will be during this sales cycle.
Are they a decision-maker or an influencer? Are you selling them on buying the solution or on introducing you to their manager?
Pro Tip: Build an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) that will help you make educated guesses about your potential buyers.
All of this intel will help you better form your questions and conversation points during your outreach, thereby bolstering your chances of landing another meeting.
2. Know Which Questions to Ask
The last thing you want is a pipeline filled with unqualified leads who are bad fits and will never actually buy your solution.
To avoid this, and to give your time to the high-potential buyers, you must pre-qualify with the right questions.
Here are some examples of questions to ask potential leads.
1) How Did You Learn About Us?
If you have an inbound lead, this question does two things.
One, it gives you insight into where your leads are coming from. Second, it informs you of what knowledge the lead has about your company.
For instance, if they came in through a blog post about automating documentation, you know they are interested in finding better ways to deal with paperwork, so you can focus on that in your efforts to connect with them.
2) What Are You Looking for in a New Vendor or Agency?
This will tell you whether or not your solution meets their expectations — something you should learn earlier rather than later in the sales cycle.
Otherwise, you risk unknowingly wasting your time and theirs.
For example, if they want a solution they can implement within a week, but yours takes a few months, you need to tell them that from the outset. That type of honesty will also help you build a trusting relationship with them.
3) What Is Your Budget?
If your solution is out of their price range, they most likely won’t be able to purchase it. It’s best not to chase these prospects.
Getting that question out of the way quickly will save your time, as well as theirs, enabling you to pursue more lucrative opportunities. Let them leave and reach out to them another time.
3. Show Your Knowledge of the Industry
If you were buying a car, would you buy from someone who didn’t know the difference between a sedan and a minivan? Probably not.
People want to buy from experts. In their eyes, an expert is more likely to sell them the solution that will help them accomplish their goals.
Prospects in the B2B space want to buy from someone who understands how their business works.
So, it pays to come across as an expert in both your industry and your solution. To do so, try these tactics:
1) Read Up
Subscribe to newsletters, blogs, and industry publications in your field. Also, buy some books.
In conversation with prospects, you can drop tidbits of knowledge you have about the industry, thereby signaling to them your expertise.
2) Adopt the Physician’s Mindset
Do you know that pensive look doctors have when you go in for a consultation? That’s what you should go for. Doctors try to understand the problem before providing a diagnosis and treatment.
To do this in sales meetings, ask thoughtful questions, and listen attentively to the answers.
Follow it up by asking clarifying questions to ensure that you really grasp what they are trying to tell you.
3) Share Challenges You Have Heard About
Discuss the challenges that other customers have faced in the industry. This shows the prospect that you have spoken with and helped many businesses like theirs.
The best is when you name a challenge that they are facing themselves. They will react and go: “That’s the worst!”
This will be a great jumping-off point for a conversation.
Related: Inside VS Outside Sales
4. Avoid the Anchoring Bias
Anchoring bias is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to use first impressions to create further judgments.
For instance, if a company has 100 employees, you might immediately guess that it is profitable. However, that estimate could be incorrect.
Always avoid making unsupported assumptions about a prospect or their company, as this can hurt your rapport and send you harping on some feature or service that is irrelevant to them.
For example, you might assume from the title that the VP of Marketing is in charge of managing the marketing team. Therefore, during your demo, you might show the VP all of the cool workflow management tools they can use.
Meanwhile, the VP is confused, bored, and waiting to see the reporting components.
Even if you think you know a lot about your buyers based on your previous experience and buyer personas, make sure to bring up the most important issues in conversation, just in case.
Say, “A lot of the VPs of Marketing we talk with are in charge of managing their team’s work. Is that the case for you as well?”
By framing the question in this way, you elicit information while also showing your experience in the industry.
5. Provide Value
More than anything, prospects want to work with someone that is going to improve the way they do business. So, from the beginning, you want to make them feel like your main priority is helping them find a solution to their problems.
That means you should attempt to provide value since the initial contact.
Compliment their promotion, inform them about a new solution to a problem they’ve been having, or, best of all, give them your full attention and take an interest in their work.
From then on, in each interaction, you should continue delivering some form of value.
Your follow-up emails could include blog posts about something they had mentioned. If they are a sports fan, you could even send them an article about their favorite team.
And when it’s finally time to present your solution, one of the best ways to show value is by making your presentation interesting.
Do this by telling customer-success stories.
When you share ways in which clients have used your product to improve their businesses, your prospect will become excited about seeing the same benefits.
6. Work on Your Elevator Pitch
A classic sales presentation is usually a lengthy conversation with a prospect. Nevertheless, sometimes, whether you are at a trade show or placing a cold call, you just don’t have the time to deliver a long pitch.
Early on, you have earned the right to only a few minutes of the prospect’s attention. That is where elevator pitches come in handy.
Elevator pitches quickly sum up the value of your solution.
They inform the prospect about 3 things:
- The benefits of the solution
- The ask itself.
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
How You Will Improve Their Business
Don’t confuse benefits with features. Benefits are the impacts your solution has on your clients’ business.
In other words, the benefits are the result of using your product’s features.
Example Benefit: “Marketers using our product see a 32% uptick in lead generation. And those leads are high-quality, as evidenced by the 22% average increase in quarterly revenue.”
This is probably the most important part of your elevator pitch, as it tells the client what’s in it for them.
How Your Solution Stands Out From the Competition
Your competitors are surely selling similar products or services. So, you need to tell prospects why they should buy from you and not from your competition.
Example Differentiator: “Unlike most of the property management software in the industry, which provides tools that are a thousand miles wide but an inch thick, ours is designed specifically to help you manage engineering work. “
In other words, your pitch has to be specific and focus on what makes your product unique.
The Ask: Your Call to Action
Most of the time in B2B sales, your goal will be booking another meeting with the prospect, during which you will go more in-depth on your product.
Example of The Ask: “Since you are interested, would you be open to a meeting sometime next week where we can go more in-depth? “
This takes the pressure off the prospect of making the decision immediately, but it prevents them from forgetting about you.
Pro Tip: If you are cold calling and they say no to a meeting, don’t be afraid to politely ask again. Mike Weinberg, Author of “New Sales Simplified”, recommends asking for the meeting 3 times before calling it a loss.
Remember, this part comes after the prospect responds to your benefits and differentiator.
7. Use Time to Your Advantage
When prospecting for new business, try using time to your advantage. There are certain times when calling and emailing are most effective.
Research shows that the best time to make a cold call is 10:00 AM.
In a survey conducted by phoneburner.com, they found that 15.53% of cold calls at 10:00 AM receive answers, which is 3% better than the second-best time, 2:00 PM — which clocked in at 15.01%.
Often, the best time to place cold calls is when you are most energized and alert, as long as that is between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM and outside of lunchtime.
If you’re at the top of your game from 9 AM to 11 AM, schedule your call block for then. However, if you are a demon in the mornings, make your calls from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.
What is most important is that you stick to a schedule that enables you to perform at your best.
The 10×10 Method
Paula White, the award-winning Director of Inside Sales at Bound Tree Medical, believes that all salespeople should make 10 calls before 10:00 AM.
Her reasoning is that you should hammer out the most important tasks of the day early on before you are flustered by emails or other administrative tasks that pop up.
For those who prefer to tackle things at the start of their day, this can be quite effective.
It has the same mental benefits as making your bed every morning. Through small wins, you build up positive momentum that will help carry you through the rest of the day.
Now, the best time to send an email is 1:00 PM. According to Yesware’s study of hundreds of thousands of emails, those sent at 1:00 PM had the highest reply rates, with 10:00 AM taking the number 2 spot.
Since every market is different, it’s a good idea to run some tests of your own to see which times work best for your prospects.
8. Build Rapport
When prospects begin to know you and like you, trust follows closely behind. And trust leads to purchases.
So, building rapport is critical. And here are some great ways to do it.
Show Genuine Interest in Them
People like to talk about themselves: their ideas, their feelings, and their work. Give them the opportunity to do this by asking questions and listening. These questions don’t always have to be business-related.
If you found that your prospect used to be in sales but switched to marketing, ask about it!
Say: “I was checking out your LinkedIn and saw you used to be in sales but switched over to marketing. I’m curious – what inspired you to make that move?”
They will gladly answer. Life transitions like those are always filled with great stories.
This piece of advice is harder to implement than it sounds. We live in a world where people often find it more important to “appear” than to “be”.
Expensive watches signal our success to those across the bar. Constant smiling and joking belie any inner turmoil. Resumes are often jam-packed with hyperbole and exaggeration.
It’s not that humans are innately deceitful or obsessed with the opinions of others.
It’s just that, well sometimes, it seems society will only reward us with payment, respect, and, often even love, if we come across as incredibly impressive.
Occasionally, we cannot help but aim to be what we think others want us to be.
Remember, a sales meeting isn’t a dinner party with a new fiancé who is a member of English royalty.
Don’t be afraid to admit your faults and your shortcomings. You can let your quirky, or nerdy personality shine through. Tell a funny story about your kid’s pizza party or about how you overcooked the thanksgiving turkey.
It will make it easier for the prospect to relate to you.
When you let your prospects into your world, your true world, not a fabricated existence of perfection, they will start to trust you more, and rapport will blossom.
Find Common Ground
People like others who are similar to them.
Don’t force it, but if you can find common ground such as a shared interest in US history, a favorite TV show, or an opinion about a movement in the industry, dive into it through conversation.
9. Use Psychology
There are some simple psychological tactics you can use to influence your prospects. Use these responsibly, and for good, not evil!
This tactic was popularized by FBI Negotiator, Chris Voss. It’s meant to get the prospect talking so that they reveal information to you, such as pain points or goals.
Do it by repeating in a questioning tone the last few words they said, like so:
Prospect: Yeah, our team has been super busy the last few months.
You: The last few months?
Prospect: Yeah, we recently took on a few more big clients.
You: Oh, really, some big clients?
This also signals to prospects that you are truly interested in them and what they have to say.
Leverage Loss Aversion
People dislike losing more than they like gaining the equivalent amount.
For instance, a client might be apathetic about potentially gaining 100 dollars a month in revenue. However, if you framed it as losing those $100 of revenue by not buying the solution, you might get more of a reaction out of them.
Also, mention how they will miss out on opportunities that their competitors will seize.
Show Social Proof
Have you ever been contemplating buying an item from an online store and noticed a little notification that announces “16 people currently have this in their cart”?
That’s there because smart marketers know that social proof has an effect on us. When we see someone else using a product, we are more likely to believe in its value.
So, showcase the love others have for your business.
Do this by mentioning or displaying any client testimonials. You can also name drop some reputable clients in the industry.
10. Be Swift and Responsive
Being swift doesn’t mean you have to answer immediately. Customers understand that you are busy. However, it does help build trust when you respond to customer queries in a timely and effective manner.
Stick to your regular rhythms of communication so that they don’t think you are ghosting them.
If both of you respond to each other within a day, then stick with that pattern. Make sure you let them know if you’re planning to change it.
Maybe tell them you are trying to batch your emailing into specific hours of the day to cut back on task-switching fatigue.
Now, besides being quick, you also need to provide valuable answers to their questions.
You need to give them exactly what they are looking for. That way, you can help them move through the buying process.
So, when they say they need some help selling your service internally, be sure to get clarity on what they need. Do they need data, case studies, ROI analyses, or all of it? Or do they need you to take a meeting with other members of the team?
Once you figure out exactly what they want, you can provide it. This attention to detail also foreshadows what it will be like to work with you when they become proper clients.
11. Resolve Objections
Objections are part of the sales process. Uncovering them is actually a good thing.
Once you identify the roadblocks that are holding up the sale, you can deal with them accordingly.
This is much better than your prospects keeping their doubts to themselves and giving up on the purchase altogether.
The most effective way to overcome any objection is called the LAER Method. It helps you uncover the true reason behind their reluctance to buy.
For instance, “We’re too busy” could mean “We aren’t sure if we will have enough time to train our staff on the software.”
Before handling any objection, you must know the underlying doubt at work.
Here is how it works in action.
- Listen: First you want to actively listen to their objection, and truly understand it. Only then can you even begin to think about how to resolve it?
- Acknowledge: Be sure to acknowledge the objection. Show them you are paying attention to their needs. You could say, “I completely understand why you might feel this way. Implementation is usually a big concern for our clients before they buy.”
- Explore: Ask questions to dig more into the objection and figure out what is causing them to feel this way, as well as what matters to them most. Going with the previous example, you might ask, “What is it about implementation that concerns you?” or, “What would you need from us to make implementation easier on you?”
- Repeat or Respond: If you still don’t fully understand the nature of their objection, keep repeating the process, but if you do, respond with how you plan to solve it. If the prospect is worried their team won’t use the solution, say: “We can provide you with a customer success rep to give your team individual training sessions.”
This method, based on understanding, should help you overcome most objections that come your way. It will also help you build a relationship with your prospect.
12. Be Persistent (but Know When to Quit)
Clients live busy lives, and moving the sale forward isn’t always their number one priority, no matter how amazing your offering is. So, you have to politely remind them about the deal and continue to ask them to take the next step.
Following-up is key to winning new business: most deals close only after the 5th call with the prospect.
For instance, imagine that you recently gave a prospect a demo.
Let’s say they seemed interested, but it has been a few days and they still aren’t responding to your email about scheduling another call to go over the pricing.
To make that meeting happen, you have to keep following-up.
Of course, while persistence is crucial, sometimes you just have to let the prospect go.
If they seem to be uninterested or a bad fit, save your time and spend it on prospects who are more likely to buy from you.
Still, remember, don’t give up too early. If you need some help formulating follow-up emails that inspire action, check out these follow-up email examples.
13. Keep an Eye on the Competition
If you know what your competition is doing, you have the tools to beat them. These face-offs will happen often, as prospects will often shop around and look at a few different solutions to solve their problem.
For instance, if a prospect is checking out Outreach’s sales technology, they are probably also attending a demo with Salesloft.
So, you need to be able to explain to your prospects how your solution differs from that of the competition. To do so, you need to understand the competition’s product or service, and why yours is better.
Not only will this win you more business, but it will also help you come across as a knowledgeable industry expert who keeps a finger on the pulse of the industry.
To win out against the competition you can:
- Build a competitive playbook: For your top competitors, write out a few reasons why clients choose to work with you over them. To fill this in, ask your clients why they chose you over the competition.
- Frequently check their website for product updates: Be on the lookout for new features or services they add. This helps you in conversations with clients, as you avoid misspeaking about a competitor and their service.
- Watch their LinkedIn for strategy updates: A lot of the time companies will share their new marketing or sales strategies on LinkedIn. If they do, study it, and figure out how to beat it.
If you fail to explain how you differentiate from the competition, the buyer’s decision will be based solely on price.
So, make sure you can nail the answer to the question: “Why should we pick you over Company X?”
A Door-Opening Skill
As an inside sales rep, you have a knack for building relationships over the phone.
This is a valuable and transferable skill, which you will find yourself using in many aspects of your life, even outside of your current sales position.
Whether you are networking, trying to start your own business, or calling your grandma, solid phone skills will bring about the best possible outcomes.
So, on your next call with a prospect, try out some of these methods, and enjoy the thrill of forming a relationship and helping them achieve their goals.