5 Tips on How to Sell Over the Phone (and Mistakes to Avoid)

Phone Sale Tips and Rookie Mistakes to Avoid

In this article, we cover tips and techniques on how to sell over the phone. Listed below are five phone sale techniques plus a BONUS tip that you can apply on your next sales call — TODAY!

1. Look for Interest Signals By Asking Discovery Questions

2. Practice Handling Objections to Get to The Truth

3. Stay In Control of the Call

4. Actively Listen to the Prospect

5. Present All Relevant Data Honestly

BONUS Phone Sales Tip: Discuss the Prospect’s Budget As Early As You Can

Let me ask you a question. Do you get excited when you receive a cold call? What about when you have to call into your cable, internet or phone provider?

The lack of coaching, amongst other factors, has directly contributed to a negative stigma with sales people to the point where we now prefer other methods of communication.  Most sales reps would rather communicate to potential clients through live chats or texts instead of speaking directly.

I’ll be the first to admit; I’ve made some terrible cold calls! I’ve also had my fair share of awful demos, discovery calls, and bad negotiation tactics. The good news is, I’ve learned from it all so you don’t have to go make those mistakes again.

Here are five phone sales tips on how to sell over the phone and how to avoid mistakes.

1. Look for Interest Signals By Asking Discovery Questions

Sales coaches and managers can give sales reps a list of the right questions to ask but they can’t listen for them. Experience can lend us a hand in knowing what to listen for but the faster we recognize the pain signals that go along with discovery questions, the better off we’ll be.

When you’re building a list of discovery questions, you should start with the end in mind.

How does this question align with your value prop? When you’re teaching your “Discovery Call 101” class, align your questions with possible answers from a prospect and the eventual reveal of the value proposition aligned with that question.

It should look something like this:

Discovery Question>Answer or Surface Level Pain Statement> Pain Statement>Value Proposition>Customer Story (if available).

This phone sales tip should help sales reps recognize why they’re asking that question and what to do afterward.

2. Practice Handling Objections to Get to The Truth

What’s an objection? Well, there are common objections, or “Buyer Scripts” like Jeb Blount alludes to in his book “Sales EQ”. And then there’s just about everything else a prospect says while they’re on the phone.

I’m in the camp that believes that just about everything that comes out of a prospect’s mouth is an objection.

  • What’s your pricing?
  • How long does it take to implement?
  • Is there a free trial?
  • I don’t have time to speak with you right now.

These are all objections!

Understand this:

The most effective salespeople understand that they aren’t necessarily overcoming objections as much as they are trying to get to the truth.

When you think of objection handling from that point of view, everything changes.

Buyer scripts such as, “I need to speak with my spouse/other decision makers”, “Call me back later”, and “I need to think about it” should all be answered with scripted objection handling techniques. You should know what works, recognize, and overcome these with ease.

Other objections during a sales phone call are often harder to recognize because we’re hungry to answer them.

For instance, “How long does it take to implement your solution” is an objection that should cause you to pause. Do we understand why the prospect is asking this question or are we making an assumption?

Use question reversal techniques to stay in control and get complete understanding of these types of questions.

The truth is uncomfortable and people would rather avoid conflict and tell you, “let me think about it” than telling you what’s stopping them from making a purchase.

Remember, getting the truth from potential clients is one of the phone sale techniques you should employ!

3. Stay In Control of the Call

In a shorter sales cycle, there are two types of calls reps can lose control in; inbound and outbound. This the first thing you need to know when learning how to sell over the phone.

When reps lose control of the call, they fail to do adequate discovery, spill the candy in the lobby (see video below), and waste precious leads.

Advice for Inbound Calls: Focus On the “Why?”

If you’ve ever taken an inbound call from your website, mailer or anything else, you might have heard this before.

“I was just on your website, and I just want to know how much this costs” or “I’m just looking for some information, can you tell me about ______?”

Should you just give the person pricing or the information that they want?


This is where a lot of reps lose control of the call.

You can control the call flow through the questions you ask and with that, can make the call flow predictable, and in your favor.

Say something like, “It sounds like _____ is important to you and I’ll make sure we cover that. Is it ok if I ask you a few questions first to get an understanding of what you’re looking for and then we can go over ________?”

If you can control the beginning of the sales phone call, you can set the tone and an agenda without pushing the prospect off the phone.

Yes, they do want pricing and information and all of those things, but you have to build value and give context before giving everything away, or they’ll just hang up and call the next place.

Advice for Outbound Calls: Be Human

Being human is something that goes beyond phone sale techniques, especially on an outbound call. Taking or staying in control of an outbound call is even more difficult. And there’s a lot more room for mistakes here.

The reason is balance. You have to balance your talk time, jar someone enough to get their attention, and retain their attention even though you just interrupted their flow.

The best way to do that is to get them involved in the conversation. If I’m repeating myself, then there’s a theme here. Ask questions!

Take time to build rapport with your prospects and always have a good handle on your time, purpose, agenda, and outcomes. If you can do this in a short and relevant way, you’ll smash your first 10 seconds and remain in control of your outbound cold call.

4. Actively Listen to the Prospect

Have you ever tried explaining your problem to someone who doesn’t get it?

Prospects feel the same frustration when they don’t feel as though as if you are really listening and understanding to what they are telling you. You need to actively listen to people as they express their pains and needs. When a sales rep talks too much, a prospect’s business and pain points won’t be well understood.

Active listening to the client is a sales technique many sales reps forget to use.

Sales calls would result in more wins if you allowed the prospect to talk more as you listen without losing control over the conversation. Whenever you talk too much, the prospect starts to lose interest and feel as if they are not a priority since they are not being heard enough.

To show that you were listening, you can use a technique that involves paraphrasing the prospect’s answer.

Don’t confuse this with merely repeating everything the prospect says verbatim, however. Paraphrasing is powerful because if there was any confusion in the communication, it would be clarified at this point. Avoid making assumptions since you are already having a conversation.

According to InsightSquared, “Selling is about discovering the prospect’s needs by asking them and actively listening to them. Have a joint plan to help them achieve their needs better, faster, and more cost-effectively than anyone else could help them.”

Therefore, you need to ask questions that relate to the prospect’s needs, then work out an actionable plan for your prospect.

The first time you engage in a conversation with a prospect, be sure to encourage them to open up about their business problems by asking discovery questions — then shut up and listen. Learn from the answer and address that specific need.

Sometimes answers may not be to your satisfaction, and that’s okay. Keep digging for additional details by asking open-ended questions.

5. Present All Relevant Data Honestly

A prospect will need all available information about a product or service to make an informative decision. Hiding some details from a potential customer may sound like a good idea.

This is a MAJOR no-no! 

What you forget is that once the prospect figures out the truth, their faith in you immediately vanishes.

Failing to be honest kills your credibility. Whatever else you tell the prospect will no longer be trusted.

If you are in a position to offer a service, feel free to make it known to the prospect. But if the service you offer does not solve the specific problem your prospect is encountering, it would be best if you come clean as quickly as possible.

Similarly, if the product you are selling does not meet a prospect’s needs, tell them upfront. Being straightforward will help you gain trust and respect from potential customers, and you will create a long-term relationship with your prospect, resulting in a better business environment.

During a sales phone call, understandably articulate your product’s value according to the current sales situation.

BONUS Tip: Discuss the Prospect’s Budget As Early As You Can

The sales process is not all about money.

Nonetheless, you cannot afford to keep hush-hush about your prospect’s budget.

A vital phone sales tip is asking how much money a prospect intends to spend. If you don’t find out the prospect’s budget, you will not be able to prepare a reasonable offer. Therefore, you may fail to pitch the product or service successfully.

Make sure you have an open conversation about money.

This information will eliminate the “ifs” and “maybes” in your future work with the client. It may feel as though you are inquisitive, but it needs to be done. You must be aware of the prospect’s financial situation. You don’t want to end up having a lead who cannot pay for the product or service, do you?

Avoid wasting your time and the prospect’s by analyzing the cost and  the prospect can afford it.

Remember to use a friendly tone that will not result in potential opportunities going cold on you.

Use These Tips Consistently on How to Sell Over the Phone

The best way to improve is to keep practicing and approach it as a learning experience. Use these tips on how to sell over the phone faithfully and consistently. I’ll leave you with a quote from the famous Thomas Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth.

“Why do we fall, Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up”

Keep crushing it!

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