12 Reasons Why You're Failing at Phone Sales Techniques

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

You're more than a year into your position as a sales development rep, and you're starting to realize something.

Something that maybe kinda hurts to admit.

You're not doing as well as you'd hoped.

Sure, you've made some progress, but you're still not meeting your sales targets each month, even though most of your colleagues are.

What gives?

If this describes your situation pretty well, then it's likely you need to do some work on your phone sales techniques.

Don't stress; we've got you covered.

In this article, we'll discuss:

  • The difference between outbound and inbound phone sales techniques
  • The 12 main reasons you're not making an impact on your phone sales calls
  • 10 of the best phone sales techniques to deliver success in the coming quarters

Sound good?

Thought so. Let's get started.

Introduction to Phone Sales Techniques

Intro to phone sales

What are phone sales techniques anyway?

Basically, we're talking about any kind of tactic or strategy you employ when you make phone sales calls.

Maybe you're going to stand up while you're calling, or you've got a set of qualifying questions to ask. Both of these are sales techniques, and they're actually two of the best phone sales techniques we're going to discuss shortly.

"Okay, so phone sales techniques are just whatever it is you're doing while on the phone? And why exactly should I care about learning new techniques?"

Well, here's why:

  1. 50% of your prospects aren't going to be a great fit (so knowing the best phone sales techniques will help you determine this faster)
  2. As much as 35-50% of sales go to the company that responds to a lead first (highlighting the importance of great inbound phone sales techniques)
  3. It takes an average of 8 phone sales calls to reach a prospect (so you'll need to be relentless)

As you can see, those who work hard on developing the best phone sales techniques are inevitably the ones who win, and the ones who meet their sales quota month after month.

So, what do these techniques look like?

Types of Phone Sales Techniques

Before we discuss the various phone sales techniques you should be working on, it's important to understand that these skills differ based on whether you're taking an inbound or an outbound approach to sales.

Outbound Phone Sales Techniques

Outbound essentially means you're hunting down prospects (rather than them coming to you), and it involves a lot of cold calling.

As a result, it's important to be mindful of the fact that your prospects aren't expecting your call, that they're busy doing whatever it is that they do, and that you're interrupting them.

Make sure to thank them for being generous with their time, and be sure not to waste it (that is, get to the point).

In fact, studies have shown that prospects are generally happy to listen for around 30 seconds. Any more than that, and you're greatly reducing your chances of booking a meeting.

Inbound Phone Sales Techniques

Inbound phone sales techniques require a slightly different approach.

With the inbound methodology, leads are coming to you, influenced by the various marketing activities your colleagues have invested in.

But that doesn't necessarily mean they're buyers, at least not yet.

It's important for inbound teams to recognize that when they're making phone sales calls that the person on the other end of the line still needs to be nurtured and convinced that your product or service is the right fit for them.

Inbound phone sales techniques should be focused on educating the prospect, and moving them down the pipeline in a manner that suits their needs.

12 Reasons Why You Are Failing at Phone Sales Techniques

1. You're not spending enough time listening

Phone sales failure reasons

Here's something you might not be aware of:

The average salesperson spends about 52% of their time on phone sales calls talking, and 48% of the time listening.

This increases to 66% for the lowest performers, and decreases to 43% for high performers.

The lesson?

If you're underperforming, it's likely that you're spending too much time talking, and not enough time listening to the needs of your prospects.

2. You're not selling value

Customers aren't actually that interested in the features your product offers.

Unfortunately, that's where most low performers focus.

What prospects are interested in is the value that your product brings. That is, what is the impact of those features, and what benefits do they provide to users?

Selling on value not only speaks directly to the desires of your prospects, but preempts objections around price.

3. You're speaking with the wrong person

Much of the time, when you call into an organization, the person who answers the phone isn't the person making the decision to purchase.

This can be tricky to determine.

For example, let's say you sell a software solution that helps salespeople prospect better.

You call in, and speak with a salesperson, whom you believe would be the ideal user for your product.

And you might be right, but they aren't necessarily the person holding the purse strings. In this case, you actually need to speak to the sales manager or possibly even the business owner, depending on the size of the company you're selling into.

4. You're calling at the wrong time

Calling at the wrong time

What times of day are you scheduling your sales calls?

Are you calling first thing on a Monday? Last thing on a Friday? 11am on a Tuesday (the most popular time for meetings)?

Most popular meeting times


If you're struggling to connect with prospects, then there's a high likelihood that you're scheduling calls at the wrong time of day.

5. You're not following up

Let's see if you can figure out the problem with these two statistics:

  1. 80% of sales require five or more follow up calls
  2. 44% of sales reps give up after making just a single follow up call

Pretty concerning, no?

If you're not following up with your prospects consistently and relentlessly, this might be a major contributing factor to low performance.

6. You're targeting the wrong prospects

We discussed early that around half of your prospects aren't going to be a fit for your company.

Now, not everyone is going to be a customer, sure.

And there are some things (like budget, or minimum seats) that restrict your ability to sell, and that you can't figure out until you get on the phone.

However, many reps take a spray and pray approach rather than investing additional time in lead research and sales intelligence to determine whether they're targeting the correct customer, and this might be a reason why your phone sales techniques are failing you.

7. You're not building rapport

Too many sales agents try to go straight in for the kill.

Here's the thing:

People love to buy, but they hate to be sold to.

If you can build a genuine rapport with the person on the other end of the line — ideally based on something not-so business-related (sports, for example) — then you'll have a better chance of closing the deal.

If you're not spending time building rapport before asking for the sale, you might be shooting yourself in the foot.

8. You're not asking for the close

On the other hand (or is that the other foot? The one you haven't shot?), you might be letting your phone sales techniques fail you because you're not actually asking for the sale.

The highest performers in the sales arena don't wait for customers to say, "Okay, I want to buy."

They listen for signals that show the customer is ready (for example, they meet your qualification criteria and have an immediate need), and then ask for the sale: "So, Mr. Customer, shall we draw up a contract?"

9. You're badmouthing your competitors

Yes, you have competition.

And yes, you want everyone to know how much better your product or service is than theirs.

But you shouldn't go about this by crapping on others. It leaves customers with a sense of distrust, and it's not a great way to start a working relationship.

That doesn't mean you can't speak about your customers, or that you need to talk them up, necessarily. Just don't actively criticize them.

Allow the value and benefit of the thing you're selling do all the talking.

10. You're not using enough emotion

Not using enough emotions

Part of the sales rep's job is to get the prospect excited about a potential purchase, and about the myriad benefits they'll receive once they say yes and get the deal done.

Those who aren't using enough emotion on sales calls (whether it be excitement about benefits or dismay at the challenges your prospect is facing) will find they perform less well than emotive sellers.

11. You're not doing enough research

How much time are you spending researching each prospect before you jump on the phone?

Chances are, not very much.

We've already discussed the benefit of additional research from the perspective of proper audience identification and targeting, but having a better understanding of what it is your prospect does, and how their business operates, will give you a deeper insight into what might convince them to do a deal with you.

12. You're not building a calling list

Our last common phone sales fail is not spending the time to build a call list for each week.

Many agents take a fairly blase approach to calling.

They come in each day, look for a potential prospect, take down some notes, and then call. And then they start the whole process again.

Effective sales reps break this process down into two parts:

  1. Prospecting, research, and note-taking
  2. Active calling

If you're not building a calling list, you're making your calling sessions (if you're even having them) less effective, and forfeiting the potential benefits of using a progressive dialer to speed up the process.

10 Results-Driven Best Phone Sales Techniques

Best phone sales techniques

1. Ask discovery questions

One of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your phone calls is to focus on asking discovery questions

Discovery questions are inquisitive, explorative, and allow you to understand a prospect's suitability for your common.

Good examples of discovery questions include:

  • So tell me about your company
  • So tell me about your role at XYZ company
  • Tell me about your goals in that role
  • What major challenges do you face in your job right now?
  • What would you say is the source of that problem?
  • What makes solving that problem a priority right now?
  • What would an ideal outcome look like for you?
  • Tell me about what you're doing to solve this problem currently
  • How would you go about making the decision?

2. Listen more, talk less

We've already discussed the idea that talking less during a sales phone conversation leads to stronger conversion, and gives you a better shot at understanding customer needs and booking a demonstration meeting.

But how little is little enough?

Well, you should start by making sure your conversations are question-focused, by using the open-ended discovery questions we've just discussed.

Then, you can employ a people intelligence tool like Gong to give you some really powerful insights into the quality of your sales conversations.

Gong can listen in to calls from all agents on your team, and give you great data on performance.

For example, it can tell you how long the best performers spend talking, and the main topics they cover (or don't) on a sales call.



3. Practice objection handling

Newbie sales reps (and non-sales normies) tend to think the sales process looks like something like this:

  • You call a prospect
  • You ask them a few questions
  • You tell them why your product or service is so great
  • You ask them if they want to buy it
  • They say yes

Us more experienced salespeople know that in between each step, there's a whole bunch of "No thanks", "Yes, but…", and "It's too expensive" going on.

These are called sales objections, and your ability to handle objections (or even preempt them) determines your success on the phone.

Here are a few examples of common examples, and how you can go about handling them.


Objection Handling Technique

It's too expensive.

I understand, a lot of our current customers said they same thing initially. But considering the problem we've just discussed, and the cost of that problem on a yearly basis, do you think this investment can be justified?

That problem isn't important for us right now.

Okay, can you tell me a bit about what your priorities are currently?

I don't understand your product.

Sure, okay. What aspects of the product aren't clear to you? Perhaps I could schedule a call with one of our sales engineers to discuss.

We're happy as we are.

That's great! Can you tell me how you're currently solving [specific problem you solve]?

I'm busy right now.

Totally understand [name]. I definitely don't want to take up too much of your time, especially as I gather [problem you solve] is causing a time suck right now too. Can we schedule a call to discuss perhaps?

As you can see from the above, the main objective when handling objections is not to disagree with their point of view, but to express that you understand where they're coming from, and then ask another question to keep the conversation rolling.

4. Sell benefits, not features

The greatest sales reps sell benefits, not just features.

That means that you're describing what it is that your product can achieve for your customer, and the impact that has on their lives, rather than spouting of technical specifications.

A great method for feature-selling is to use the FAB method:

  • Feature
  • Action
  • Benefit

In this framework, you describe a feature of your product (what its called), elaborate slightly on the action (how it works), and then discuss the benefits afforded to the customer.

Let's look at a few examples.





Automatically takes care of mundane and repeatable tasks.

Saves time and frees you up to work on more important aspects of your job.

Local presence dialling

Make it appear as if you're calling from the customers' locality.

Improves your phone call answer rate.

VoIP phone

Allows you to make phone calls over the internet.

Improves your efficiency by enabling click-to-call from your computer and connecting directly with your sales CRM.

Drip campaigns

Schedule emails and SMS messages to send at predetermined times.

Improves consistency across messaging and ensures customers are filled up on a regular basis.

5. Use prospecting calls to identify key decision-makers

Salespeople speak a lot about the need to speak with key decision-makers (KDMs).

But it can be tricky to actually identify who this person is.

A great tactic for getting to the right person is to split your sales calls between selling calls and prospecting calls.

Prospecting calls will be entirely about finding out who you need to speak to.

Your intention isn't to sell. Ideally, you'll connect with a receptionist or someone who knows the business structure well, and simply ask them:

"I'm wondering who the best person would be to speak to about X?"

6. Leverage data to determine best calling times

Best calling times

We discussed earlier the need to call prospects at appropriate times.

We can make some good assumptions here (don't call Friday 4 pm, for example, and try to catch people while they're taking a break for coffee, around 10.30 am, say).

But you should really use accurate data to tell you what's working in your industry.

Check out the reporting suite in your sales CRM, and see if you can figure out what times and days have the best answer rates, and when is the best time to close deals.

Then, structure your week so that you can take advantage of the most impactful calling times.

7. Use the other person's name in conversation

This one's a bit of a basic move, but it's incredibly powerful.

We humans are all a little vain, and there's something inside all of us that just ticks over when we hear our name used.

It makes us feel good, and it engages us in the conversation in a way that has our full attention.

Be careful not to overdo it (you don't need to say their name every damn sentence), but make sure to slip it in at the start and end of the conversation, and keep it up your sleeve for when you feel you need to grab a little more attention:

"So tell me, James, what would it mean to your company if we could solve X problem today?"

8. Take advantage of automation

Okay, some real talk:

If you're not automating the heck out of your sales tasks, you're just burning time.

Leaders say their teams save between 10% and 50% of their workday by implementing powerful automation.

Imagine that, twice as much time to sell.

You should automate tasks like:

  • Email follow-ups
  • Moving deals between pipeline stages
  • Sales reporting

9. Try standing up when on the phone

Try standing up when on the phone

We've all heard of the idea that smiling while on the phone makes your voice sound friendlier and cheerier.

But did you know that standing up has an impact as well?

Standing up while making phone calls braces your core, improves your posture and breathing, and gives you a sense of energy that translates on the other end of the line (remember what we said about using emotion in your sales calls?)

10. Set an agenda at the start of the conversation

This one's more about sales calls that you've arranged (like a demo meeting) than it is for cold calls.

Begin your phone call by setting out the agenda, allowing your prospect to add anything they'd like:

"Okay [their name]. So day we're going to cover A, B, and C. Is there anything you'd like to add to the agenda before we begin?"

Setting an agenda upfront levels the playing field (so every person on the call knows how the conversation is going to proceed), and reduces the feeling on the prospect's part that they're being "sold to."


Okay, so now you've got all the inside tips on phone sales techniques.

You're armed to the teeth with tricks and tactics, but you still need your best friend by your side:

A solid CRM.

If it's not obvious, we're trying to plug our thing here (salespeople gotta sell, right?)

Book a demo with the Ringy team today, and let us show you around.

Skyrocket your sales with the CRM that does it all

Skyrocket your sales with the CRM that does it all.

Calling? Check. SMS? Check. Automation and AI? Check. Effortlessly keep in touch with your customers and boost your revenue without limits.

Try Ringy for Free