Ultimate Softphone Guide: SIP vs VoIP vs HardPhones

  • Home
  • Blog
  • Ultimate Softphone Guide: SIP vs VoIP vs HardPhones

Table of Contents

I remember starting my first office job and being introduced to a desk phone.

Now, I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy person, but, I mean, it had a cord. I hadn’t seen a phone with a cord since I was a kid, and at that moment I was sure I was transported back to the 90s.

90s phone

Source

I remember starting my first office job and being introduced to a desk phone.

Now, I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy person, but, I mean, it had a cord. I hadn’t seen a phone with a cord since I was a kid, and at that moment I was sure I was transported back to the 90s.

Ok, I’ll have to admit it wasn’t that bad. It let me do the basic things that you would expect:  transfer calls to other departments, see who was calling, and put people on hold. But I knew there had to be a better way forward.

Since then, only two of the other jobs I’ve had actually gave me a desk phone. In both cases, it sat in the corner of my desk collecting dust while I used other communication tools like Slack and email. But if you use phones a lot and don’t want to age so quickly that you turn into dust, there’s a better solution: softphone, which is phone software that lets you make calls over the internet. Yay!

Thankfully, more companies are embracing softphones for a bunch of reasons, including that you need less hardware (unless you are really attached to that desk phone) and it’s typically easy for your softphone provider to customize the software to meet your needs. There are more reasons two that we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of in this guide.

If you haven’t adopted a softphone yet and experienced the awesomeness of a seamless phone call transition from your laptop to smartphone, you’re missing out.

But as soon as you google softphone, suddenly you’ll see terms like hardphone, SIP softphone, VoIP softphone, and others that might be confusing. 

This guide is meant to peel back the layers and show you what softphones are all about, and how they can not only help your business become future-proof, but increase your sales, customer service standards, and efficiency throughout all departments.

What is a Softphone?

what is a softphone

A Softphone is exactly what it sounds like - a piece of software that allows you to make phone calls over the internet using an internet-connected device like a computer or apple or android smartphone. The software part of a softphone is just an app that you download to your computer or smartphone that provides an interface similar to a regular desk phone (or hardphone), complete with things like a dial pad, contact list, and menu options. Downloading a softphone app is as easy as going to the Google Play or Apple Store and typing in the name of the softphone app that coincides with what your company purchased.

How Does a Softphone Work?

A softphone works by connecting the user and the device (a computer or smartphone) together to facilitate communication. It does this by using a few key pieces of technology: an interface, an engine for processing calls, and a set of codecs.

How a Softphone Works
A softphone interface is what you see when you open the app on your computer or smartphone. The dial pad, contact list, menus, and any interactive buttons (ones that you click or touch) are all components of the softphone’s interface.
A set of codecs (takes data and encodes or decodes it) and controls data transfer, so any voice, video, or text that comes through is handled by the codecs and compressed or changed into the proper format for transmission.
The engine for processing calls is called an API (Application Programming Interface). This technology is a set of directions that dictates how calls are placed and received.

Of course, a softphone also has all the other standard phone features you’d expect, like:

  • Voicemail
  • Call forwarding
  • Caller ID
  • Conference calling
  • Call analytics

In addition, softphone software can integrate into your existing CRM system, but if you don’t have one or the one you have isn’t up to snuff, you can always use our all-in-one CRM, VOIP, and automation software.

What is a SIP Softphone and VoIP Softphone?

VOIP software

At a high level, VoIP and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) are types of internet telephony protocol, which basically just means telephoning over the internet. VoIP is a more straightforward technology that can handle voice calls on its own just fine, and SIP is the software that takes VoIP to the next level by adding features and automation. While VoIP can work just fine on its own, SIP needs VoIP to work. In other words, VoIP is the engine and SIP is what goes on top - it could be a car, truck, motorcycle, whatever you need. Get the idea?

 Most businesses these days need more than just voice calls. They want video, text, voice, and a way to automate and track communications with their customers and salespeople. That’s where SIP comes in.

While any communications that take place over the internet are done through VoIP technology, SIP is the communication protocol that manages that communication, whether it be text, voice, video, etc. In other words, SIP is a protocol (or system of rules) that works in tandem with VOIP to deliver the communications that you need over the internet to you

Regardless of how you want to communicate with your customer, SIP is the brain that handles the whole process.

Hardphone vs. Softphone

Back in the day, offices relied on traditional desk phones that were tied to a landline system. These phones need to be connected to something called a PBX box, which is a physical system that needs to live somewhere in the office and connects all the phones to an internal switching system that handles all the individual phone lines throughout the company, kind of like an old-school switchboard. This system requires regular maintenance and typically needs an experienced IT professional to manage it and maintain it. 

pbx box

Source

The next evolution for hardphones was VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), which basically meant that they started making desk phones with an ethernet connection so businesses could make calls over the internet, saving them big money on phone bills. Some of these VoIP systems eliminate the need for a PBX box, which means less maintenance and management as well.

In the beginning, VoIP was limited in what it could do, but over time software was developed to work with it to give it more functionality. These upgrades meant that businesses now have more options with how they handle calls, including video calls and text messaging.

While a hardphone is a physical piece of hardware and a softphone is a piece of software, that doesn’t mean that they work independently of each other or that you have to choose one option over the other. In fact, hardphones can work in tandem with softphones, so you can choose to have a physical desk phone as well as phone software on your computer and smartphone for when you are on the go. 

Common Challenges Sales Team Face Related to Phone Calls (Inbound/Outbound Sales Calls)

Most inbound and outbound sales teams face similar challenges across the board with sales calls:

  • Low response rate from prospects
  • Long sales cycles
  • unqualified leads
  • Knowing when to call, text, or email

In fact, we wrote a whole blog post on inside sales best practices in case you want to read more.

Low Response Rate From Prospects

Even if you’re using all the technology in the world to find the perfect prospects, low response rate is still a real issue that sales reps face every day. Techniques like using local caller ID, leaving a voicemail, and using a dialling system are some of the recommended ways to increase contact rates from prospects.

Long Sales Cycles

Nobody wants a sale to take weeks or months to close, but that’s the reality for a lot of sales reps. In some cases, it could be worth the time and effort, but what if there was a way to shorten that process without sacrificing quality? 

Here are a few ways that you can speed up the sales cycle by tweaking your approach to contacting leads:

  • Gather leads from your best-performing channels, and keep track of how long it took to close each lead. Also, prioritize contacting your best leads first.
  • Make sure you have a robust sales process in place and measure how long it takes to go from A to B in closing a sale from a lead. This allows you to improve your process over time. 
  • Contact leads in a timely manner, and use automation software to automate responses when it makes sense.

Unqualified Leads

unqualified leads

It’s so tempting to send each and every possible lead to the sales team to contact, with the hopes that even if they aren’t a good lead, maybe some miracle will happen and they’ll buy anyway.

And sure, you can do that, but you’ll sacrifice the time and patience of your salespeople, and most likely close fewer sales. Wasting your time on unqualified leads is not a great way to do business.

You’ll want to figure out what makes a qualified lead for your business by analyzing the data that you have from the customers who closed and using that information to build out what a qualified lead looks like.

Know When to Call, Text, or Email

Look, we’re all busy people, and nobody likes to be inundated with any form of communication when they don’t want it. The trick is to use the right form of communication for the situation.

Here’s an example.

I recently signed up for one of those meal box services, where they send you several ready-to-cook meals each week. While it wasn’t a terrible service, it was a bit financially draining and with a few recipes on hand from the meals they sent, I felt like I could replicate them just fine on my own. Ultimately, I decided to cancel after a couple of weeks.

Once I cancelled, I received an email asking why. I ignored it.

But then a few days later, something interesting happened: I got a call from a sales rep. He asked me what my challenges were with the service, and when I said financial reasons, he offered me a special deal that got me back on board, just like that.

Knowing when and how to contact customers can help reps feel more confident and connect with their customers better.

While these challenges don’t have a magic bullet solution that will work every time, with the right technology, reps may find themselves closing deals quicker and easier than expected. Softphones are a powerful technology that can help with that. Let’s find out how.

How Can Softphones Improve Sales Departments’ Efficiency and Capabilities?

Softphones can increase the efficiency of sales departments by providing them with more tools that they can use to manage and connect with customers. Efficiency is the keyword here, as finding the right ways to keep in communication with customers in a fully connected world is a must for most professionals, especially salespeople.

Top Benefits Softphone Apps Provide for Sales Departments

When compared to a hardphone, softphones provide a myriad of benefits for sales departments, including:

  • Increased Accessibility 
  • Practicality 
  • Customer retention
  • More options for lead nurturing
  • Shorter sales cycles
  • Integrations with existing software like a CRM

Increased Accessibility

In general, softphones are more accessible than hardphones due to the fact that they are software-based, and can therefore be built from the ground up to have features like large or resizable dial pads, high contrast colors for keyboards, and be readable by screen readers. 

Accessibility on the web makes sense, after all, you wouldn’t want to alienate a potential customer because they can’t navigate your website or easily contact you.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) lists widely accepted standards that give people with all types of disabilities access to the web, from auditory to visual. Implementing accessibility standards has been known to increase user satisfaction as well, regardless of whether someone has a disability or not.

While implementing accessibility in headphones can be costly or rely on things like touch memorization for the user, a softphone is a less expensive solution, and there are several providers that offer accessible softphone software that enhances a customer’s overall experience.

Practicality

practicality

A hardphone is great if you don’t mind being tied to your desk all day long, but a softphone is way more practical and flexible. Seamless integration between devices, for instance, means that if you need to leave the office for any reason, you can keep yourself connected through your laptop or smartphone.

In addition, if you need to pause communications entirely for a period of time or limit yourself to text and email, softphones can control all of that with the touch of a button.

Customer Retention

Softphone software can integrate into your existing CRM, or if you don’t have one yet, Ringy offers a full solution with all-in-one CRM + VOIP + automation software. 

Having all your customer information and history at your fingertips not only gives you a better understanding of them and how their experience with your company has been so far, but it also allows you to identify opportunities and gaps where you could do things like offering them a service that you know would work great for them, or keep on top of pain points or issues that you can help solve.

More Options for Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is about developing relationships with customers, and softphone is just another tool in your arsenal to help you do just that.

Let’s go back to my meal subscription box experience. I firmly believe that because the sales rep could see my full history as a customer, he knew that it was time to give me a call. I can’t say for sure if the meal subscription box service uses softphone software, but judging by the swiftness in contacting me and the knowledge the sales rep had about me and my business with them beforehand, it seems pretty likely that they do.

Long story short, softphone helps you nurture new and existing leads and customers by providing a birds’ eye view of who they are and what they need, thus giving sales reps a leg up in closing those leads.

Shorter Sales Cycles

When you don’t have to run around to multiple sources and can view everyone about a customer in one place, chances are the overall sales cycle is going to be shorter than it would be otherwise. 

Integrations With Existing Software like a CRM

This is perhaps the most important feature of a softphone because without being able to integrate with all the existing information and data you have about a customer, you’re adding time and money to the sales process. Like we said before, having all the information you need right in front of you gives salespeople the confidence boost and knowledge they need to close a sale with ease.

5 Examples of Incredible sales success stories involving Softphone Software

We get it, you’ve read a ton about what softphone software is supposed to do and we’ve gone into the technical details,  but have people experienced real-world positive changes from using a softphone? The answer is yes!

1. Ringy (that’s us!)

Alicia, a marketing coordinator for a large insurance company nearing 5,000 employees has found great success in using our software to qualify leads. She feels that the software is very intuitive and user-friendly. The drip marketing feature, especially, allows her to work smarter, not harder, which is something I’m sure we all endeavor to do!

2. Jumpcrew 

First up, we have Jumpcrew. Jumpcrew provides a marketing and sales platform that drives leads, site traffic, and sales to websites. The problem was they were missing calls, experiencing dropped calls, and as a result, managers didn’t have enough data to onboard and train their reps. 

After implementing softphone software, Jumpcrew saw a huge improvement and impact in their business that reduced their sales cycle time in half - from 30 days to 15 days. That’s a huge improvement in efficiency!

3. Major League Baseball® (MLB®) 

While it’s not exactly sales that improved for MLB (yes, we’re talking about the official MLB Association using softphones) it did help improve their communications massively with increased security, common solutions at each stadium for consistency, ensuring teams are using phones within MLB rules and regulations, and so much more. Who would have ever thought that a softphone would hit a home run? Well, it did for the MLB!

4. Chime


Customer service-focused business Chime was looking for a solution for modern banking customers (read: customers that use the internet for most of their banking needs) and wanted a highly personalized solution that could keep them in constant contact with their customers, and help their customers achieve their financial goals. 

In this case, softphone integration with their banking system and the use of text messaging allowed them to gain a 12% increase in customer satisfaction. Now that’s a big jump just for implementing a new piece of technology.

5. Starting Point

Starting Point is a non-profit organization that when the COVID pandemic hit, found out that they needed to switch to a more modern phone solution, as they were missing calls, sponsors and other contacts had trouble getting through to someone, and messages were going unanswered. With the implementation of a SIP-based softphone system supported by desk phones, the team was empowered and able to find solutions to their call woes rather quickly.

Key Takeaways

softphone

Before we send you on your way, let's wrap up the main points of this post in a nice little to-go package for you:

  • A softphone is a software-based phone application that you use on your computer or smartphone, either by itself or in addition to a physical desk phone. It allows you to make calls over the internet using VoIP.
  • A softphone works by connecting the user and a computer or smartphone for communication. It does this by using an interface, an engine for processing calls, and a set of codecs.
  • Softphones reduce the challenges faced by inbound and outbound sales teams using phone calls to connect with customers and leads by offering a bird’s eye view of the customer’s information and current status with the business, and the ability to determine the best way to contact them.
  • Many large businesses have seen great success by implementing softphone technology into their normal company operations, from increased sales, customer service, and more streamlined and consistent processes.

In short, investing in softphone software, whether you choose to go for a complete desk phone-free solution or keep your VoIP desk phones, will help you scale your business and be more efficient with all your teams. 


If you’re ready to get Softphone software working with your existing systems, or get a complete CRM, VOIP, and Automation solution, then book a demo with Ringy and we'll help you get started.