You’ve worked hard to gain knowledge about your service or product. You come across as genuine and authentic because you are genuine and authentic. You believe in your market. You believe in your service or product. You believe in your mission to help businesses improve their business by introducing them to your service or product. Those are the successful qualities that serve you well and that will shine through on your phone calls, provided your winning value proposition is heard by the prospects. Sometimes people can get in their own way when making outbound cold calls. In our virtual call center, we listen to a lot of outbound cold calls, so we’ve compiled a list of 10 “Thou Shalt Nots,” kind of like the 10 commandments, to keep in mind when making outbound sales appointment setting calls.

Words and tone are our tools on the phone. On the phone, the prospects can’t see your million-dollar smile. We don’t have the use of body language as one of our communication tools. Whether you are working from home wearing your PJs or if you are as well dressed as Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, it doesn’t matter when you are cold calling on the phone.

Prospects will be receptive to you because of your tone, because you are respectful, and because you focused on their needs instead of yours. Here is a list of the “Thou Shalt Nots”:

  1. Thou Shalt Not Talk Too Fast. Yes, time is money, however, speaking too fast can be overwhelming to the person on the other end of the call. It’s good to speak a little fast because you have high energy and you are excited about your service or product, however, it’s much better to vary your pace to be more conversational. It does take more time, however, a relaxed and proper tone pays more dividends in setting appointments.Speaking too fast is a sure way to come across as “salesy.” There’s even a phrase for it – fast talkin’ salesperson. Speaking too fast can also come across as nervousness. If you transfer your own nervousness to the prospect over the phone, they will be too stressed out to hear what you are trying to say and instead, figure out the best way to get you off the phone as fast as possible.
  2. Thou Shalt Not Speak in a Hesitating or Unsure Voice. Confidence and conviction in your voice is supremely important. Why would the prospect have the confidence to set an appointment with you if you lack confidence in what you are doing? Being prepared is one of the ways to gain confidence. We are calling busy business people. If you are not prepared to make calls, be prepared to be chewed up and spit out in little pieces.It’s up to us to choose compelling, relevant, and descriptive words that build credibility and authority. Even powerful and engaging words don’t have as much traction as they could unless they are partnered with the right tone, a tone that conveys confidence. On the phone, we may not have the option to walk into Casino Royale like Daniel Craig wearing his tuxedo, however, we can affect his tone. James Bond is the epitome of confidence in his manner and his body language, but also in his tone.
  3. Thou Shalt Not be Too Nice. Even young children know the difference between being genuine and syrupy sweet fake nice. The prospects you are calling are astute business people and quickly recognize pandering. Maybe you’ve met someone who comes across like the disingenuous Regina George in Mean Girls, a great example of what not to do. What we are shooting for is friendly but professional.It is possible to build rapport and be professional at the same time. You can take your cues from the prospect about how much to venture off the topic but remember that it is your job to make sure you cover the business aspects of your business call. Most business people want you to get to the point.
  4. Thou Shalt Not Persist Without Politeness. There’s a middle ground between terse and gushing. Using too few words can come across as rude. We are striving for balance to be professional, respectful and friendly.
  5. Thou Shalt Not Interrupt. Even if the prospect has misunderstood something you said or made a statement that is completely and obviously incorrect, let him or her finish before you correct or add to whatever  he or she has said. We live in an increasingly rude and impatient world, and we must be mindful not to let it overtake us.
  6. Thou Shalt Not Fail to Ask Questions. Talking non-stop without coming up for air is not a way to learn whether the prospect needs or wants whatever you are calling about. We can only learn that answer by asking a question and then listening intently without interrupting. Qualifying is a two-way process, you to them, and them to you.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Correct the Prospect Harshly. “Oh no, that’s absolutely wrong” really doesn’t work very well with anyone, whether they are a member of your family or a prospect you are speaking with on the phone. A better response is more like: “Yes, we’ve heard that before, however, our clients tell us…” Squashing someone leads to hearing a dial tone.
  8. Thou Shalt Not Support a Product’s Obvious Weakness. If everyone knows something is a weakness in your product or service, attempting to sweep it under the rug leads to distrust. There may be an opportunity to explain an offsetting advantage.For example, most of the world wants us to set phone appointments now because of COVID, vs. physical, face-to-face appointments. However, phone appointments have a higher tendency to “no show” compared to a physical appointment. So, we counter that by setting phone appointments within much tighter parameters, such as no farther out than two days vs. two weeks for physical appointments. There is no point in pretending that phone appointments are perceived as the same level of commitment as a physical appointment.
  9. Thou Shalt Not “Wing it.” If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say you don’t know the answer. No one expects you to know everything as your job is to identify the decision maker, qualify the prospect and schedule an appointment to hand off to someone who has the technical details and can put together pricing information for the prospect. If the prospect asks you a question, whether you know the answer or not, it’s a perfect opportunity to set an appointment. Flying by the seat of your pants is a good way to burn a bridge and not get an appointment.
  10. Thou Shalt Not Engage in Excessive Small Talk. Be friendly and respectful, but stay focused and get to the point. It does feel lonely sometimes working from home, however, that is why we have internal group check in meetings at least four times every day, beginning with virtual coffee together at 6:50 a.m. for the early birds. Show the prospect that you respect his or her time and think of all the additional people you can reach by streamlining your presentations.

Technical skills such as working the CRM and learning to power dial are important skills for cold calling success, however, they are only part of the package. Tone, pace and developing your own style will cause your prospects to lean toward you on the call rather than lean away from you.

About the Author

Tracie Chancellor, CEO and Founder of TeleReach Corporate, national business to business call center specializing in sales appointment setting and lead generation, based in Houston, Texas. Chancellor is an MBA graduate of the University of Houston with over 20 years hands-on sales and marketing experience, working with privately-held businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, as well as Fortune businesses in the business to business marketing space.