No matter what business you’re in, you're probably spending less time in person-to-person meetings and more time with clients on the phone. This trend is likely to continue as businesses run leaner and clients have less time to schedule face-to-face meetings. And while Skype and other video conferencing options are growing, conference calls or scheduled phone conversations are much more prevalent. Since the phone doesn’t offer you the chance to showcase your personal presentation style, your voice becomes your sharpest sales tool. Here’s how you can make it work for you.

Pre-call Planning: Write it Down

If you had a presentation scheduled with your biggest client or best prospect, you wouldn’t go in cold. You would plan what information you would present, what you would say and how you would say it. Though a phone conversation presents a more casual environment, planning ahead before you hit the speed dial is just as crucial. Write down your questions, topics you want to cover and points you want to make on a sheet of paper. This sheet will act as a mini script and as a result, your voice and message will be more sure and confident. Also write down what you think some of your client’s requests, objections and statements will be and write down possible responses to all. This will lead to more cogent conversations and the confidence gained from knowing what to say will reflect in your voice. 5-10 minutes of pre-call planning will make for a more productive call and the confidence gained from that preparation will show in your voice.

Environment is Important

You environment may be even more key to a successful phone sales call than for an in person presentation. It is much easier to be distracted on the phone, so if your eyes or mind wander, your voice will reflect this. The end result could be your client thinks you don’t care about their business or they adopt your distracted demeanor. Neither scenario leads to a successful phone sales call. If you’re in an office or room, make sure the door is closed to minimize visual or audio distractions. Make sure there is no motion on your computer screen and resist the urge to multi task. Focus on the call as if the client were in the room. If possible, do not use a speaker phone. People tend to yell to be heard on speakers and that puts up an unnecessary barrier between you and the client. Speaking into the handset or headset is more personal and allows your voice to be natural and work for you. If you are in a cube for the call, put your back to the opening and remove any possible visual distractions from your wall. Also, make sure the room temperature is moderate. If it’s too hot, you will get tired and edgy and your voice will reflect that. Too cold and your voice may involuntarily shake if you are shivering even slightly. You’ll come across as nervous and won’t engender a feeling of trust with your sales prospect.

Make Sure Your Voice Stays on Message

Your client won’t see you over the phone, your voice IS you. So you want it to represent the best possible you. How your voice projects is key. Posture is important. If you are leaning back in your chair with your hands behind your head and your feet on the desk, your voice will reflect this relaxed attitude and you won’t sound as focused and on top of your game as your client needs you to be. Your client could question your commitment and professionalism. The way to keep this from happening is to sit up straight and focus on your note pad or conference call receiver as if it were your client in person. You will be and sound more attentive and will command more respect. Keep your tone strong, steady and confident. Avoid uptalking. This makes you sound unsure of yourself and will make the client question your credibility, either consciously or subconsciously. Finally, when talking, smile. This sunny demeanor will reflect in your voice and your client will feel like you are genuinely happy to be speaking with them. When a client feels valued, they are more likely to buy from you. Even if the tone of the call gets tense in a serious negotiation, watch your body language and facial expressions. Your voice reflects both and a more positive tone tends to reap more positive results.

Eliminate Fillers

The mini script you devise in your pre-call planning will not only help you stay focused, it will help your voice stay on track as well. You will avoid using filler words such as “um” or “like.” In the case where you may be answering a question or starting a new thought, it’s okay to pause and think about what you are going to say. A brief pause is better than using filler words. They dilute the message as well as your credibility. Collecting your thoughts before you speak can also keep you from saying something you regret. Because you can’t take words back once they are out there.

Two to One Ratio

Once you’ve mastered the art of voice control in phone sales, it’s easy to fall into the trap of over talking. Don’t. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. As sales people we need to get our client’s feedback and responses to our questions so that we can know their needs and meet them. Two ears and one mouth means that in any sales meeting, in person or over the phone, we should be listening twice as much as we are speaking. Because having a great phone voice won’t serve you or your client if you don’t listen well enough to hear their needs so that you can meet them.