Sales Sense: Is the Phone Still Relevant in Today’s Sales Process?

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The telephone has reemerged as a vital sales communication channel. Now more than ever, people now want to talk with each other. And we are “Zoomed Out.” Salespeople no longer need to feel they might be intruding. Prospects are answering their phones knowing that you might be a stranger and you might want to sell them something. When they answer, they allow you to interrupt their lives. The key is not whether you should make the call- it’s what are you going to say after they say hello?

How should people be engaged when they answer the phone? Is it better to leave a
voicemail or not? When should salespeople use the phone? Where in the sales funnel is the phone most important? What is the math for a good sales phone call? And what are two big ideas about phones that will make you a better salesperson and increase your success rate? Listen in to learn the answers to these questions so you can pick up that phone and close deals faster.


Read the Transcript

Paul: Welcome everybody. Time for another episode of Asher Sales Sense brought to you by Asher Strategies, the only global sales training company that integrates leading sales methodologies and the latest neuroscience studies into a simple and repeatable 10-step process.

David: Thank you, Paul. Paul is our announcer for Asher Sales Sense, and I’m Dave Potts at Asher Strategies studio in Washington, DC. Our host today is John Asher, CEO and founder of Asher Strategies. John’s guest is Darryl Praill, Chief Revenue Officer at VanillaSoft, the industry’s most established sales engagement platform. The title of the show: “Is the Phone Still Relevant in Today’s Sales Process?” Over to you, John.

John: Well, Darryl welcome. Great to have you on the show.

Darryl: John. I’m pleased to be here. Thanks for having me, man. Appreciate it.

John: You are welcome. When salespeople are doing prospecting, there are lots of ways to reach out. I know you know this – InMail through LinkedIn, other social media channels, picking up the phone and calling them, sending them an email. Many people will say, “Well, cold calls are dead,” but I don’t think they’re dead, and I know you don’t. What’s your overall view? Are buyers still answering the phone?

Darryl:  I love it when people say cold calls are dead. I look at the individual saying that, and they’re usually 30 years old or younger. No, cold calls are absolutely not dead. In fact, let me make a really simple point to think about it. Okay?

John: Yep.

Darryl: Everything we do, when we reach out on a sales engagement, a sales cadence, a sales prospecting exercise, is ultimately to do what? To get them on the phone so we can have a discovery session, understand their pains and their issues, qualify them. Do you have a budget? Do you have authority? Do you have a need? Understand the whole process. That’s the end game. When people sit here and say, “The phone is dead,” I laugh, and roll my eyes and say, “Actually your career is dead,” because the fact of the matter is you’re going to get there sooner or later, so why are you wasting time not picking up the phone? I mean think about it. Just think about it. You send emails, social media touches, maybe SMS, that’s all great. You should absolutely do that, but what if you just pick up the phone? Just pick up the phone and call them.

Darryl:  In a case, so they don’t answer. Well, guess what? Half the time they don’t answer your emails or your social media touches, but you keep on doing that don’t you? If they do answer, my goodness, that’s Nirvana. That’s what you wanted. The phone is not dead. What we do know, we live in interesting times, John, and because of the times we live in, the phone, it’s got a re-emergence. It’s a resurgence because people are so desperate to talk to other people. The irony is this, people are so Zoomed out that they would take a phone call from you rather than a Zoom meeting. No, the phone is not dead. It’s a key part of your approach.

Darryl: The thing about being in sales is that you never know what channel your prospect is going to react to. Do they prefer email? Do they prefer social, or do they prefer the phone? Do a little bit of both. All three. Do SMS, all four. Right? You got to do it until you figure out how they want to communicate with you. I love it. I was on a call the other day with Jeb Blount. When the question came up, “What should my first step be in a sales cadence?” His response, unprompted for me, this is an audience question, was, “Should it be a phone call?” They were like, “Why?” They were shocked? He’s like, “Well, isn’t that what you’re trying to do is get them on the phone? Why would you wait to step five when you can do it in step one?” That’s my answer, and it pretty much is backed up by the data.

John: Yeah. The first sales manager I ever had said, “John, just pick up the damn phone and call them.”

Darryl: The funny part is I even see that it in my staff sometimes, right, where I watch this back and forth exchange, whether it’s on email or on Slack. I pick up the phone when I call them, and I’m like, “Stop doing this. Pick up the stupid phone. You’ll have resolution immediately, and you’ll understand where each other’s coming from.” Oh, for some people it’s scary. I think for other people they’re just conditioned to not use it, and it doesn’t cross their mind. Part of it’s habit. Part of it’s fear. A lot of it is just not understanding how to use that channel to achieve your goals.

John: Well, and not only that, there’s a lot of people, maybe a third of the personality styles, who don’t want to bother people by interrupting what they’re doing with a phone call. You’ve heard that I’m sure.

Darryl: I get this a lot. Even from my own team. I get this, let alone when I have this conversation with others. I’ll say to them, “Okay, well, I guess I’m mistaken. You call them. Fair enough. They answer the phone. Now you’re scared because maybe you’re interrupting them, and it’s going to not go so well. Let me enlighten you on how people think. You see, when we look at the phone, we have this thing called call display, and I don’t know who that person is on that call display. I don’t know your number. I don’t know your name. I don’t know you from Adam. Sorry, I don’t know you, but I picked up the phone. When I pick up that phone that means I already know you’re a stranger, or you’re trying to sell me something. These are the only two options, and they could both go together.”

Darryl: You could be a stranger trying to sell me something. Either way, I picked up the phone knowing that. You didn’t interrupt me. I allowed myself to be interrupted. If I didn’t want to be interrupted, I would have put my phone on Do Not Disturb. I would have ignored the phone call. You’ve done nothing, so get over that. You can see people look at me like it has never crossed their minds that that was the case. Yeah, it’s an excuse. You’re not interrupting anybody. If they don’t want to talk to you, they won’t answer.

John:  Yeah. That’s a great insight. If it didn’t come up on your display that either means you know it’s a salesperson, or it’s a stranger, or as you said, it could be both.

Darryl: Yep.

John: If they pick up the phone, they actually are wanting to talk. You’re not interrupting them or they wouldn’t have picked up the damn phone.

Darryl: You nailed it.

John: Right? I like that. There’s a lot of talk, also, you hear salespeople ask this question: “They didn’t answer. Should I not leave a voicemail, or should I leave a voicemail?” What are the trade-offs there?

Darryl: The answer is yes. That’s the first part. Now I’ll go into more detail. Sometimes you absolutely should leave a voicemail. For example, let’s say you have just emailed them. Now you may want to call them right away and say, “Hey, I just sent you an email. It’s Darryl Praill calling, so I’m now leaving a voicemail. Check your inbox, because when you open that email, you’ll see that I’ve included this piece of content. This matters to you because of this reason.” That’s personal. It gives them context. Either way, I’ve not introduced them to me. They can get a hint of my personality. They go looking for the email. That’s all good. You want to leave the voicemail?

Darryl: Now the chances are, they may or they may not listen to that voicemail. They’ll probably ignore the email. They’ll probably ignore the voicemail. They probably saw you call in and ignored the call in the first place that we were just talking about a few minutes ago, and they got the voicemail, and they still ignored it. That’s fine. The next time you call them, you’re going to ghost them. Meaning you’re calling, but you’re not leaving a voicemail. They’ll see that number again. That number is trying to get a hold of me, and that’s the whole point. You’re just leaving a little breadcrumb that says, “I’m still here.” Now, when you ping them on social media, you can say, “Well, I’ve sent you an email, and I did leave you a voicemail, but I want to make sure you get this piece of content because your competition loved it. They took this and did wonderful things with it. If you want to know how they did it, just respond to my call, or give me an email, or respond to me here.”

Darryl: The point is, you’re going to leave voicemails sometimes, and you’re going to ghost them sometimes. Now, one of the things that’s interesting is when I tell people this, quite often I’ll get the old, “Darryl, nobody checks voicemails anymore and that’s a waste of time.” I’m like, “Well, they ignored your emails, so was that a waste of time because you’re still doing it. They ignored your initial social media touch, but you’re still doing it, so your logic is flawed but fair enough.”

Darryl: Let’s continue with your point. You’re saying voicemails are dead. Okay. Have you ever gone on LinkedIn after you’ve connected with somebody, and maybe they’ve gone quiet on you? Then you sent them a personal audio message. They’ll say, “Oh yeah. That works so well. It’s amazing the response I get on that.” I’m like, “Really?” They say, “Yeah.” It’s true. You do. Then you see their mind just go in contortions when I say, “Well, you realize you just left them a voicemail. Only instead of using a phone, you used LinkedIn because that’s not a real-time dialogue. You sent a message. It was recorded. It was deliberate to them. They listened to it offline.” They’re like, “Oh.” Yes, voicemails work. You don’t have to leave a voicemail every time. I would advise you not to leave a voicemail every time. After a while, if all you’re doing is leaving voicemails that just gets like stalking. Today’s lesson, don’t be a stalker. There you go.

John: That’s good. I like that. Don’t be a stalker. At the beginning of social media, especially then, people used to think people were stalking them.

Darryl: Yeah.

John: We’ve all gotten over that.

Darryl: Well, it’s funny, right, how times have changed. It used to be, at the beginning of social media, and beginning of marketing automation systems, right, someone would fill out a form on a website, and one minute later that phone call’s ringing. You’re like, “Did you just call me because I just downloaded that form. Oh, that’s creepy. Don’t ever do that again. I’m hanging up on you.” We didn’t like that. Now when we do that, it’s a couple of different reactions. One, we expect it. We know the minute I hit submit on this form, I’m going to get a phone call, so we already know what the price of admission is and yet we do it. Then second, if they call too fast, we’re still annoyed. If they take too long or never call at all, then we judge them to say, “Well, I can’t do business with this company because they don’t have their processes together. I would never trust them with my processes.”

Darryl: It’s interesting how our behavior has shifted. Now we do expect them to call. We do give implicit permission when we hit that submit button. We do judge you if you call too fast or don’t call fast enough. We are fickle beings, John. That’s what we are.

John: No, not me.

Darryl: Yes, yes. If not you, it’s probably Paul. It’s that Paul guy, the announcer.

John: Or the Dave guy probably.

Darryl: The Dave guy. Don’t even get me going on the Dave guy.

David: Both of you, it’s time for a quick commercial break.

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David: We’ve been speaking with Darryl Praill about the relevancy of the phone in today’s sales process. Now back to the discussion.

John: Darryl, there’s a website out there called Crystal Knows, and if you go to Crystal Knows and put in the buyer’s name and the buyer’s company, so you know you’re getting the right person, then their personality style comes back.  You’re using smart software, predictive analytics, AI techniques. If they’ve taken an assessment like DiSC that gets factored in, and then Crystal Knows tells you which of the four personality styles they are, how to write an email to them, and also how to leave a voicemail for them, and then also how to deal with them in person or on a Zoom call. How important is that to be able to tailor your message exactly to the prospect’s personality style?

Darryl: That’s a brilliant question, John, because there are two schools of thought on this. One, you could be a massive fan of DiSC or any other personality test. I have colleagues and acquaintances who completely are, and they swear by it. Yet there are other studies out there that say it’s a little bit like astrology. Right? You can make any horoscope sound like it’s a perfect match for you. This is what we do now. Any ability you have to establish a rapport based on commonalities, based on behaviors that build trust with the recipient, are a good thing. Crystal Knows is fantastic because it gives you effectively a shortcut. With that said, most people will adapt to you if you’re not wasting their time, and you’ve got a valuable message that is personalized, and relevant, and contextual to them. What’s the net out of this?

Darryl: If you don’t waste their time, and you have a message that resonates, so you know your ideal customer profile, you know the pain, and the agony and the issues that your prospect you’re targeting is dealing with, so it matters. Your message matters. Crystal Knows probably won’t help you much. If you’re a generalist, if you’ve not taken the time to do the research, Crystal Knows may get you past that initial hesitation, past that initial desire to say, “No, and go away,” because you spoke to me in a way, you used words in a way, your style was a way that I could connect with. You choose. Right? Now, clearly, a home run if used Crystal Knows with really knowing who it is you’re calling into and really, really having your pitch down pat so that it matters to them.

Darryl: Crystal Knows is cool. It’s one more tool out there. I’ve got a lot of people who use it and swear by it, and I know a lot of people who don’t use it and don’t swear by it. This is what I would suggest to you. AB test. I love AB testing. See if it helps you. Do it for a week with Crystal Knows, and do it for a week without Crystal Knows. You’ll know very quickly if it helps you or not.

John: Yeah. I’ve found all the things we’ve been teaching salespeople, and what I do myself is if you do brilliant research on them with sales navigator, go to the internet and research their company, figure out their personality style so you can match a myriad as you need to, and adapt the initial message that you send, if you’re using all three of those, usually you’re getting a higher percentage than if you don’t use any of them for sure.

Darryl: Yeah. You think about it. What is one of the first things we learn when we’re selling? We learn to mirror. Right? Now that implies there’s a live conversation going on so I know how to mirror. I’ve even taught this to my own team and my kids. We were on this call literally the other week, and my sales rep was saying that we lost this deal. I said, “Why did we lose it?” He goes, “Well, this guy, he’s a Joey. He was Joey from Jersey. He just knew everything.” I’m laughing at him with his impression. He goes, “So he’s asking me these questions and I’m trying to explain it to them.” I said, “Dude, you’re explaining it to him?” He’s like, “Yeah.” I said, “He’s in control. What are you doing? You should have pushed back hard to Joey because that’s what Joey respects. Challenge him. Why do you think that Joey?” All of a sudden you could see him stop. I said, “You mirror, right? Joey would have respected you more. Because you didn’t mirror him, you lost Joey. Joey thought Joey was right. You were trying to explain it. You were just validating Joy’s belief. That’s how you lost the deal.” It was a great conversation to have. Yeah, mirroring. Crystal Knows is another way of mirroring.

John: Yeah. I’m sure you’ve heard this, that prospecting and cold calling are just a numbers game. Right? Enough to inspire a major in math. What’s the math behind this process for good phone calls.

Darryl: Oh my. If it makes you feel any better, I have a degree in computer science. I was a programmer for six years, so there we go. Here I am now doing this. What’s the math of a good phone call for sales? There are lots of different rules out there. I’m going to tell you what I’ve heard espoused by the experts. I’ve heard many people validate these claims. Like anything else, there’s always somebody else who would say, “Well, that’s BS.” The general theory is, an FBI profiler will say you have seven to 12 seconds to make a first impression. They’re already decided within that timeframe, if they’re going to keep on talking to you or not, or if they trust you or not. The general consensus is you have 27 to 30 seconds to get your pitch out there and seek permission to continue your dialogue afterward. It’s a back and forth on the play of who has control.

Darryl: That’s the next thing you need to know. When it comes to the phone, the phone is part of a cadence if you’re doing it right. The problem is most sales reps only do two to three attempts, and they give up, but the current math says you need to do 9.2 to over 12 attempts, depending on your industry, before you finally get them on the phone and have a live conversation. There’s lots of math here. Those are all easy places to fix because you could measure the math. The best part is that your industry, and your prospect, and what you’re selling is unique to you versus what I sell. If you’re not sure what works, take these math examples, and again, I go back to test it. I’ll have many, many people say to me, “Yeah, the whole 30-second rule is BS. Two to three times, I can get them in six.” Okay, fine. Right. Test it.

Darryl: You figure out the math for you because if you spend a month or two or three right now figuring it all out, the rest of your year is gravy. You just dramatically increased your chances of converting more deals and hitting President’s Club. Why would you not do that? That’s the math how I know it. How’s the math how you know at John? What did I miss?

John: I do know that it is a numbers game in many respects, and that is, if you know what your conversion rates are, various steps in the sales process, then you can just work backward and know you better make 25 cold calls a day or you’re never going to beat your quota. You can easily work backward. Let me ask you about one of your numbers, and that is the 9.2 to 12 touches. Is that total touches or attempts to call them?

Darryl: That’s total attempts to engage with the prospect to have that first live conversation, so now you can start doing a sales qualification process. That’s the problem, is that most people give up after two or three tries. That’s when you start getting sales saying, “Well the leads suck.” Well, maybe the leads suck. That’s possible, but chances are you just didn’t try enough times. You know? That’s changed a lot. Eight, 10 years ago, that would have been six to nine times where now it’s nine to 12. Right? You got to work harder these days to get a hold of these people.

John: Again, is it nine to 12 calls or nine to 12 combination of …

Darryl: Combination. Phone, email, social, exactly.

John: I got it. Separate. Total touches.

Darryl: Total touches. Again, you don’t know how they’re going to react. That’s the big thing, right, so you want to touch them everywhere. I would not go public saying touch that person everywhere. Just don’t quote me on that exact phrase. You want to touch them a lot. This is not going well, John. We’ve got to change topics.

John: Okay. Dave, you’ve got this recorded, right? We’ve got everything we need to know about Darryl now.

David: It’s on the record.

John: May I ask one more question about that? Is it not just 12? Is it nine to 12 based on sales cycle times? Is that why it varies?

Darryl: No. No, it’s not actually. That’s a great question. Here’s the gist. The whole concept of cadence comes down to basically the attention span of the prospect. The premise is, the prospect has done something that has prompted the sales rep to say, “Hey, there’s an opportunity here.” Maybe they were on your website. Maybe they filled out a form or not. They were just browsing around. Maybe they were on a review site and you got a signal that “Hey, somebody’s checking out you and your competition.” Whatever. There’s an intent signal. There’s some signal that says, “This person is worthy of a call.” This is talking about inbound emails where you’re responding. What you have to do is you have to respond quickly. Statistically, if you wait more than an hour to call a hot lead, the chances of success drops like a rock. If you wait more than 24 hours, actually more than eight hours, it’s almost like why bother? That’s the first part because we have a short attention span.

Darryl: The next part is, we reps used to do, “I’m going to call now, and then I’ll call in three or four days from now. Then I’ll call next week. Then I’ll call in two weeks, and then I’ll call a month out because I don’t want to stalk them.” Well now, in fact, it’s dramatically compressed. Now you’ll see things like seven touches in seven days, or 12 touches in 18 days, or 18 touches in 30, 35 days. The whole point is that constant in your face. Multi-channel, different messages, different value props, different call to actions, trying to wear them down. Otherwise, they’ll forget. If you wait two weeks and then call, they have no idea who you are. They have no idea what they’ve done. They’ve moved on. It’s all about staying top of mind.

John: Hey, I can’t remember what happened last week.

Darryl: I’m the same way.

David: John, excuse me. It’s time for the wrap-up.

John: No, your watch must be off Dave. It can’t be that soon already.

David: It goes fast when we’re having fun.

John: Darryl, it’s been great talking to you about all of your data. As you know, the people listening are typically CEOs, sales managers, and salespeople. The great thing about podcasts is you can listen to them while you’re in the car, walking the dog, walking out with your spouse, well maybe not with your spouse, but at least the dog. People aren’t writing things down. What would be three things you would like to end this podcast with that you think would be most impactful for salespeople if they were going to start to change their behavior for the better? Then once you’ve done that, just let everybody know how they can contact you.

Darryl: Sure. The phone is an essential part of your cadence. Right? Not just email, which is what you do now, and social media. The phone is critical. Again, for a simple 30-second exercise, why would you deny a dramatic increase in your chance to get in front of that prospect? Ultimately you want a live phone call. That’s why you do all this work. That’s why you’re spending all this money on content. Use the phone. Make sure your reps are using the phone. Design sales cadences that include the phone, and make the phone the first touch in that sales cadence so that you’re getting multi-touch outreach so you can get a hold of them and qualify them. Right? Again, you’re pushing with that phone. The phone is important. Phones should be part of the cadence, and then make sure your messaging on that phone is not generic. It is hyper, hyper-personalized based on your ideal customer profile and the individual target or the persona you’re talking to. For a C-level it’s different from a director. It’s different from a manager. It’s different from a user. You get the idea. The language changes. The benefits change. The context changes. The relevance changes. Make sure you’ve got hyper-personalized messaging. If you don’t do that, you’re going to fail. If you do that, you’re going to succeed.

Darryl: My name is Darryl Praill. You can reach me on LinkedIn. You reach me on Twitter. You can go to Google type in Praill, P-R-A-I-double L, and 99% of the links will come back to me. Don’t be shy. I’d love to connect.

John: All right. Great to talk to you Darryl, and thank you so much for all these great ideas.

Darryl: I had a blast. Thank you so much, sir.

David: Thank you, everybody. That’s all the time we have for today. For our listeners, be sure to join us again next week at the same time. From now until then, John Asher reminds us to please, please get out there and sell something. Paul, take it away.

Paul: You’ve been listening to another episode of Asher Sales Sense right here on Asher Strategies radio. To learn more about how John Asher and his training and coaching team of former business leaders can help you close deals faster, simply visit