Why I Don’t Believe in Scripted Sales Calls

If you follow my Selling AV podcast here on rAVe, then this blog will be right up your alley. I haven’t done a point/counterpoint article in quite a while, but today I came across a blog shared by the NSCA about the importance of having a sales script, and honestly, I couldn’t disagree more.

Time to ditch the script 1

Full disclosure, I like the NSCA and find it to be a valuable resource. In fact, our company just joined as a member and signed up for its annual Building Leadership Conference.  I just disagree with the premise of this blog on sales in particular.

In short, the blog says that bad sales people hate role-playing, reps that don’t use scripts have uneven performance, and that they typically struggle with using the proper language to navigate objections and close deals.

Of course, he suggests that scripted calls can eliminate all of these issues, and even references “Boiler Room” as an example of what a confident sales rep can do on the phone with a proper script.

Feel free to read his blog for yourself as it is linked above. The final points about evaluating common objections and exploring ways to navigate them with your team are solid advice. I just don’t think you should turn them into a script.

I’ve worked for companies with scripted calls. They typically are companies after a single transaction that utilize high-pressure techniques and clever phrases to exhibit control over the customer and close the sale. It’s an “us versus them” mentality, an “Always Be Closing,” “Look at my Ferrari keys,” “The customer doesn’t know what they want until you tell them” approach, and I think that approach is mostly bankrupt.

The author loses me immediately by suggesting not to ask the client if you reached them at a good time, but instead to launch into a 20-to-30-second monologue about why you’re calling, ending that monologue with a question about if Thursday is a good day for a 20-minute meeting.  If they refuse, he suggests a clever quip and a second request for the meeting at the end of that as well.

We’ve all been cold called at random in our lives, so I’d just ask you to briefly reflect and ask yourself if you’d grant a stranger 20 minutes on your calendar based on this approach? Would you even stay on the line 20-30 seconds as they delivered well-rehearsed lines and then ended with a formulaic soft close?

I would wager that even if this approach does yield a commitment to a meeting on the spot, the meeting is often subsequently canceled.

I won’t belabor debating each point in the article, but rather let me suggest what I think may be a more valuable and effective approach to a call. I’m not advocating shooting form the hip but rather training salespeople in a way that builds confidence and strategy, without disabling their empathy.

  1. Know your product and/or service. Know why your customers like you, what they find valuable about working with you and why you are better than your competitors. Many sales people don’t actually understand their value proposition as well as they should, which is why they stumble with questions from “left field” or get lost in the middle of an objection on a call.
  2. Role-play handling objections. There are truly only four objections to any sale. All other objections are simply variations of these four.  They are price, product, timing, or YOU. You don’t need a script if you are comfortable talking about these four objections and navigating them. Getting salespeople in the mindset that there are truly only four objections they’ll face creates confidence.
  3. Have a goal for your call. Many salespeople call prospects, and then if they actually get someone on the phone, they have no clue what they’re actually asking of the potential client.  Make sure you have a clear business reason for every call, even follow-up calls, as “I’m checking in” is the worst reason to make a sales call.
  4. Be human! Ask people if you caught them at a good time and if they have a couple minutes. If they say they don’t have time, ask for a time to call back, and then actually call at that time. Acknowledge that you are in their good graces. Provide value, make an initial investment to learn about them and their business before launching into your value proposition.
  5. Know when to stop. The idea that “Well, they’re not buying anyway so what do I have to lose by pushing?” is for Grant Cardone wannabes. There is a time to stop and move on. The most valuable asset a salesperson has is selling time. Don’t waste it. Find ways to get reciprocal commitments from customers. If they ask for pricing, ask for a 15-minute meeting to review their goals. If they ask for suggested equipment, ask for floor plans and access to their technical liaison. If prospects are resistant to reciprocating and only want deliverables from you without returning the things you need as well, it may be time to move on.

There’s a difference between a strategic sales call and a scripted one.

Salespeople who have the tools above don’t need a script. They know their product, they know the potential objections and have practiced fielding them, they have a purpose for every call, and they use their interpersonal skills to tailor their sales call to the actual human being they are interfacing with and know when to stop if things aren’t progressing in a healthy manner. They’re strategic and professional.

Scripted calls can lead a salesperson to ignore the human on the other end of the call, making their way through a preprogrammed set of words and phrases that don’t honor the person on the other end, but instead, are only designed to get an engineered “yes.”

Sales is about more than gaining control, it’s about forming a value added connection. You can only do that if you’re ready to treat each call as an individual relationship and not as a robocall.