Everyone has an opinion on whether or not you should use phone scripts when selling or prospecting over the phone. Those who don’t believe in using them cite many reasons including:
• Using scripts makes you sound like a telemarketer
• Following a script is too confining – you have to “go with the flow” of a conversation
• You can’t consult with a prospect if you’re following a script
• Scripts all sound so “salesy” that it turns prospects off
• People can always tell that you’re reading something, so you sound unprofessional
• You can’t script out everything – sometimes you just need to be able to adlib a little
• Script were O.K. in the beginning, but now that you’re a “pro” you don’t need them…
And so on. I bet you can think a few reasons yourself why you’d never be caught dead following a script…
And then there are those who believe that you absolutely must follow a script. Having written several books on phone scripts, you can imagine I subscribe to this group. Some of the reasons I believe you should follow a script are:
• Following a script actually makes you sound more professional
• Following a script ensures that you ask all the right qualifying questions
• Scripts make your job easier because you know where you’ve been and where you’re going
• Scripts allow you to truly listen to what your prospect is really saying…
• Having a script to follow gives you confidence and control over the sales process
• Following a scripted sales approach allows you to practice perfection on every call
Each of the above reasons for following a scripted sales approach powerfully affects each stage of your sales process, and any one of them can make or break a sale. But the real argument I present to those who insist on not using scripts is this: Where you know it or not, you already are following a script.
Think about it: If I were to record all your calls for a week and then transcribe them and hand them back to you, isn’t it true that what I’d be giving you was your own “script”? Isn’t it true that you are saying the same things, over and over again, each time you get a question, objection or blow off? Sure you are!
You see, right now everyone is already using a script of some kind, but the problem with most of them is that they were developed in the heat of the sale, while they were taking “in-coming” from a prospect or client. Most of the responses sales reps use were thought up on the spot and in response to (and often in defense to) some type of difficult sales situation.
Just think about how you habitually respond to blow offs like, “What is this call in regards to?” or “We wouldn’t be interested,” or “Just email me something.” Chances are, you are using ineffective responses that just cause you frustration and phone reluctance.
On the other hand, one of the biggest benefits to using professionally prepared scripts is that you can design the most effective response in advance, and then deliver your lines like a professional. I often like to cite Marlon Perkins from the old TV show, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” when making this point.
If you remember, his associate, Jim, was always out in the field “wrestling with the alligators,” while Marlon was reporting from the “safety and comfort of the land rover.” I always remember Marlon then taking a sip of ice tea and thinking, “When I grow up, I want to be Marlon and not Jim!”
In sales it’s the same thing. If you are not following a prepared and effective approach, then each time your prospect answers, you’re suddenly like Jim, “wrestling with the alligators.” If you take the time, however, in the safety and comfort of the conference room, to craft out the best responses, statements and questions to the selling situations you run into day after day, then you can calmly and coolly deal with those situations. And even take a sip of ice tea in between responses!
As I’ve just mentioned, 80% of the selling situations you face are the same ones you faced yesterday, last month, etc., and they’re the same you’ll be in next week and next month. This is one of the best things about sales that most sales reps never take advantage of. The top producers in any industry know this and use it to their advantage by taking the time to script out the most powerful and effective responses to them, and then they drill, practice and rehearse them so they sound natural. That’s why top producers sound so smooth and professional. They have taken the time to internalize the scripts so they can deliver their responses naturally.
And just a word about practice. Did you notice I didn’t say they “read their scripts”? Every professional – whether it’s an actor or dancer or football player – spends hours and hours learning their craft and practicing their techniques so when it’s time to perform, they do it automatically. Don Shula, the Superbowl winning coach of the Miami Dolphins, once said that his players practice every day until their assignments and techniques become automatic. He said that come game time if a player needs to “think” about what to do next it’s already too late!
And it’s the same with any sales professional. If you need to think about how to respond to a question, a blow off, an objection or stall, then it’s already too late! If you have scripted out the best approach or response and memorized it, however, then you can handle those situations like a professional. And this gives you the best chance of succeeding.
So, should you learn and use well-crafted, real world responses that give you the best chance to succeed in the selling situations you get in day after day? Or should you continue to make things up as you go along, hoping that what you say will occasionally work while you keep wondering why sales seems so hard for you, but easy for the top producers in your office?
The answer to that question will determine whether or not you choose to learn and use scripts, and how successful – or unsuccessful – you’ll be in your career…