If you don’t like hearing the sound of your own voice, following one of the most common pieces of advice sales coaches give will probably seem like torture: recording and listening to your cold calls after the fact.
The logic behind this advice couldn’t be more spot-on. After all, when sales reps are making calls, they’re often making a lot of calls. As they get more accustomed to using data more strategically via CRM like Sales Cloud, the calls they make may become more targeted, but it can still be difficult to objectively assess your performance when you’re in the heat of the moment. Recording at least some of the calls and taking a few minutes in the week to play back the results will hopefully show where you’re strong, where you’re weak and feedback from customers you might have overlooked the first time around.
In practice, listening to recordings of cold calls can feel like more of a tiresome chore than an exercise in self-development. You likely already know the gist of how the call went, for instance, so it may be hard to have the patience to actually sit through it if the call went on for more than a few minutes. If there were any negative moments on the call, like push-back from a customer or criticism of some kind, it may sting to relive it again. Most of all, there can be something cringe-inducing about listening to a conversation that is over and done with. You can’t change what you said at the time, for instance, and it can be difficult to focus on how you’ll behave differently on your next calls instead.
This is a classic case of needing to get into the right mindset. It can be done if you use a little imagination and let yourself have some fun with the exercise, rather than approach it with dread.
We’ve come up with a few ways to think differently about the act of listening to (and learning from) sales call recordings below. Try them alone, or maybe with your sales coach or another coworker. See if any of them help trigger some insights to guide your next critical customer conversation.
Even during the dullest baseball, hockey or basketball games, sportscasters often have a unique ability to make what happens on the field sound as dramatic as possible. They tend to not only narrate what happens (“And it’s a homer!”) but fill in some of the dead air with background context about a particular player, the team, who they’re competing against and other statistics from games past.
Be your own on-air commentator as you reach pauses or interesting points in your sales call recordings. “And she’s intrigued!” you might note after you make the initial value proposition. “And he’s knocked down!” you could say about yourself after a major objection is raised.
This might feel a little silly, but it actually accomplishes something important. Doing the play-by-play distances you from your recorded self, forces you to be more objective and allows you to see the narrative “arc” of the call. When were you able to capture attention, build suspense or reach the climax where the customer was willing to book a meeting or demo? What was in the epilogue, where they asked for additional information as they gave your offer more thought?
You might not need to do this exercise for every sales call recording you hear -- and you may only want to do it in your own head -- but it can get you more energized as you seek to boost your conversions.
At first, all you may notice when you’re listening to a sales call recording are your own verbal tics. You might say “um” a lot, for instance, or you’re surprised to hear how loud your own breathing sounds on the line. It is vital you tune these distractions out, because you need to be focused on how customers are responding.
Try this: after a customer gives their first answer, mute or fast-forward through the parts where you’re speaking. Only listen to the customer -- almost like you’re studying them as part of a scientific research study. Don’t necessarily focus solely on the content of what they’re saying right away, but the tone. How open do they sound to new ideas? When do they sound impatient or irritated? What sounds, if any, suggest you’re building a genuine rapport?
Much like suddenly noticing the details of your own vocal idiosyncrasies, listening only to the customer might create a far different impression of their mood and emotional state than when you were live on the line with them. This gives you a better baseline of how they might prefer to discuss a purchase opportunity you want to bring forward next time.
Once you’ve got that down, do the same thing, only this time you’re focused solely on the content. Were there other rebuttals to objections you could have used? Was the product or your company positioned in a way they could readily understand? Are there any unanswered questions you could address by sending along supplementary content, such as buyer’s guides and spec sheets, as a form of follow up? Make sure anything relevant that comes to mind here gets entered into Sales Cloud right away.
Don’t make the mistake of multi-tasking when you’re listening to a sales call recording. It may be tempting to check your e-mail, update your calendar or scroll through social media, but that raises the risk of missing something important.
If you really feel you need something to do or something to look at, close your eyes. As the recording plays, put the call into an imaginary alternative context. What might this conversation have looked like if it were happening in person at the customer’s office, for example? You might notice the tone of their voice suggests they would want someone to be high-energy to keep and sustain their attention. On the other hand, they might sound like someone who is simple, straight-to-the-point and not overly aggressive.
You’re just making guesses here, but you’re also getting into the habit of treating each customer like a unique individual. Try the same thing again, this time imagining the conversation if it happened in the hallway at an industry event, or even as a video conversation. How might they respond differently -- and how would you alter your approach?
Being successful in sales requires a dogged commitment to keep trying, even in the face of ongoing failure. Listening to your recordings can be a way to reduce some of those failures. It doesn’t have to feel like writing a self-assessment on a report card, though. With a little creativity, it could be the most engaging moments of brainstorming you have all week.