In the last article, we established that the correct use of your voice is paramount in SaaS sales given the remote communication methods that we mostly use with clients. In this article I want to dissect the elements that make up tonality and share how sales reps should sound like at each stage of the SaaS sales funnel.
Elements of your voice
I have followed a pitch training by celebrity voice trainer Robert Love (yes, that's his name) and borrowed these elements from him:
- Pitch – You can either have a high or a low pitched voice
- Pace – The speed of your speech
- Tone – The pronunciation of words
- Melody – Variance in your speech
- Volume – How loud you speak
Like the mixing of a cocktail, the right amount of each ingredient is crucial for the end product.
How to sound per stage of the sales process
When I am prospecting, I want come across as friendly, confident and interesting – so that the prospect allows me to spend 5-10 minutes of their time on a topic that they hadn't planned to discuss.
In a first call your voice should go up towards the end of a sentence to mime a lighter, less-threatening persona that can easily build a rapport with a prospect. There is even a technique called 'Pre-Recognition'. You express the first lines in a cold call as questions, so that the prospect assumes that you know each other (not necessarily a kosher technique). You'd say something like: "Hello, this Nils Brosch [?] From Acne Company [?]".
The most important thing is: The caller should sound exciting AND interesting enough to be allowed to continue talking, when you ask your prospect "Am I calling at a bad time?" (Getting to No).
- Pitch – 6.5/10
A higher pitch cold call will come across as friendlier than a serious low-voiced call. Moreover, the caller should be a welcomed distraction in an otherwise unspectacular day at office for the prospect- you bring the sunshine. 🌞
- Pace – 6.5/10
Every second counts in a cold call and we have max 8 seconds to explain: Who we are, which company we represent, why we are calling and to ask if this is a bad time to chat. Good luck doing that with a low pace.
- Tone – 6/10
Airiness is often misused by sales people to come across as less threatening, however, the opposite is true, prospects will perceive us as 'salesy'. My recommendation would be to express your pitch more clearly.
- Melody – 6.5/10
Coming back to my 'bringing the sunshine analogy', having a melodic voice will spark the listeners interest in whatever you have to say.
- Volume – 6/10
The volume in your voice will assert a certain level of self-confidence that will signal to the listener that you have a right to call.
Having the right mindset before a call is vital and influences the perception of you as a caller in the ears of the listener. For prospecting two elements are crucial:
a. 'I can really help' mentality
If you are not convinced that your product can actually help the client, then you won't get anywhere with your prospecting. If in doubt, visit current clients and see how you have helped and in extreme cases, just find a new product/company that you do believe in.
b. Abundance mentality
Borrowed from Mike Weinberg, this mentality sums up perfectly how to think when dialling. It gives you confidence to challenge assumptions that the prospect has and helps you to also disqualify leads earlier, which will lead you to have great focus on relevant opportunities.
The single most important step in a sales process is the discovery phase, to establish if you can help and how. Nevertheless, questions for questions' sake will quickly be perceived as annoying to the prospect. Especially senior stakeholders will quickly experience 'discovery fatigue', if we run through our standard discovery process. Hence, questioning must serve two purposes:
1. Enhance or provoke the need for your product through self-realisation in the head of the prospect
2. Provide sufficient information for yourself to build a clear sales process around the collected answers
We will focus on the first point. In order to achieve the stated purpose, a prospect must trust you and believe that you can help them.
To use a doctor's analogy for discovery: you wouldn't trust a doctor that doesn't ask good questions about your current situation, doesn't sound competent in the field questioning and who doesn't sound like she really cares about your problem.
- Pitch – 4.5/10
Remain lower on your pitch as you don't want to come over as nervous or unsure with regards to the situation, whilst keeping a natural curiosity in your voice.
- Pace – 5.5/10
Winning By Design taught me to be 10% quicker than your prospect in every conversation, which is a good rule of thumb.
- Tone – 6/10
We want to create an aura of expertise. Thus, well pronounced and inquisitive questions are a key to success.
- Melody – 5/10
Curiosity and active listening can be underlined effectively by mirroring certain parts of an answer that a prospect gives to you, whilst going up in your voice to signal that you curious about a particular issue. Nevertheless, the discovery call is not meant to be about you or your product, but about the issues of the customer – so use melody carefully to underline your questions, but not to distract from the core of the purpose.
- Volume – 6/10
Higher volume expresses your self-confidence and halos competence.
'I really care' mindset
Next to the mindsets that I have described above, you need to have a the right mindset to go into a discovery call. If I don't care about someone's problem, then I won't try to figure out what drives them and dig deep enough with questions. Techniques like 'active listening' will help you to create a fertile discovery environment, where your prospect opens up to you as she feels that you actually care and know your stuff.
I am keeping track of the best analogies for bad demos – here is what I have so far: Disco Demo, Shit Show, Broadcasting or a 'talking product brochure'. Long story short, the attention of prospects in demos mostly looks like the curve below, as reps don't engage the listener in the right way.
I will not focus on increasing a listeners attention through questioning and relevance of a demo. Alternatively, I want to focus on using your voice correctly to keep people engaged.
- Pitch – 6/10
In Brian Geery's book "How to Demonstrate Software So People Buy It", he made the comparison of a product demo and a broadway musical. Both should be rehearsed and perfected over period of time. With regards to pitch, broadway musicals tend to be upbeat – just as your presentation should be.
- Pace – 5.5/10
You don't want to rush through a presentation, as it signals that you might want to hide certain elements of your product- speak calmly and composed
- Tone – 7/10
Sales demos are not about showing your entire product, but making a few (max 3) essential and relevant points stick in the head of the listener.
Highlight and stress the importance of those points through proper pronunciation and clear speech.
- Melody – 7.5/10
The natural attention span of demo participants is probably around 5 minutes, afterwards we need to engage them with relevant content, questions and the melody of you voice. Keep your listeners engaged by using the full arsenal of your voice. As an example, listen to how Neil deGrasse Tyson keeps you engaged by the way he talks:
- Volume – 5/10
Put variation into your voice to stress certain points, which is why your average volume equals out around a 5 between silent and loud.
A few more techniques that might be helpful in this context:
- Punching: Stress certain words to drive home a point. I.e. "The real reason is mostly bad data input."
- Elongation: Slow-down to fully and slowly pronounce certain terminology that are related to a benefit of your product. I.e. "The key to achieving good reporting data this is behaviouristic machine learning."
- The Whisper Effect: Make certain information feel like a personal secret by increasing airiness in your tone and becoming a little more silent. I.e. "(Bear in mind) most dashboards display faulty information."
- Dramatic pause: This pattern interrupt allows audiences to digest information. I.e.: "Never gather data without clear strategy. (…) This will enable you to make meaningful analysis in the future."
I rarely see a full-blown price negotiation taking place, in which people argue about certain elements of an offer. The reason being that urgency to win a deal is created way before the negotiation not during one. Nevertheless, the way you sound whilst communicating 'commercial terms' is crucial.
Communicate the price as a statement, not a question and then stop talking.
Your voice should drop at the end of that statement to signal just how final it is. If you continue talking or phrase the costs as questions, you sound insecure and open the gates of hell for pricing objections.
- Pitch – 4/10
The prospect realises the need for our product, so we do not have anymore relationship building to do. Now is the time to ace the landing and confidently state the price with a lower voice.
- Pace – 4/10
Slow down to show just how in control and comfortable you are in the situation.
- Tone – 5/10
No specialities here, we can speak normally.
- Melody – 4.5/10
Nobody ever wants to sound monoton, however, in a pricing negotiation we surely don't want to sound emotional or give away anxiety in our voice.
- Volume – 6/10
The confidence is mirrored by the volume of our voice, so speak loud and clear.
'Believe in your added-value' mindset
I heard John Barrows recently say in a podcast that the number one reason for sales reps to discount is that they don't believe in their own product and the value it brings. In order to sound convinced and stand your ground, check your thoughts before a call.
Practical side notes
At my client companies I look at the following practical elements to check whether the infrastructure for calling is given:
1. Active noise-cancelling headphones
Don't make the mistake that I made and order 'passive noise-cancelling headphones', which are basically tight headphones. Invest in good calling equipment to cancel out background noise and help your reps to focus.
2. Standing desks
Most of the techniques outlined above are enabled through diaphragmatic breathing, which is much easier to achieve when standing up.
3. Dedicated sales rooms
I spot an 'anti-sales cultures' immediately when coming into an office by remarking a low noise level. Granted, you don't want to put your BDRs next to developers, but enable sales people to create an atmosphere where it is weird to not be communicating with a client rather than searching for an empty room to have a call. Firstly, this will increase the overall activity levels and act like a virtuous cycle. Secondly, it will allow sales managers and peers to give immediate feedback to calls if appropriate.
Want to learn more?
In the next weeks I want to publish two more articles on this topic, answering the following questions:
- 1. Voice in Sales: Impact on sales success in SaaS
- 2. What's your voice status quo and how to improve it
If you like to learn more about this topic, please let me know if you'd like to see a separate course about 'Voice in Sales' by upvoting it here:
SaaS.eu.com – I help B2B SaaS companies by taking a look at all factors that influence commercial performance in scaleups, to break through to the next level.
SaaSCollective.net – The SaaS Collective are go-to-market experts in B2B SaaS that make state-of-the-art scaling knowledge available for everyone.