Scripts and Call Guides for Sales Calls*

Planning for Success

A successful sales call is a call that is well planned and organized. Call guides and scripts help do this, so reps may focus on communicating with the prospect or customer on an individual basis.

What is the difference between a script and a call guide?

Scripts are representations of what is to be said - word for word. At some call centers, reps are required to use scripts verbatim. At others, reps are allowed to substitute their own choice of words here and there. An inherent benefit of scripts is control over exactly what is said on each call. This is also a disadvantage. While the best professional radio announcers can read a script for an ad without sounding like they are reading, phone reps always sound like they are reading telephone scripts - particularly on outbound calls.

A contributing factor is that many scripts are long “spiels”or “pitches” rather than a series of statements and questions together, as recommended by Judy McKee in her statement-question technique. This statement-question approach is more of a conversational dialogue. Also, it is questions – not statements – that control a telephone call’s direction.

Scripts are mostly used on certain types of outbound calls to consumers. They are rarely used in business-to-business outbound calling, where call guides are preferred.

Call Guides
Call guides are used in place of scripts and are an outline of what to say. Each part of the call is outlined, with key points to make in each one. For some points, suggested or typical language may be offered.

Call guides structure a call, but allow telephone reps to choose their own words throughout all or most of the call. A skilled telephone rep can listen to a prospect’s comments and respond to them, while still incorporating all of the elements in a call guide.

Some organizations create combined script/call guide for training purposes. An 8.5 x 11 page is landscaped (oriented to be 11 inches wide and 8.5 inches deep) and divided in half. A call guide is on the left, with a corresponding script on the right.

Sometimes called rebuttals, these are answers to questions that prospects ask, or to objections that they may raise. Since few reps have ever made a sale by debating a customer, Lieber & Associates avoids the term "rebuttal" and prefers "objection-response."

Surfacing prospect objections is a key part of any call. As Ernest Dichter points out in Motivating Human Behavior, the art of persuasion is more about removing objections - the perception of negatives - than it is about convincing a prospect of positive attributes. Clearly communicating benefits is an easier task than overcoming objections.

Objection responses are organized by topic or question, with the question as the heading and the answer following it. Answers are as brief and to the point as possible, sometimes acknowledging that the prospect’s concern is a genuine one that should be addressed.

In practice, telephone reps find it a bit cumbersome to navigate through several pages of objection-responses while on a call. The solution is for reps to learn the objection -responses and to be able to use them from memory, without using the written text. Until this occurs, trainees may need to use bridging phrases such as, “That’s a good point. Let me explore that further with you…” to fill the time gap as they locate the correct objection-response. With a little training and practice, trainees will become adept at this.

Regulations Governing Scripts and Call Guides
There a number of regulations covering scripts and call guides that must be considered for calls to consumers, and in a few cases, for business-to-business calls. For example, some states prohibit the use of objection-responses on consumer calls, requiring that the telephone representative end the call if the prospect states that they are not interested.

Please consult your compliance officer, call center compliance consultant or attorney to make sure that your script complies with all applicable federal and state laws.

Parts of A Call Guide or Script
Here are the typical parts of an outbound sales call script/call guide when one is calling qualified prospects.

· Opening – greeting and identification
· Statement and interest-evoking question
  May include purpose of call or request for permission to continue
· Introduce offer
· Identify and Answer Objections
· Trial Close
· Close
· Order/appointment confirmation, thank you and good-bye

There are variations on these parts of a call depending on the objective of the call, the market and the product or service. A lead qualification call would have a somewhat different script/call guide outline.

While not scripted, building rapport at the beginning of the call is essential.

*These are general recommendations. Specific strategies and tactics should be based on a review of your needs, market and operation. For outside support, contact Lieber & Associates.