Call Guides and How to Structure Them
Scripts for Telephone 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 word-for-word representations of what is to be said. 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 "pitches" rather than a series of statements and questions together, as recommended by Judy McKee. This statement-question approach is more of a conversational dialogue. Also, it is the questions, not statements, that control a telephone call's direction.
Call guides are used in place of scripts and are an outline of what to say. Each part of the call is outlined, often using bullet points, to identify key points to make in each portion of the call. For some points suggested or typical language may be offered.
Call guides structure a call but allow telephone reps to choose their own words. A skilled telephone rep can listen to a prospect or customer's comments and respond to them, while still incorporating all of the elements in the call guide.
Some organizations create a combined script/call guide for training purposes. On paper, an 8.5 x 11 page is used in landscape orientation and divided in half. A call guide is on the left, with a corresponding script on the right. This may also be done on a computer screen.
Objection-Responses for Sales Calls
Sometimes called rebuttals, these are answers to objections that prospects or customers may may raise. Since few reps have ever made a sale by debating a prospect, Lieber & Associates avoids the term "rebuttal" and prefers "objection-response."
Surfacing prospect objections is a key part of any sales call. As Ernest Dichter points out in Motivating Human Behavior, the art of persuasion is primarily 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.
*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.
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 U.S. 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 call guide/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 (required in some U.S. states)
- Introduce offer
- Identify and Answer Objections
- Trial 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 outline.
Though rarely scripted, building rapport at the beginning of the call is essential.