Picking Up the Telephone, Building Your Pipeline


After watching the webinar that Anthony Stears did for the National Sales Conference some of the key takeaways were as follows.

He started the session by emphasizing that good manners are the essential starting point of all telephone calling. The moment that prospects feel your aggressive, rude or too “salesy” you are lost. His mantra is “Capitalise on the conversations that people are ready to have”.

He breaks the process down into 3 main phases.


  1. Phase One: Build Rapport

He used the analogy of dropping off a pizza menu through someone’s door. Popping it through the letter box is fine, knocking on the door and asking if someone wants a pizza would be rude and weird.

Start with the objections: “I was hoping to chat for a couple of minutes, I guess this isn’t the most convenient time for a call, when would be a good time for me to call you back”. You need to have permission to speak before you can go any further.

Once you have permission to speak, address the first objection head on:

  • “I appreciate that you’re almost certainly not looking for training right now”
  • “Just want to make sure that we’re on your radar when the time is right”

Remember you are just dropping the menu through the letterbox, not trying to sell the pizza.

As a rule of thumb, out of 10 calls:

  • 7 will go to voicemail or be unanswered
  • 2 will answer and re-schedule a better time
  • 1 will answer and be ready to talk

Never leave a voicemail for someone who doesn’t know who you are or what you are offering.

The goal is to build sufficient rapport that the other person likes you enough to listen to what you have to say. Make sure you have done your research before the call – referencing their LinkedIn profile is fine, talking about their Facebook page would be intrusive.


  1. Phase Two: Establish Credibility

Essential that you can share a relevant case study to establish credibility.

  • Build a library of case studies that you can draw on
  • Make sure that they are about the client not about you
  • Choose something that the client can relate to: don’t choose a blue chip reference for a medium sized business, it may intimidate them
  • Having them field by industry may be helpful

Once you’ve got their interest, send it as a PDF follow-up, with the clear expectation that there will be a follow up call to discuss: “do you think you’ll have a chance to review in the next couple of weeks”.

Always be in control of the next follow-up step.


  1. Phase Three: Create Urgency

Don’t be aggressive on the follow-up call:

  • “I just wanted to check that it had got through your spam filter”
  • “Have you had a chance to read the mail I sent you”

The goal is to get the customer to take a “test drive” – whatever is the equivalent for the product or service you are selling. NB Customers are 78% more likely to buy a car after a test drive than before.

Think about what is your equivalent of a test drive – sample, trial software, site visit …


Remember the 3 ‘P’s: Polite, Persistent, Patient. Always follow-up:

  • 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up
  • 80% of deals need a minimum of five follow-ups


As always, you must be in control of the next follow-up step at the end of the call.

He summarized by saying that he charts his overall journey as follows:

  • Finding the name of the person to speak to
  • Successfully getting through to them
  • Reaching agreement to speak at a convenient time
  • Reaching agreement to review testimonial on another call
  • Sending the testimonial
  • Calling to check that the testimonial got through
  • Offering a “test drive”
  • Getting customer agreement to the test drive



He responded to quite a few questions, highlights as follows:

  1. How best to introduce oneself?
  2. Be polite and professional. Don’t try to be overly friendly, and never start with “Hi there, how are you doing today?”


  1. How to get through to people during the COVID crisis?
  2. Try the following approach: “Is he working from home today? Can you put the call through to him, or do I need to call a different number?” Puts the onus on the receptionist to find a way to connect you rather than screening you out.


  1. When’s the best time to call?
  2. The best time is NOW. And if that leads to finding a more convenient time later, that’s fine. You can also try first thing in the morning, lunchtime, the end of the day, when gatekeepers are less likely to screen you out.


  1. How to get past gatekeepers?
  2. Never lie to get past, it’s the worst possible way to start any relationship. His technique is to imply intimacy without stating it, call flow as follows:
  • “Hi is Steve there … Steve Lindsay?” Implies that you are on first name terms, adding surname for clarity.
  • “Who shall I say is calling?”
  • “Anthony Stears, S T E A R S. Thanks”. No company name, again implies a personal call.
  • “What is the call about?”
  • “Look, this is important but not urgent. When’s a better time to call back?” Puts the onus on the gatekeeper to put you through now or later. His experience is that most gatekeepers fold at this point.

His advice is never to engage the gatekeepers or have them act as your intermediary for the pitch. Better to keep calling back until you get past them.


His Own Sales Pitch

He has a neat technique for building relationships with Heads of Training – he asks if he can interview then so he can quote their inputs when he is speaking at conferences. And of course he explores all the different training initiatives they have while interviewing them.

For a “test drive” he offers a “free” Master Class:

  • 45 minute Zoom webinar for your sales team
  • Nominally billed at £450
  • He will write off the invoice of he gets written feedback within 14 days

This of course achieves multiple objectives, framing the value of the training and establishing his credentials.


To talk to us more on telephone skills, please get in touch by emailing info@sbrconsulting.com or call us on +44 (0) 207 653 3740.

At SBR we’re dedicated to providing whatever support our clients require to guide them through the ongoing crisis. You can sign up to receive regular updates and join over 4,000 others who enjoy access to our unique research insights, expert guidance and advice.


Improve your sales now