Q: I am a distributor for a network marketing company on a part-time basis. I do pretty well selling when I am in person but not so well when doing a sales call by telephone. Is there a secret to successfully selling a product and business opportunity over the phone?

A: Good question. Actually, making the call in the first place is 90 percent of the battle. To get good results, keep in mind the law of averages in phone sales: Some buy; some don't.

Now that we've gotten that piece of wisdom out of the way, developing an effective telephone presentation means thoroughly understanding your product and business opportunity, being aware of what people buy, knowing something about buyer attitudes and behavior, and comprehending the principles of opening and closing a sale. Above all, you must know good telephone technique.

An effective presentation also depends on the characteristics of a good salesperson: You have to be friendly, creative, enthusiastic and visionary, with a great attitude, willingness to serve, good personality and ability to listen.

Product knowledge is the cornerstone of effective selling and recruiting. You must believe in your products completely before you can sell them. If you have enthusiasm for your products and your business offering, the prospects hear it in your voice. If you lack that enthusiasm, they hear that as well.

To help you make the most of your product knowledge, make a list of all the benefits of the products (or business opportunity) you're trying to sell. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the most attractive benefits?
  • How can I impress the value of these benefits on the prospect?
  • What materials do I have from my company that will help me compose my presentation?
  • What is the primary message I want to convey? How can I express that idea in one sentence?
  • What personal experiences will help me illustrate my message?
  • Who has benefited from my company's products or the business opportunity?

Now consider your list of product benefits in relation to what you know about your customers, and ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I relate the benefits of my products to the needs of my customers?
  • How can I present my products in a unique manner that will create desire for them?
  • What are the most significant desires that my prospects have?
  • What are my customers most interested in?
  • What specific facts can I present that will support my statements?

Customers share one characteristic: They all want to satisfy a need or a desire. Often these desires may not be apparent even to them. The key here is to uncover that need and show your customer how you can fill it. No matter what you strive to do in your attempt to succeed, you must come to an understanding of what other people want, then find a way of giving it to them. Remember that most purchasing decisions are based on emotional appeal.

Because some people will display a frustrating case of "analysis paralysis," it is important to take the risk out of the phone sale decision by using one of the two following approaches (both are offered by most legitimate network marketing companies):

  1. A 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so your prospect has everything to gain and really nothing to lose.
  2. A 90 percent buyback of unused product and distributor sales aids for as long as 90 days to one year from the time your prospect joins your opportunity. Where can anyone start a business of his or her own with so little risk?

Once you understand the tools your company provides, you can use these ideas to develop an approach that is comfortable for you. I am confident your phone sales will then drastically improve.

Michael L. Sheffield is the CEO of Sheffield Resource Network, a full-service direct sales and multilevel marketing (MLM) consulting firm. He is also the co-founder and chairman of the Multi Level Marketing International Association (MLMIA). He can be contacted through http://www.sheffieldnet.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.