Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Improve Your Voice, Improve Your Sales

Learn the techniques used by powerful speakers to deliver a successful sales pitch.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

How well do you use your voice to express emotion and emphasize the importance of your sales message? If you've been selling to "seemores"--low-level, analytically focused buyers who always want to see more--chances are good that you've been delivering your sales pitch without any emotion. Have I been listening in on your sales calls? Well, sort of.

It's a well-known fact, and all my selling experience tells me, that seemores don't show very much emotion, which means you've learned to not show very much emotion either. When you're in their presence, you most likely find yourself holding back a bit, not wanting to overpower them. In fact, if you've been selling to seemores for any length of time, the odds are very good indeed that you've also made a habit of holding back vocally, so as not to come on too strong and appear to be too "sales-y."

This may or may not be a good strategy for selling to seemores. (My personal feeling is that it can be entertaining to shake seemores up once in a while.) Regardless, I can guarantee you that this vocal approach is a lousy way to sell to VITOs (Very Important Top Officers, who include CEOs, presidents and business owners). As a general but extremely reliable rule, VITOs love to emote and they love to use their voices to do so. What's more, they tend to respect--and buy from--people who use their voices to emote. They tend to distrust, or at least avoid, spending any time with tentative speakers.

So who do you want to spend time with: a seemore or a VITO? Your answer's obvious, and that means it's time to change your vocal selling pattern and do what VITO does! Follow these tips to improve your vocal approach:

  • Change your tone based on what you're saying and feeling. You won't hear a singsong type of presentation from a VITO, and you won't hear a monotone voice either. What you will hear is vocal modulation appropriate to the topic and emotions of the discussion at hand.
  • Change your tone based on what's most important. VITOs know that not everything that gets said is as important as everything else. So "lean" on important words and phrases. Remember that the tone of your voice must change when you ask a VITO a question, just as a VITO's vocal tone will change when he or she asks you something important.
  • Emphasize the ends of statements and questions. Listen to VITOs carefully, and you'll see that's what they tend to do. The important stuff almost always comes at the end of the sentence or query. That means you should raise the pitch of your voice during the last few words--whether you're asking a thought-provoking question or making a powerful statement of fact or value. This takes practice, but it's imperative that you invest the time and effort necessary to get it right!

A note of caution: Do not, under any circumstances, try to sound like VITO or parrot what they say by making any attempt to use the same phrases they use. This mirroring technique won't work and will run you the risk of losing the sale.

Here's the bottom line: VITOs speak with the other person's purpose in mind, and so should you. Understand a VITO's purpose, then subtly use your voice to emphasize only what's relevant to that purpose. That's what vocal modulation--VITO-style--is all about.

Think you need an example of what vocal modulation sounds like? Tonight, turn on your television, close your eyes and listen to one of the nightly network news anchors deliver their text. Or better yet, listen with your eyes closed to Oprah Winfrey as she conducts an interview. Spend five minutes just listening, and I'll wager you'll know exactly what I'm talking about!

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks