As new technologies emerge and competition increases, sales prospecting strategies are also ever-changing. Companies are constantly trying new approaches, refining messaging, and evolving communications styles to connect with prospective clients in meaningful ways.

A successful prospecting strategy usually involves several modes of outreach, including social media, internet marketing, email, trade shows and direct mail. But while we live in a digital age, one of the most effective prospecting tools is still the good old-fashioned telephone.

There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, people continue to use the phone as a business tool: despite what is written in the press, they actually answer it! Decision makers need to keep up with the newest trends in their fields, and before taking initiative to research online or read an ad, they are inclined to listen to an interesting phone call. And when they do, the caller has their full, undivided attention, even if only for a few seconds.

But most importantly, a phone call is personal—a direct conversation forges a human connection and begins the cultivation of a long-term relationship. Telephone outreach can go beyond just identifying sales prospects. It allows a company to establish credibility and trust.

So how do you create this “human connection” on the telephone? Here are a few techniques that almost always work:

  1. Psychologically prepare for success. If you start off assuming that your introductory calls will not be well received, you’ll get anxious and become reluctant to fully engage with targets. Change your mind-set. Assume that targets will be interested in learning more about how your offering solves problems. If you give the impression that you’re confident and comfortable, your targets will feel that way, too.
  2. Craft conversations that are fluid, not rigid. Rather than memorizing an exact pitch, it’s important to exude enthusiasm, knowledge, and attentiveness on the phone. Slow down, pause, and take the time to address questions or concerns thoroughly and personally. No one wants to speak with a someone who sounds like a robot! Lighten up, laugh and make the conversation enjoyable.
  3. Ask questions. Asking questions demonstrates an interest in the specific needs and pain points affecting your targets. Broad, open-ended questions work best: they invite targets to respond with whatever level of detail is comfortable, building trust and keeping the conversation going. These types of questions can also reveal valuable market information. And after you ask: stop and listen. Let the prospect know you hear and understand their point of view.
  4. Always project professionalism. Most people would rather talk to a colleague than a salesperson; therefore, it’s important to sound more like the former than the latter on the phone. Be transparent about why you’re calling. Don’t be overly pushy. Thank people for their time. These might seem like small details, but people will pick up on your manners and the amount of respect you show them, which in turn will affect their impression of your company.
  5. Write a detailed script for the conversation. Compared with everything else on this list, this one may come as a surprise: scripting is important. Drafting a script helps you think about what product benefits and features to highlight, how to respond to objections, and what pain points targets may have. It also provides peace of mind to have a script to fall back on: you can focus on addressing the specific needs of each target rather than worrying about what comes next in the conversation.
  6. Prepare for follow up: keep good notes! Every good inside sales strategy includes a plan for follow up, and when you speak with someone for the second time you shouldn’t sound like a stranger. Therefore, it’s important to keep very detailed, well-organized notes about each target so that you can pick the conversation up right where you left off. From a target’s favorite baseball team to a specific time when they are likely to be in the office, even the smallest details will give your follow-up an authentic, personal touch.
  7. Always include an ask. Whether you want targets to complete a survey, visit your website, or schedule a sales appointment, you should always have an “ask” each time you call. Even if you’re starting small, it’s important to establish a pattern in which the target agrees to do something you’re asking. This will make them receptive to bigger asks as they progress through your pipeline.

Regardless of industry, the most successful prospecting teams use the techniques above to connect authentically with targets and utilize the full power of the telephone—and you can, too. In this time of artificial intelligence and big data, there is still nothing more powerful than a personal connection. Go ahead – make that call!