Tonality in Sales: How to Engage and Persuade Prospects Through Your Tone
Tonality in sales is all-important. Have you ever heard of the 55/38/7 formula?
Also known as the Mehrabian model, the formula states that 55% of communication is achieved through nonverbal means (like body language); 38% through tone; and 7% through verbal.
The fact that tone accounts for nearly 40% of communication is significant on its own. Keep in mind, on top of that fact, that almost all of salespeople’s initial communication with leads and prospects exclude body language, as most outreach is done via cold calls or cold emails.
This is why tonality in sales is a big deal. Your tone conveys more about your emotions, point of view, and attitude toward the listener than your words do. In most sales conversations, the goal is to speak with a tone that’s confident, capable, and enthusiastic. Even the perfect sales script will be ineffective if the sales rep doesn’t nail the tone.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about tonality in sales, including why it’s so important, the 8 main tonal patterns, and how to improve your tonality in sales calls.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What Is Tonality in Sales?
- Why Is Tonality in Sales Important?
- The 8 Tonal Patterns
- How to Choose the Right Tonal Pattern
- How to Improve Your Tonality in Sales Calls
- Tonality in Sales Best Practices
What Is Tonality in Sales?
Tonality in sales refers to the way a sales rep’s voice sounds when speaking with leads, prospects, or customers.
Many factors can influence a salesperson’s tone. Their mood, physical surroundings, work culture, values, conversation goals, and more may impact their tone of voice.
All of these factors will come through in the speaker’s pitch (how high or low they speak), volume (how loudly or quietly they speak), speed (how quickly or slowly they speak), and diction (their word choice, specifically the tone behind their choice of words).
Tonality is extremely important in sales and can give sellers an edge that should not be taken for granted. Sales reps who start sales relationships by sending cold emails are at perpetual risk of having their intentions misunderstood because of the lack of tone inherent to written communication; sales reps who have the advantage of tone can use it to gain leverage.
Be intentional with your tone. Remember that outside influences can easily creep in and affect it, so go into each conversation with a plan in mind, and be mindful to check in with yourself throughout the conversation to make sure you’re on track with your intentions.Make cold calls with easeEnrich prospect's contact information right inside your inbox with the most accurate B2B data
Why Is Tonality in Sales Important?
Tonality in sales is important for a number of reasons. It helps create clear communication, positions the seller as an expert, and helps sellers personalize the sales experience.
Clear and Concise Communication
The right tone helps deliver your message clearly and with as few extra words or conversations as possible.
It’s easy to highlight this with a counterexample. Let’s say a sales rep has a sales conversation over the phone with a prospect. The prospect has done a lot of research on the sales rep’s offer already, and is excited to connect with someone who can guide them to make a purchase.
The sales rep, though, sounds hurried and even a bit aggravated on the call, despite feeling excited about the opportunity. The prospect feels taken aback, and ends the call wondering how to proceed — the excellent product reviews and seemingly ideal solution for their problem are compelling, but the gruff and impatient salesperson makes it hard to move forward.
Worst case scenario, the sales rep’s tone loses this lead as they seek other options in favor of friendlier sales. Even in the best-case scenario, though, this sales rep will now need to have at least one additional conversation to counteract the impact of their negative tone on the previous one. This will lengthen the sales cycle and create doubt in the prospect, prolonging the process.
Capable and Confident Guidance
The right tone can help salespeople sound more capable and confident, which can be very reassuring for buyers.
Nearly 80% of buyers report a strong preference for a salesperson who guides the process as a trusted advisor and adds value throughout the buyer’s journey.
It’s easy to deliver an enthusiastic tone when you’re confident that your product is the perfect solution. Thorough research on best-fit prospects can help salespeople create the kind of hyper-personalized, value-driven sales presentations and offers that make it hard for buyers to say no. Remember — more than a third of what we communicate is done so through tonality. A sales rep’s tone can impact not only individual conversations but also bigger-picture things like the length of the sales cycle and relationships with buyers.
The 8 Tonal Patterns
In general, there are 8 main tonal patterns that sales reps might use throughout a sales conversation. The best ones for each scenario will depend on the sales rep’s relationship with the client, the type of deal, and which stage of the sales process is occurring.
A tone that conveys scarcity or urgency can be very useful in convincing a prospect to decide quickly. This is a good tone to use when you’re offering special deals or promotions.
To convey urgency, lower the volume of your voice and slow down your rate of speech. This helps demonstrate the seriousness of the deadline.
You can also strengthen the effectiveness of this tone by adding verbal scarcity (“There are only 10 left!”) and/or information scarcity (“I haven’t shared this with anyone else, but we’re raising the price on this offer in a week.”).
A reasonable tone shows the prospect that you understand where they’re coming from and share their point of view or concerns. This helps the prospect feel like you’re on their side and builds rapport.
To add reasonability to your tone, ask affirming questions with a raised inflection at the end (“Does that make sense?”).
3. Absolute Certainty
A tone of absolute certainty portrays confidence and can help you seem like an expert in your field. This tone is especially effective if you truly believe that your offer is the most ideal solution for the prospect with whom you’re speaking, so make sure you do your research on which features and benefits would resonate most strongly with each individual prospect.
To convey a tone of certainty, speak calmly, slightly softer than normal, and succinctly.
4. I Care
A caring tone goes a long way in deepening the relationship between buyer and seller. It helps demonstrate empathy, and shows the customer that you understand their concerns and value their experience.
To help convey a sense of caring, use an upbeat and excited tone of voice and pay careful attention to the prospect’s emotional cues (and respond accordingly). Active listening skills can really help you nail a caring tone.
5. Using a Question
Asking questions with a certain tone can communicate a lot more than just an answer.
Asking quick, yes-or-no questions (especially with a raised inflection at the end) can create an atmosphere of familiarity and alignment with the prospect.
This tone can also be a good way to get more information from the prospect without wasting a lot of time.
6. Series of Three Up-Tones
One specific strategy when it comes to tonality in sales is to ask a series of three questions, each of which ends with a higher octave than the last.
The key here is to make sure the three questions can easily be responded to in the affirmative. These “micro agreements” can help the prospect feel like you truly understand their pain points and needs and make them more inclined to trust and agree with you.
- Are you having a hard time remembering to send follow-ups in a timely manner?
- Wouldn’t it be easier if you had a platform that sent them automatically?
- Would it be helpful if it also included a feature for saving winning templates that you can use over and over again?
The prospect is likely to answer “yes” to all three of those questions, which will subconsciously help them feel understood and make it more likely for them to continue saying yes.
7. The Presupposing Tone
A presupposing tone is one that implies you already know what the prospect needs and what they will benefit from using your product. This tone of voice can help you seem like an expert in your field.
This tone is one that can be easily applied with other tonal strategies, like “Absolute Certainty” and “Using a Question.”
8. I Really Want to Know
A tone that says “I really want to know!” shows the prospect that you care about their feelings, thoughts, needs, and buying experience.
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How to Choose the Right Tonal Pattern
Tonality in sales is very nuanced. There are many factors that influence a sales rep’s tone of voice, as well as the tone of any given overall conversation. Some of these factors may even influence conversations subconsciously.
The right tonal pattern for any sales conversation will depend on a wide range of factors. And, the truth is, there is no one “right” tonal pattern for any conversation, individual sales rep, or sales team. Relying on a singular tonal pattern will lead to incredibly monotonous conversations and can kill deals quickly.
Instead, use a variety of tones in your sales conversations. This will help you gather as much information as you can about what the prospect needs and expects from a solution.
How to Improve Your Tonality in Sales Calls
Fortunately, tonality in sales calls is a skill that can easily be improved with a bit of intentional practice.
Use a Script
Using a sales script can help you spend less effort remembering your words and focus more on your tone instead.
It’s important not to regurgitate a word-for-word monologue in front of your prospect, but using a script as a general framework for conversation can take the pressure off finding the right words in the moment so you can pay more careful attention to the nuances of tonality.
One low-effort way to improve your tonality in sales conversations is to record yourself while you speak.
If you can, record your entire body as you speak (even if you’re conversing over the phone). Body language can influence your tone, so it matters even when the prospect can’t see it.
Practice in Front of Others
Practicing your sales tonality in front of others is perhaps the most effective way to improve it, as it’s the most authentic way of replicating a real-world sales scenario.
If you connect with prospects primarily via cold calls, practice your tone with familiar people (family, friends, or coworkers) over the phone. If you spend most of your time meeting in person, focus on face-to-face practice to improve as efficiently as possible.
Tonality in Sales Best Practices
Regardless of the tone each of your sales conversations takes, there are some best practices to keep in mind as you navigate each one and develop your own tonal strategies.
When it comes to tone, there are four main factors to consider: pitch, articulation, volume, and pace (PAVP). Pitch refers to how high or low of an octave you use when you speak (some people also refer to this as inflection).
Articulation refers to your word choice, and how clearly you deliver them.
Your voice’s volume — how loud or quiet it sounds to the listener — can also influence its overall tone and it’s important that sellers find a sweet spot throughout the flow of conversation.
Pace is the speed at which you deliver your words.
Sales reps need to keep their finger on the pulse of each of these factors in real-time as they speak, as a mismatch in just one of them can have a ripple effect on the overall tone (even if the other three are spot-on).
Use Body Language to Build Confidence
Body language goes a long way in conveying tone — even when the listener can’t see it. That’s why “Smile When You Dial” is such a popular expression in sales.
Even if it’s solely for your own benefit, make sure you keep your shoulders back and your head up when you approach sales conversations. These small but important body language cues can inject confidence into the speaker’s tone of voice.
Offer a Variety of Tones
This one’s worth repeating because it’s probably the most important best practice when it comes to tonality in sales: vary your tone of voice throughout sales conversations.
It’s okay to choose a handful of tones that come most naturally to you, but relying on just one is a surefire way to lose prospects’ engagement very quickly.
If you’re looking for a simple way to start adding variety to your tone, try using a high tone of voice when asking questions, and a lower one when making declarative statements or commands.
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