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Have you ever had a meeting with a prospective customer in which you gave your best solutions, presented the product or service flawlessly, and yet still walked away feeling like you had lost the client’s attention halfway through?
It’s possible that your voice tonality was wrong, and that is why you lost the client. Here is a good explanation of voice tonality and why it is an important element of sales calls.
What is Tonality?
Tonality is the pitch and intonation of your voice while you speak. When you make a sales pitch, the level of your voice and the volume at which you speak are both nonverbal cues to the listener.
As with many aspects of communication, tonality and what it says to a listener will vary between cultures, and so for the purposes of this article, we will be referring to sales communications in the US context, specifically.
Why is Tonality Important in Sales?
Nonverbal cues in speech tell customers how they should be feeling about the message you are sending with your words.
If you speak at the same rate, in a flat, neutral tone, all the way through your pitch, then your customer will feel very neutral about your message and will not commit to buying your product or service. They might even feel bored and lose interest altogether.
If you rattle on in an urgent tone at a hundred and fifty words a minute, it is possible that your listener will become overwhelmed by the speed and volume at which your message is being conveyed. They may feel panicked by the constant urgency and choose to retreat instead of engage.
Three Types of Tonal Patterns
Tonal patterns can be broken down into roughly three basic types, which form the basic elements of speech.
Breaking Rapport [down]
This type of tone inflection begins with a high tone and ends with a low tone. You will hear this type of tonal use in the news when the anchor announces a headline. A breaking rapport can use an urgent tone to inspire the need for action in the customer. It can also use a confident tone to inspire assurance in the client that the salesperson knows what he is talking about. This aspect of tonality is used at the beginning of a sales pitch to create a problem or identify a desire or need. You might also use it for open-ended questions, which invite a long answer. You can use a faster pace to create a sense of urgency or a slower pace to create a sense of gravity and knowledge.
Neutral Rapport [flat]
A neutral tone is used when making a statement that must be accepted as fact. A neutral tone will work for the middle part of a pitch when you are laying out the facts of your scenario or argument. You can also use it for declarative (or rhetorical) questions, which need no answer. When using a neutral tone, your pace should be slower and more deliberate. Although neutral may seem like a good place to stay, it should never be used all the way through an effective sales pitch because it will become monotonous.
Seeking Rapport [high]
When you use a seeking rapport, it is usually when you are asking a question. Your tone will start off low and rise towards the end of the sentence, creating an inquiry. This type of tonal inflection is used for closed-ended questions, which require a “yes” or “no” answer. You can also speed up the pace of your speaking slightly when using this tonal inflection.
Sales Tonality Rules
Here are some tonality rules for modern-day cold-calling. These are a rough guide to ensuring that you can vary your tone and pace correctly and create an effective sales pitch.
It is important to be enthusiastic about your product or service, but you have to temper your enthusiasm with the gravitas of knowledge and understanding. This is where many salespeople go wrong, because in their enthusiasm and desire to create a sense of urgency—aimed at causing the customer to commit and buy in—they are not varying their tone, and after a while, they just sound manic.
Enthusiasm is usually conveyed with a raised tone and a fast pace of speaking. This is good for getting your customers’ attention, but once you have it, you can’t continue with the same tone. You need to change it up.
Lower the Pace
This is where you lower the pace. Slowing the speech and lowering the tone causes the listener to pay more attention simply because of the change. Your message is more likely to be heard at this point, so try to include some powerful sentences which have an impact.
You can also change it up slightly and ask questions or make statements. When a listener has been listening for too long, they can lose interest or focus, so a question or two every so often will draw them in and keep them attentive and thinking.
Don’t Avoid Silence
Silence can be good, too.
There is no need to fill up every gap in your sales call with speech. You can leave open spaces in which the customer has a chance to think and absorb what you have said or ask his own questions. Sometimes, this can also elicit more engagement because the client then feels the need to fill in the empty space with talk, which you can then listen to, and gauge where you stand with him or her.
Remember that silence is also a way to demonstrate confidence, and a long pause in a pitch or presentation allows any drifting minds to come back to you. It can be a powerful tool to keep your listener mentally where you need them to be, so use it well.
When considering the effectiveness of your presentation or pitch, you can use the PAVP principles to guide you. Those are:
Pitch: The tonal range of your voice, which can convey urgency, certainty, questioning, commands, or empathy.
Articulation: This is the way in which you speak the words in your message. You need to speak clearly and with good pronunciation so that there is no risk of mumbling. Your message will not clearly be heard if you do not properly articulate it.
Volume: This can also be used to place emphasis on certain words or phrases to vary the intensity of your message. You can create a serious tone with a low volume and an urgent tone with a high volume.
Pace: This is the rate at which you speak. Slow, deliberate sentences will give a sense of gravity, knowledge, and dependability, and fast sentences will create a sense of urgency and the need for action.
It is important to vary all of these elements in order to keep your listeners engaged and receptive. By practicing your sales pitch, you can find the ideal combination of tone (or pitch), volume and pace to create the right impression and the right time, and this will work together to deliver your message in the most effective way possible.
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