Getting prospects on the phone is hard enough; keeping them on the phone can be even harder. Follow a few sales call guidelines to keep your prospects from hanging up on you.

Ask Permission
Before you grill them like they’re dating your daughters, get permission to ask them a few questions. Ask if they have a few minutes to speak to you about your products. This simple question can save you from wasting your prospect’s valuable time, and shows them that you respect their time. When asking permission, let a prospect know for what. Clarity up front implies honesty, and saves time beating around the bush.

Organize Your Questions
Don’t start a conversation with your toughest question. Plan your questions ahead of time and slowly progress from the most disarming questions to the ones they might be slightly more defensive about. This will warm up your subject so they don’t close-up midway through your questioning.

Ask Simple Questions with Complex Answers
People don’t like answering rapid-fire questions – it makes them feel like they are on a bad first date. So instead of asking quick questions or long-winded questions (which are quite tiring), ask simple questions that need complex answers. The longer a prospect talks, the more they will divulge. If you ask a prospect, “When was the last time you purchased X product/service?” the answer doesn’t tell you much. If you instead ask how their last purchase faired and what, if anything, they’d change about it, your prospect could answer in a number of ways that may lead to a lot more information than the time lapse between their previous purchase.

Ask, then Listen
Good salesmen know how to talk. GREAT salesmen know how to listen. Listening is especially important when finding out key information about your prospect. If you ask an especially difficult prospecting question, allow your prospect to stumble over their answer—and use the silence to get them to spill vital pieces of prospect and sales intelligence. Never put words in a prospect’s mouth.

Provide Information in your Questions
Instead of doing all the questioning, put a prospect at ease with a give and take questioning style. Insert valuable information into your questions to make them as informative as they are inquisitive. For example, instead of asking what type of features your prospect wants in their new car purchase, ask them whether features such as your VW Passat’s heated seats and illuminated vanity mirrors are important, or if they find the remote central locking system and the heated exterior mirrors of the Jetta are more appealing.

Employ Clarification Questions
If your conversation goes well, you will receive tons of information from a prospect. When you have a question about something your prospect says, don’t interrupt them mid-flow because you’re worried you won’t have a chance to write everything down; you may end up missing even more important information. Instead, ask separate clarifying questions later on.