Five Strategies to Use on Your Next Phone or Video Call

When you meet with clients in person, you have more than their words and facial expressions to inform the conversation. You can see their body language as it unfolds and pick up on their emotional cues. You might have the background of their home environment to glean insights into their life. Maybe you can smell what they had for breakfast or see their hobbies on display. You might have taken all this for granted when in-person meetings were the norm.

It’s normal to feel a little lost when the way you’ve always done your job is no longer practicable. Adapting is hard work. It takes a lot of trial and error. It feels uncomfortable or even confusing. But the truth is, change is a constant. There is no such thing as stasis in life or in how we work. You probably make small and large adjustments to your work all the time without even knowing it. Adjusting to remote sales doesn’t have to feel like a burden. In fact, you can leverage the same skills you use during in-person meetings when you’re on the phone or in a video conference. Use the strategies below to improve your sales appointments from a distance so you can keep your clients safe and healthy this AEP.


Strategy #1: Slow it down.

When you’re working remotely, the drive for productivity can take over. You can feel like you need to get straight to the business at hand by skipping the small talk. The presence of technology, especially new technology, can make our interactions feel less personal and more transactional. We might even forget about niceties like asking how someone is before launching into the task at hand. It’s important to take a step back to maintain that same warmth and friendliness you would at an in-person meeting. Start by asking questions like these:

  • Can you hear me okay?
  • How are you doing?
  • What was the most surprising part of your week?
  • What’s made you smile today?

Asking questions like these will help you get a sense of your client’s state of mind and will show that you care about their life, not just their healthcare plan.

Once you transition to understanding your client’s healthcare plan needs and giving your sales presentation, you’ll want to speak slowly and clearly. You might need to speak louder than you normally would depending on your audio setup and if you’re on the phone or a video conference platform like WebEx. Either way, using a headset with a microphone close to your mouth could help by picking up the best sound. If you’re connecting with a client via the Internet, be sure you have the strongest WiFi signal possible by closing other apps, tabs and streaming services or plugging in with an ethernet cable.

Strategy #2: Listen for verbal cues.

A recent study from the Yale University School of Management found that people may be more adept at detecting emotion through hearing than through vision or vision and hearing combined.[1] This means you may be better able to identify someone’s emotional state over the phone than in person. Take advantage of this increased emotional awareness. Listen for those verbal cues that show when someone is unsure or confused such as:

  • Silence
  • “Uh” or “huh”
  • Making statements that sound more like questions with raised inflection
  • Stumbling or mumbling through a sentence

You’ll also want to be aware of other negative emotions like fear, frustration, contempt, anger or disappointment, which could derail the meeting unintentionally. Sighs; a short, gruff tone; tightness in their voice; or a raised voice could all be signs of someone who’s feeling upset. Learn more about emotional intelligence and navigating difficult situations.

Once you’ve internally noted your client’s emotional state, be sure to communicate that to you are there to help them. For example, you could ask questions like, “Is there anything I can help explain about the differences between these plans?” or “Do you have any concerns about the cost of prescription drugs on your current plan?” By doing this, you signal to the other person that you hear them and want to help.

Strategy #3: Ask questions.

You’ll want to pause frequently so you can check in with your client. Ask them questions to confirm they’ve understood what you just explained. For example, after you review the differences between HMO plans and PPO plans, ask them to repeat back to you what you said in their own words. Check-in moments like this will help you gauge your client’s comprehension and determine if you need to explain something differently so that they can understand it.

You’ll also want to ask questions that will help you identify your client’s needs and wants. Instead of just asking what plan someone currently has, ask how well that plan is working for them. Instead of asking if you can look up any current prescriptions or pharmacies, also ask if the cost of prescription drugs has been an issue. By asking these types of questions, you let your client know you have their best interests at heart and want to help them find the right solution to fit their specific needs. Data shows a strong connection between the number of questions a salesperson asks and their conversion rate with the optimal range being 11 to 14 questions scattered throughout a sales call.[2]

Strategy #4: Make your voice count.

Speaking with confidence and optimism is essential to remote selling. You’ll want to maintain positive energy and be self-assured throughout the call without coming across as disingenuous or over the top. An easy way to do this is to smile while you’re speaking. Smiling creates audible changes to the human voice and encourages listeners to smile as well.[3] You can also try practicing sales presentations and appointments over the phone or a video conference platform to boost your confidence and familiarity with the platform and/or method. Be sure to understand plan details in your market so you can answer questions effectively. Remember that you cannot share plan details for the following year’s plans until after October 1. If you get nervous or frustrated, take a few deep breaths to calm back down and start again. Sometimes sharing what’s going on for you can create more empathy in the person on the other end of the line.

Strategy #5: Take it one step at a time.

It takes time and practice to integrate these different strategies. But over time and with enough practice, these tactics will feel like second nature. When you’re first starting out, try focusing on one strategy at a time until you feel like you’re comfortable and then move onto the next strategy. If something doesn’t go as planned, stay flexible and pivot as needed. Be kind to yourself if and when you make a mistake. Talk to yourself like you would a friend, with encouragement and empathy. Transition your perspective so that you focus on the process rather than the end result. Be patient and keep at it. Humana is here to support you.