How To Use Voice Inflection and Tone To Sell More On The Phone

Have you ever dated someone, but find that you just have trouble communicating with one another? Boy, can that be frustrating!  When a person uses a different tone with every conversation, it can be extremely difficult to gauge how he or she really feels about you. Additionally, long conversations can be a real hassle if one person’s pace is quick and the other person’s pace is slow – making it seem as though nothing ever gets accomplished. Most distressing, however, is a person who utilizes inflection poorly. This leaves the other person utterly confused as to what is needed or wanted. It is usually this terrible use of inflection that adds to the confusion of a relationship and finally causes a couple to split up. Similarly, the use of good inflection is just as important to a telephone sales presentation.

Lesson 1

Master inflection to improve sales.

Since customers can’t see the TSR, they must rely completely on their senses (primarily the sense of hearing). Basic inflection involves the highs and lows of a person’s voice, but this pitch can mean so much for the TSR’s meaning. A person’s inflection may convey sarcasm, humor, anger, enthusiasm, apathy or uncertainty. A monotone voice with no inflection will come across robotic and lose an audience. By contrast, a speaking style using too many inflections will sound chaotic and difficult to focus on. Ultimately, inflection can make or break a sales call. For the best results, a TSR should speak upbeat (with a smile), carefully choose which key words deserve inflection and enunciate clearly.

Lesson 2

Use inflection to deliver humor effectively.

If the TSR chooses to present a humorous anecdote to the customer without first making it clear through inflection that the anecdote is humorous, this can backfire on the TSR and jeopardize the sale.  In outside sales, the attempt might work because the customer would see facial expressions, hand movements and incidentals that would demonstrate the humor involved in the anecdote.  Over the phone however, the TSR’s ability to tell a good joke is at the mercy of his ability to inflect the joke successfully to the customer.

Much of a comedic presentation centers on the wonderful use of tone, pace, inflection and melody.  Comedians will probably say, however, that the proper use of inflection in a presentation is the key ingredient of a successful comedy presentation.  On television, we can see how important inflection is to a presentation. After Jay Leno or David Letterman or Conan O’ Brien delivers a punch line, his proper use of inflection either makes or breaks the joke.  If it is good, the band will accompany the joke with some sort of musical piece, which almost always adds to the joke.  If it is good, the audience will pick up exactly what the comedian is trying to express, and find the punch line to be humorous. If it’s bad, however, the joke is followed by dead silence.

This is why TSRs are under extreme pressure to master inflection.  TSRs are at the mercy of their customers’ perceptions.  If a customer perceives that a sentence is funny, he will laugh, even if the TSR makes a mistake with his inflection and doesn’t expect the customer to laugh.  Humor is very good in a presentation, and a customer’s laughter is nearly always positive.  On the other hand, if customers don’t find a sentence humorous or if customers don’t laugh when they should because of the improper use of inflection by the TSR, then the TSR finds himself in a hole.  Customers’ perceptions are such tricky things to manage that the only way to even attempt to manage them is to communicate each sentence exactly the way the TSR wants that sentence to be communicated.

Lesson 3

Choose your word of inflection thoughtfully.

How to deliver inflection on words is a fundamental decision for the TSR, on every call.  One sentence can be construed by the customer to mean a hundred different things depending on how the TSR inflects his words.


I did not say he ate the cow!”

“I did not say he ate the cow!”

“I did not say he ate the cow!”

“I did not say he ate the cow!”

“I did not say he ate the cow!”

“I did not say he ate the cow?????”

“I did not say he ate the cow!”

“I did not say he ate the cow?????”

I did not say he ate the cow?”

“I did not say he ate the cow!”

“I did not say he ate the cow.”


The above example illustrates all of the possible ways in which one sentence may be delivered.  Clearly, each sentence may be construed to mean something different from all the rest.  Hence, how the TSR inflects his words will explain to the customer exactly what messages the TSR is attempting to communicate.

Lesson 4

Consider the Children’s Book Selling Example.

When communicating over the telephone, there are a few words in the English language that the TSR can always rely on to make his point. If the TSR wants to emphasize the involvement of a particular person, the TSR should generate inflection on his pronouns in order to make the sentence more pronounced:

I think you should buy these children’s books!”

We are in agreement your kids will enjoy the books, right?”

You have told me you spend lots of money on books, correct?”

He had mentioned that you are the decision maker.”

They always find that the books have wonderful pictures.”

She said she wasn’t interested, didn’t she?”

If the TSR wants to emphasize the involvement of a particular person, place or thing, the TSR should generate inflection on his nouns in order to make the sentence more pronounced:

Larry didn’t want to order the six book set.”

“The best way to make the purchase is by phone, don’t you agree?”

“I believe the best thing about books is that they are long lasting and durable.”

“She wasn’t going to look at the books until George told her to do so.”

Western Alabama is the region of the country with the highest number of orders.  Did you know?”

If the TSR wants to emphasize a wonderful aspect of the program, the TSR should generate inflection on his adjectives in order to make the sentence more pronounced:

“Mr. Smith, do very beautiful children’s books appeal to your girls?”

can use inflection to emphasize a particular person, place or thing, as well as a certain important aspect of the program.


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