Sales agents in a call center chat with customers on headsets

3 Things Every Inbound Sales Superstar Does

Over the past five years, I have greeted thousands of excited and wide-eyed new hires about to start their journey as inbound sales agents. With each new group of agents, I get asked the same question: “What is your advice for success here?” As a new manager, I would spout the usual management mantra: work hard, be coachable, be on time, etc.

But as I gained experience in my role and watched what the top sales agents did, I noticed three things that created the success these new hires craved:

  1. Remember that humans are wired to oppose salespeople.
  2. Don’t prejudge your calls.
  3. Transition to make a successful sale.

Embrace these three lessons, and I promise you’ll be on your way to surviving and thriving in an inbound sales environment.

Humans Are Wired to Oppose Salespeople

To understand how natural the human impulse is to oppose sales people, consider the last time you went shoe shopping. You probably knew what style you liked, what colors you preferred, and the size you needed before you arrived. But when you walked into the store and were immediately greeted by an overzealous salesperson asking if they can help you find anything today, what did you say?

I’d wager that 99% of the time you tell that salesperson you’re “just looking around.”

Why? Why not be honest: “Yes, actually. I need a size 10 pair of Vans, and I usually prefer red. Can you help me?”

Being up front about our needs would certainly be easier, but  it’s in our nature to push salespeople away. We put up walls early to protect ourselves from getting taken advantage of.

How do the shoe salespeople feel when you tell them you are just looking? It is unlikely they take it personally or think you are being a difficult customer. Instead, they see it for what it is and recognize that in five minutes you will come back asking for a certain pair of red Vans in size 10.

When we answer the phone in inbound call centers and ask our customers what we can help them with today, they often respond just like we do in the shoe store—which means we can learn from the salesperson’s example.

Don’t Prejudge Your Callers

Like in the shoe store, callers will often disengage and put up walls to avoid feeling as though they can be taken advantage of.

“I’m just calling for prices. I don’t want to buy anything today.”   

“I’m calling for a friend.”

“I’m just looking for information. Please don’t try to sell anything to me today.”

Sound familiar?

However, unlike the shoe salespeople, I have seen many inbound sales reps take these statements personally. They will immediately prejudge the call as a bad call—one without real sales opportunity. When they judge it as a poor opportunity, they tend to put in minimal effort—and, as you can imagine, get minimal results in return.

“If you treat your calls like they are bad, they will be bad.” —Brian Graff, Director of Sales

So here’s my advice: after you ask the caller how you can help them today, don’t let what they say next sink in. In fact, it may be best to not even listen to it. Picture in your mind the shoe salesperson and smile as you continue with your sale, knowing they will come back to you in five minutes asking for their size.

Remember, these people called you! They spent time researching online, called a number, navigated through a boring IVR, and finally got to you. Does this sound like someone who is just price shopping, or doing research? No! This isn’t 1990, we don’t call around the yellow pages looking for a good deal. We do our research and comparisons online and then call in when we are ready to make a decision.

It may seem overly simple, but I promise if you have the mental strength to avoid prejudging calls,  you will see a monumental difference in your success and your overall happiness.

Transition to Make a Successful Sale

A phrase that is thrown around the sales industry a lot is “be assumptive.” Sales agents are praised for it and sales leaders tell you to do more of it, but when really asked what it means, they can rarely give a clear answer. Let me clear it up for you.

To be assumptive means to easily and smoothly move the customer from your sales offer to the close of the sale, without ever having that awkward, high-pressure moment where they have to say yes to the deal. This is done by asking simple close-ended questions that gradually move the sale forward.

Here are two example sales pitches, one without an assumptive transition and one with:

  • Without Transition: “OK, Mr. Transition, based on what you have told me, I would recommend our DTV Ultimate package with our 1 gig internet bundle, which would normally cost you $190, but today I can reduce that first year to only $130. How does that sound?” (Awkward, high-pressure pause while you cross your fingers, hoping for that yes.)
  • With Transition “OK, Mr. Transition, based on what you have told me, I would recommend our DTV Ultimate package with our 1 gig internet bundle, which would normally cost you $190, but today I can reduce that first year to only $130. Our internet requires a high-speed modem. Would you like to purchase that for $100 or rent for $10 a month? What email can I send a confirmation to with all the details? Does Thursday or Friday work better for installation?”

As people answer your sub-questions, they are actually agreeing to the original offer, and you are creating a better experience for the customer overall by eliminating that pressure to say yes.

Whatever industry you are in, find the minor sub-questions you can ask that will move the sale forward without creating that dreaded pause. A good rule of thumb I teach my agents is that if you are ever sitting in silence waiting for the customer to say yes, you have done something wrong.


Whether you’re an old pro or are just joining your first inbound sales center, these three tips will help you find more satisfaction in your job and close more sales.

To learn more about Clearlink’s approach to the sales funnel, visit our Sales Solutions page.

Brian Graff

Brian Graff has been in the sales industry for thirteen years and spent years selling door to door and outbound B2B before starting his career in inbound sales at Clearlink. He currently manages the CenturyLink team as sales director.


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