Results from a study at the University of Chicago revealed the average human ear can distinguish 1,378 noticeable differences’ in tone. By comparison we can distinguish 150 hues of color. Using this scale, hearing is almost 100 times more sensitive than our eyesight.  Their research also showed that how you say something is five times more important than what you say.

Everyone has a natural voice inflection.  In sales, especially telephone sales, voice inflection separates the best from the rest.  It’s important to understand what different voice inflections mean to your audience.

  • Upward Inflection – This is when there is a change in pitch from a lower to a higher note specifically in a vowel. Most often, this change in pitch indicates questioning, insincerity, surprise or suspense.  So don’t use it when you’re stating facts or closing a deal.
  • Downward Inflection –  This is when there is a change in pitch going from a higher to a lower note again specifically within the vowel. A downward inflection at the end of a sentence makes it more powerful and tells the prospect your confident in your own message. Most often, this change in pitch indicates confidence, finality, power and certainty.  This is the inflection you want to use when stating facts, closing a sale and setting an appointment.  This particular voice inflection is one of the hardest to master, lowering your voice takes practice and intent.
  • Level Inflection – This is when there is no change in pitch within the vowel.  Most often, this indicates disinterest, indecision or boredom.  Here’s a weird fact.  When salespeople practice, when they memorize their talk tracks, they can very easily deliver their message with a level inflection.  So when you practice your pitch
  • Speed Kills – Talking fast tells your prospect you know you’ll probably be interrupted before you finish OR what you’re about to say isn’t that important, you just need to finish your statement and move on
  • Slow Down – Slowing your speech pattern tells your prospect you want them to listen carefully to what your about to say.
  • Changes in Volume – In most cases raising the volume of your voice does not indicate you’re excited or confident.  It typically says you’re not having a good day.
  • Speak Softly – Lowering the volume of your voice requires people to listen with intent.

First phone impressions happen very quickly 

The minute you pick up the phone, your tone of voice and the words you use become the entire story.  In fact, almost the entire message you project over the phone is communicated through your tone.  You can enhance the effects of voice inflection.  Below are a few ways to get better.

Tips to improve your inflection

  • You’ve probably heard about the trick to place a mirror in front of you while you’re on the phone.  The reason it works is not psychological but rather physiological.  When you smile, the soft palate at the back of your mouth raises and makes the sound waves more fluid
  • Another way to improve your inflection is to be aware of how stressing certain words changes the feeling of what you’re saying
  • Voice inflection can be greatly increased by learning to take long, slow, deep breaths. Most people become shallow breathers when they’re under pressure. The more pressure or stress you feel the shallower and quicker your breathing will be. When this breathing pattern happens, your vocal cords tend to tighten, making your voice go up and sound strained
  • Record your current presentation – Take notes on where in your presentation you naturally use inflection and which inflection you use
  • Re-record your presentation and use inflection with Intent
  • Plan where you want to use inflection
  • Practice changing your speed and volume