You spend good money on getting qualified prospects on the phone – now is your time to shine!
Today we’re discussing what makes a good sales call so that you don’t choke and lose out on sales who otherwise would have taken the next step. When selling on the phone, oftentimes sales reps don’t understand how to structure a call. If you don’t have the right plan going into a sales call, it’s going to be much harder to close the deal.
Every sales call, from a cold call to a closing call, should follow a pre-planned structure that is meant to increase the likelihood of a desired result. However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be detours along the way.
Think of it like using Google maps. When you’ve got to get somewhere, you use the instructions to give you a plan and direction. Then, each time you drive there, you might use the directions a little less, but you still follow a plan. You’re prepared so that when a detour appears, you know how to get the conversation back on track.
Use this checklist to compare against your own sales call process…
Before the call: Be Prepared
1. Understand the purpose of the call
In this case, we’re talking about sales calls where a lead has already consumed some of your marketing content and they’ve taken the next step. So they are interested prospects, likely even sales qualified leads. For these calls, they are definitely not cold leads. They likely know something about your company. At this point, you need to understand where they’re coming from and where they want to go – and how that fits into your sales process.
Before the call, you need to know what the range of acceptable outcomes of the call could be before you start talking. Where are you in your sales process? If this is the first sales call, this is where you qualify the lead, and where you really dive into their pain points and understand their situation. During calls later in the process, each call will have a different purpose. You need to know what they are and where you want to end up – and how to get there – for each call. So, for example, say your primary goal for the call is to figure out how to solve a problem for this prospect – and whether the two of you would be a good fit to work together. Then there are two acceptable outcomes:
- You either find that you’re a good fit to work together, and you book another call with them to give them a demo on how you typically solve that problem for clients.
- You find that you’re not a fit, and you part ways as friends.
*Note: It’s also important to be sure to set the stage about expectations with the prospect once you’re on the call, but we’ll get into that below.
So if you have a sales qualified lead who’s already downloaded some of your marketing content and wants to speak with your team to learn more about your services 0 or maybe that free audit that you offer.
Before you jump on the call, be very clear about your sales process, step into your prospect’s shoes – what do they need at this point in their buyer journey in order to move to the next step? And by the way, what is the next step for this call? Be confident in knowing how to transition into that. (More on that below).
2. Understand the prospect
Before the call, it pays to know a little something about who you’ll be speaking with. So maybe they’ve submitted a survey, or answered a few questions as they booked the call. Maybe your SDR’s have pre-qualified them and you know some basic information. Remember that the most relevant information you’re looking for is to clarify the context of what the prospect wants, why they want it, and where they want to go. In other words, anything that will help you understand why they reached out to you in the first place (what pain needs solving right now?) and also, what’s the structure of their organization? Are they the decision maker? What else have they looked at?
So when you’re researching, and when you start your call, you don’t need to say the typical stuff like, “Oh! You’re in NY? What’s the weather like there?” No one cares about that. Instead, ask “What’s going on in your business that made you want to take this call? What problems do you have? What do you think I can help you with? Where are you trying to get to? Why are you not able to get there? You need to understand what problems they are having and that can help with the context on how you can fix those problems.
On the Call: Follow A Structure
Ok, so what’s the structure you should follow on a sales call? This is something that you and your sales team must decide. Here is a starting point you can test:
- Introduce yourself and build rapport
- Establish the purpose of the call
- Address the pain by asking questions and building on that rapport
- Paint the Picture: Show Your Value
- Offer Recommendations and Next Steps
1. Make the intro and build rapport
When you’ve got someone on the phone with you who might be interested in your products or services, put them at ease. That means you thank them and you can ask questions that’ll get them relaxed. You want to get away from the sales pitch idea – where you immediately jump into the features and benefits of your services. This is NOT the time for that yet.
So in the intro to your call, just be friendly, “Hey, how’s it going?”
Remember that sales calls are not about “Selling” with a capital S – it’s about understanding what the prospect needs. That requires a bit of digging, so you need to create a friendly environment where they’ll tell you what their pain point is and why they need to resolve it now.
That’s where rapport comes in.
David Jacoby, from Sales Readiness Group writes that,
“Rapport enables smooth communication because it allows people to be at ease. Sometimes rapport happens naturally, you might instantly hit it off with someone. This is often how friendships are started. Other times, you have to be more deliberate in building rapport with someone.”
Remember that besides looking for commonalities, a few tips to build rapport are:
- Mirror their tone of voice. If they’re a fast talker, mirror that.
- Try to understand what drives them – are they more results-oriented and want to get straight down to business, are they more analytical and need to see the data, or do they need an emotional connection where you can rely more on stories?
- Use their language – if they say they have a massive problem, don’t refer to it as a “big problem”
- Finally, just listen. Ask pertinent questions to show you understand. This means no multi-tasking. It also implies that you are indeed looking to understand them and their problem, NOT to sell them anything.
2. upfront contract & set the agenda
After you’ve introduced yourself, you need to be clear with your prospect about how you’re going to to conduct the call and what’s going to happen here. It’s kinda like the trailer before the movie. Think of it like this… imagine that you go to see a movie but you were going in blind. You haven’t seen a trailer and you know nothing about what to expect. It’d take you awhile to figure out what to expect… Is it a thriller, is it a comedy, a dark comedy, action? You may not know for even 20-30 minutes into a film. It would actually be somewhat jarring to go into a film not knowing what to expect.
The same goes for your sales calls. You can give the prospect a “trailer” of the call with what we call the “Upfront Contract”. Basically, you’re just setting the expectation and you’re letting the prospect know how the call is going to play out.
It also pays to make sure that the time frame you expect is still viable so that you don’t get cut short later in the call. Ensure that you’re both on the same page. You could potentially go a step further and even ask the prospect questions about what they’d like to get out of the call, and sharing your goals for the call, you not only show respect for them and their time, but also gives you insight into what they’re thinking.
For example, here’s one way you can approach the Upfront Contract:
“So today, we’ll be talking about some strategies to help you fill your sales calendar with quality appointments.
This call shouldn’t take long, maybe around 20 minutes or so. To help you in with your lead generation, what I really like to do on this call is just ask you some questions to learn a little bit about you and your business to give me an idea of what might work for you.
I’d also really like to determine if there is a problem we can help you solve. If it seems like it’s not a problem we can help solve, you’re okay with me telling you no, right?
And you’re okay telling me no, right?
Cool. Well, if there does seem like there is a mutual interest in exploring things further, and discussing any areas where we might be able to partner and work together, we’ll finish this call by scheduling a presentation. So this call is pretty low key. All sound good?”
3. get the prospect talking by asking questions
For the first or maybe even second sales call, the main purpose for the sales rep is to really assess their pain – and their commitment to fixing it. However, you can’t do that if you’re the one doing all the talking. So again, here you really want to listen in order to discover their needs, identify their reservations, and gauge their intent. The best way to transition from chitchat, and setting the agenda is simply ask them what’s going on?
“Cool, well, why don’t you tell me what’s going on in your business that made you want to book this call?”
Listen carefully to their answer and then ask open ended questions to get them talking. Remember that our goal here is to get to the pain. Every question we ask needs to dive into pain. Below is a list of questions that are good examples of the types of questions to ask. Tailor it to your prospect. The goal is to stay on pain questioning until we can identify what the pain actually is.
- Why don’t you tell me what’s going on in your business that made you want to book this call?
- What’s not happening currently that should be happening?
- Why is that a problem?
- How long has that been going on?
- What have you already tried? (If they already have a small amount of success) Why not just continue what you’ve been doing already?
- How is that problem affecting your business?
- What do you think is the reason you can’t solve this problem?
- Why is it important to you to solve this problem?
- What would it mean to you if you could solve this problem?
- How do you make decisions to solve problems in your business?
- Where would you like your business to be one year from now?
- What would that mean for you personally if you could get your business there?
- What do you think is keeping your business from getting there?
- Would this concept increase revenue for you?
- How much more revenue could it deliver?
- Will that revenue go to your competitors until this is fixed?
- What is that worth to you?
Relate to what they say. “Yeah, a lot of our clients have that same problem with referrals. They can be sketchy, not the best, and it’s hard to plan a business around them. Because you can’t control it, right?”
And keep going… with these questions, you want to get them talking and you want to paint a really clear picture of the pain they have right now. You want them to be very clear on what it will look like if they continue like that. So dive into that pain a little bit. When you get them talking like this, you essentially are getting them to sell themselves more and more on your services. This is important because remember, you as a vendor… are indeed a vendor, but you don’t want to position yourself that way, because they know you’ll eventually want to sell them something.
Hopefully you can develop a relationship where they trust you want what’s best for them… that you’re not just after their money. Instead, if you can get them sold by getting them to talk about their problem in depth, they are reminding themselves why they’re talking to you. It changes the dynamic a little.
If the prospect doesn’t admit their own pain point, they won’t believe it if you say it. When it comes out of their own mouth, then it becomes real. The openness to change only happens when they come to their own realization.
When asking the questions, it might help to remember this Pain Breakdown:
- Indicator – They’ll tell you their problem
- Example – Get them to give specific examples of when or how the problem occurs
- Impact – Get them to talk about how will this impact their business
- Commitment – Remember to ask them what they would do to fix it, how urgent the problem is, and what their commitment is to fixing it.
Another benefit in doing this is that you’re creating a sense of urgency – and their commitment to fixing it. In other words, you’re getting them to vocalize that this is a real problem that NEEDS to be fixed.
“So what is your sales process usually like? You say you get most of your business through referrals… how many are coming in?
“What does that mean for your team on a quarterly basis? On a day to day basis?”
Again, use their words! If they say referrals are great but they need more consistency and control over lead generation, ask them why they need more consistency and control.
What happens if you don’t have that?
If they’ve used some methods that are working, ask them why they’re looking for new strategies.
Ask them what will happen if they do NOT fix the problem.
4. paint the picture: show your value
Here you want to reaffirm that they’re in the right place.
Part of asking those questions is finding out “the why behind the why”; sometimes a prospect doesn’t outright tell you what the problem is so you really need to dig a little deeper. Find out about the bottlenecks and ask what kind of effect it has at every level and for different time periods.
This contributes to your value.
As you paint the picture of the pain your prospect is feeling, the urgency in solving it, and the future value its solution will bring, your prospect should begin to want to make a change. They should be committing to make a change.
Incidentally, building value this way is also a great way to address objections before the prospect brings them up. One of the best ways to offset pricing objections along with others is simply identifying, quantifying, and presenting value.
Selling value begins with a deep understanding of your customer’s business and how your solution positively impacts it. That’s why open-ended questions are so crucial in sales calls. It’s essential to understanding your prospect. The creativity and effort you put into analyzing your prospect’s business prepare you for the next step: quantifying the tangible and intangible benefits your solution will bring.
One way to do this is by telling stories to illustrate the value. Again… just like when you get them to realize their own pain points, a story gets them to realize the value without you actually saying it directly. The benefit to this is that they trust themselves more than they trust you, but by getting them to realize things on their own, they end up trusting you also, because you guided them to that point without being pushy. Of course, none of this is conscious, it’s simply human nature.
What kind of stories can you use? Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert storyteller (but it wouldn’t hurt!). Just talk to them about an experience you’ve had with another client, or a story about your own life that is similar to the pain points they just mentioned. Illustrate how someone was able to solve the same problems. Case studies are good examples to use here.
Try this one as well: Tell a story that talks about the bad results that happened when pain points were NOT addressed.
Did they lose out on more business? Did they have to fire people? Or worse, did they have to shut their doors?
Get a feel for the client and keep it natural. Doing this is like twisting the knife. You really want them convinced of the value of fixing these pain points. Focusing on fixing pain is often an easier sell than focusing on preventing it.
And the “why behind the why”… continue asking what a difference it would make if any of these were resolved. What it would mean for them personally, for their team, for the company.
5. offer recommendations & next steps
While making the transition from getting to know the prospect and building value to discussing next steps is often the hardest part of a sales call, this is often what sales reps want to talk about first. A big mistake is to jump right in and describe what you do right off the bat. However, putting this later in the call positions you much better because you’ve had a chance to build up value in the prospect’s mind.
Here you want to stay very benefit oriented and keep focused on there, not so much on the exact details of the features and processes. Remember to relate what you’re talking about back to their business – and how it will benefit them. For example, as you talk about what you do and what you can provide, always make sure you’re painting the picture of the results they should expect as if they were already using your product or service.
Get the temperature in the (virtual) room, and ask for feedback, what do they think about all this?
After talking about what you do, and getting some feedback, it’s time to recap the problem so that the prospect understands why it’s important to do something about it and how you can help.
Summarize it in a really clear-cut way that presents a compelling story. You’re painting the picture of their pain point currently and what will happen if they don’t address it. Then you’re painting the picture of what could happen if they do – and if they take you up on your recommendations.
Your analogies and examples need to be as real and specific as possible so that they can see the outcome in their minds.
Depending on which call this is in your sales process, you may be ready to go ahead and try to close the deal or to take them to the next step. Either way be very clear on what that next step is. Usually, unless you’ve checked off all the boxes that indicate they are qualified and ready to close, you’ll be setting up another appointment.
As you get closer to the close, here is some language you can use that will help you determine how to move forward:
- Tell the prospect, “Typically what happens after this call is we take this information back to our team and we strategize what is the best solution and package for you. From there we’ll come back to another call where we will present that solution to you and all the decision makers involved. Does that sound good?”
- Ask, “What does your decision making process look like and who is involved?”
- Ask, “What is your timeline to finding a solution to this problem?”
- Ask, “If you were to set four proposals out on the table, how do you decide which one to pick?”
Set a specific day and time to talk again, and relate what will happen on the next call so the prospect knows what to expect. Lock down the appointment with a calendar invitation.
Remember that the sales process is not about a certain number of calls. It’s about checking off the boxes you need in order to move people through your pipeline.
If you believe that your prospect is closeable, try wrapping up your call with something like this (obviously adapt this to your sales process):
“Awesome, well I think we have enough info to take back to our team, so that they can evaluate your situation and come up with a strategy and solution that can achieve your goal. The next step will be for us to do a presentation for you and all the decision makers involved in the process. We’ll deep dive all aspects of the [service] we’d provide to you and your team. Please feel free to ask any questions you need to. We’ll also cover price and a results projection and then determine what the next steps should be from there.
Okay, what’s a time that works best for your team to meet on this?”
If there’s one common thread in all these tips, it’s simply understanding your prospect and putting their needs first. From there, show them how you can add value and really illustrate how fixing their problem (with your solution) adds value in many different ways. Be honest and respectful, and offer information — remember that unless it’s specifically a closing call, now is not a sales pitch.
If you’d like to learn more about getting quality sales opportunities and leads in your pipeline consistently so that your team has more sales calls to put this in practice, let’s talk.