By David Henzel, the co-founder of How We Solve — an umbrella company for services and tools that help you solve your startup’s growing pains.
For 41% of salespeople, phone calls are the most effective sales tool at their disposal. But despite calls being incredibly helpful for making sales, they come with certain challenges that every salesperson has to overcome: initiating the sales dialogue and guiding the potential customer toward the sale
During the initial minutes of the call, the prospect can be hesitant about whether the conversation is worth their time. So, you need to be very deliberate about what you say and how you get the conversation rolling.
Let’s go through a simple five-step process that will help you prepare for every sales conversation in the future.
The Five-Step Process
Cold-calling and building sales relationships is hard. But there are steps every salesperson can use to optimize their chances of moving the conversation in a positive direction.
1. Come Prepared
When it comes to starting sales conversations, research is everything. The more you know beforehand, the easier it will be to get the prospect’s attention and guide them in the right direction.
Since you are asking for the prospect’s time and attention, you must come prepared and show them that you are familiar with their industry, company, challenges and current situation, which are all things they care about and want to understand further.
By coming prepared, you are also showing the prospect that it’s not just another call for you and that you are willing to spend the time to get ready in order to better provide personalized and relevant solutions.
You can also use the research phase to find ways to position your solution and provide specific examples of how your product might play into the challenges the prospect is facing. If you do that in a convincing way, most prospects will at least be willing to hear more about what you have to offer.
2. Earn Their Trust
Before you can get to the pitch, you need to get the prospect to trust you. And since it’s hard to demonstrate the value you can bring to the table and prove that you can do it immediately, you need to use social proof elements that show you have worked with or know someone they are familiar with.
One of the best ways to instantly increase trust is to reference a mutual connection, especially if you can say they recommended contacting you. If they trust the person you are talking about, you will instantly be elevated from being just another stranger to someone who has a solid track record with their colleague or business acquaintance.
You could also mention a person from within the company whom you have already had contact with. This is helpful when trying to reach out to the gatekeeper, as once you know who to reach out to, you can then say you were referred by so-and-so, adding more credibility to your claims.
Finally, if you don’t have any references to draw upon, you could at least mention the companies you have worked with or have been in contact with in the past. If they are familiar with these companies (and especially if they are competitors), they will be more likely to hear out your proposal.
3. Encourage The Prospect To Open Up
A conversation cannot be a one-way street if it is going to last. Before you can get to the pitch, you need the prospect to open up and talk about their situation and current struggles. This is an important factor for several reasons.
First, by getting the prospect to talk, you are making them more invested in the conversation. Suddenly, they go from being a passive listener to an active communicator, paving the way for the conversation to move forward and be more focused on finding a solution to their problem.
Furthermore, by getting them to talk, you get to delve deeper into the specific challenges they are facing. This will either confirm what you learned during the research phase or give you new insight into how to better cater to their needs and offer a personalized solution.
Finally, if you can enable them to open up, this means they are starting to trust you. And that trust will play a crucial role when it is time to close the sale.
4. Bring Up Pain Points
The sales conversation can only remain interesting to the prospect if it is relevant to them. So, when you speak, make sure to direct the points you are making to the specific challenges, issues or obstacles your prospect is facing.
Bringing up these challenges is also helpful when you introduce your product since you can make the connection about a possible solution and lay out the arguments for why it makes sense in their situation.
5. Be Flexible
Above all, try to avoid rigid scripts or formulaic speech. The sales call is a conversation first, so adapt to what the prospect wants to talk about and work on the questions or points without disrupting the flow of where the conversation was headed.
It is definitely better to go off script and talk about whatever the prospect wants to talk about rather than try to stick to a rigid structure during the call. Eventually, you will get to the pitch, but the conversations you have beforehand will contribute to earning you more trust, achieving better cohesion and gaining a deeper understanding of how your solution can solve their problem.
Starting sales conversations can be stressful. But if you follow a few simple steps, you can make the process much more manageable. The steps include:
• Doing your research beforehand so you know the prospect’s situation and what their present needs are;
• Earning trust through mutual acquaintances or familiar competitors as soon as possible;
• Keeping the conversation going by encouraging the prospect to open up and talk about their situation;
• Keeping the conversation flowing by focusing on the prospect’s relevant pain points and priorities;
• Being flexible and allowing the conversation to evolve organically instead of sticking to a rigid structure.