There is often a disconnect between what sellers and buyers want to discuss in the first call.   Bridging this gap will help you make the most out of your calls and ultimately help you close more business in less time.

Whether on the phone or in-person at the local coffee shop or the prospect’s business, we all know that all to familiar feeling. You’re there to “get to know about each other’s businesses” and wondering if the time you spend together will prove to be a complete waste of time.  For many of you, the opportunity to “get to know about each other” is typically nothing but code for “sales call.”

You ask yourself:  Will you like the person?  What is the real reason this person agreed to meet with me?   Is this meeting going to be “all about them”?   Should I just go ahead and reschedule or cancel all together?

Consider the following.

What are your (Seller’s) goals for the initial call ?   

  • To qualify the prospect?   Need, timing, decision making authority, fit, etc?
  • To pitch your product or service?
  • To build rapport?
  • To establish your credibility?
  • Ask a bunch of questions to hopefully expose a problem, need or a wound that “only your company” can solve for them?
  • To get them to the next step?   Perhaps a proposal, a face-to-face, follow-up meeting, or a product demo?

Alternatively, what is his/her (Prospect’s) goals for the initial call with you?

  • To kick the tires?
  • To shop price?
  • To educate themselves on your service or product?
  • To get free advice?
  • Some other reason?

Below are some great “first call” tips I included below, written by Mark Roberge and Pete Caputa over at HubSpot, that might influence the way you prepare for and structure your next prospect call.   My hope is that these tips will help you have more meaningful and productive conversations, win more business, and save a lot of wasted effort and time for both you and your prospect.   How does that sound?

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We’ve been doing some research on the modern buyer process and found that only 24% of buyers want to talk about budget on the first call.

Yet so many salespeople use that as a qualifier in their sales process.

Basically, there’s a disconnect between what buyers want and what salespeople are willing to give. And we want to help you bridge that gap.

Let’s start with that first sales call. Below is a step-by-step framework for an exploratory conversation that our top sales managers use to coach their teams. The dialogue is designed to empower your prospects in a way that still allows you to control the conversation.

(Side note: This content is a truncated version of HubSpot’s free sales training. You can learn more about the training here.)

1. Set an agenda 

After building rapport, the first step in an exploratory call is setting an agenda, recap what they shared with you. Here’s an example of how that conversation could go:

Salesperson: …. We can definitely cover that today. Before we get too far into that topic, though, I suggest we set an agenda. I know we booked 30 minutes today. Does that still work?

Prospect: Yes, that’s great.

Salesperson: Typically, a good goal for this call is to really figure out how I can best help you. I’ve worked with hundreds of companies like yours who were struggling with the challenge you’ve acknowledged. I can certainly share some advice based on my previous work with them. But, I find that everyone is a bit different. So, it usually makes sense for me to understand much more context about your goals, other challenges you’ve faced or anticipate facing, any relevant plans you have in place, as well as timelines and other constraints you might have. Are you comfortable having that conversation today?

Prospect: Yes. That sounds refreshing, actually, compared to most salespeople who just want to talk at me about how awesome they are.

Salesperson: Great. I suggest we treat this conversation like a 2 way dialog. I have a bunch of questions for you. I’m sure you’ll have some questions that I will certainly answer for you. Then, at the end of the call we can decide whether it makes sense for us to continue discussing how we can more formally help you? Does that sound like a good plan to you?

Prospect: Yes.

Salesperson: Great. Can you start by sharing your goals for taking this call?

2. Follow an exploratory call framework

After establishing the call’s agenda, you can explore the new business opportunities which requires you to absorb a lot of information. Having a framework helps you accomplish a few really important things:

  1. Understanding: It ensures you don’t miss details that are important in understanding your buyer’s context.
  2. Effective Communication: It helps you to have a structure for communicating your prospect’s story back to them, helping them know that you heard them.
  3. Advising: The framework helps you position your products and services as a solution to your buyer’s challenges – given that their situation is at least somewhat unique compared to others.

3. Actively listen

As a salesperson, you’re trying to learn your prospect’s: challenges, goals, plans, timeline, consequences, implications, authority and budget. This requires active listening. In short, active listening is a four step process to not only ensure you’ve listened, but to make sure your prospect feels heard and understood. The four steps are:

  1. Truly listen to the prospect.
  2. Feed back the content and feeling of the prospect’s words.
  3. Confirm you heard the prospect correctly.
  4. Ask a relevant follow up question to further clarify your understanding of their situation.

This helps you communicate what you’ve learned back to your prospect. By communicating it back to your prospect, you’re aiding them in making the decision to buy from you. By asking them to reflect on their goals, challenges, plans and timelines, you’re getting them to think critically about their situation.

Once you understand their context, you’re in a much better position to start influencing their future. You need to understand which crucial things your product helps them do, so that you can get them to acknowledge it. 

4. Suggest a game plan

Once you’ve truly learned about a buyer’s challenges and goals, you can determine if they’d be a good fit for your product or service. If they are, you can then suggest a new (and improved) plan to help them achieve their goals.

This includes helping them quantify consequences, thinking through decision making processes and setting a budget. You’re helping them plan for a better future. It is a service to them instead of a tool for you.

After you’ve clearly outlined these next steps, you can wrap up the call.

Source –  – Chief Revenue Officer, HubSpot

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According to Pete Caputa of HubSpot, here are a few short maxims to live by to help with the initial prospect call:

  1. Don’t evade a prospect’s question.
  2. Ask prospects what they want to talk about.
  3. Agree on a call agenda.
  4. Sell value, but don’t be afraid to talk price.
  5. Go ahead and talk about product features, but tie them to prospects’ challenges and goals.
  6. Write, memorize, and share success stories.
  7. Phrase questions so that the language focuses on the prospect’s goals, not your own. Use words like “goals,” “challenges,” and “plans.”
  8. Avoid using words like “budget,” “authority,” and “timing.” Don’t even worry about these qualification factors until you’ve established a need that requires fixing.
  9. Ask about and help buyers compare the alternative solution paths they are pursuing.
  10. Don’t be afraid to address the pros and cons of competitive offerings.

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Implementing these tips and ideas could drastically improve the initial prospect calls and first impression you leave with your prospects.   You will have more meaningful conversations, win more business, and save a lot of wasted effort and time by doing these things.

If you are looking to make the most out of your sales calls or increase revenue through leveraging the power of LinkedIn, content marketing or email without ever having to cold call again, I invite you to have a conversation. Whether or not we decide to work together, I am confident our call will be full of insights that will help you grow your business. To make scheduling easy, here is a link to my calendar http://ScheduleaCallwithMark.com, please pick a time that works best for you.