Getting a contract signed is a long and challenging process. Sales activities are as important as product development and they cannot be ignored.
Probably the biggest misconception about sales is that it can easily be done by anyone. Although sales don’t require a formal study background or specific training, it’s important to realize what’s the process behind getting a client and how to maximize results.
Sales activities are about creating processes that can be replicated over and over successfully. Our team needs to become a “sales machine” that operates through specific and proven activities.
When thinking about maximizing our sales efforts, we need to take into consideration several stages: lead generation, cold contact, introductory phone calls, follow-up phone call, meeting in person, price and contract negotiation, and so on.
Each one of these stages has specific sub-activities that our team needs to consider and critically analyze to increase results over time. In the same way developers A/B test features on a website, we need to A/B test our sales activities. Test different versions of the same step; analyze which one works best; reiterate with similar variations to optimize results. It’s a process and like any other, it takes some time to master.
While some of these steps are more mechanical and easy to learn, “live interaction” with clients requires an extra effort because we all have different personalities. You cannot learn how to interact with clients by reading a blog post or watching a video, you simply have to do it. OVer and over again. However, we can master the process behind this interaction, by minimizing the margin for error.
Live interaction takes several forms. One of these is phone calls.
Calling a prospect over the phone is one of the factors that we can’t take out of the equation. We must interact with our prospect over the phone, either for the first time (cold call) or after an introductory email. What happens before the call depends on the industry we are in. Nevertheless, you need to be confident in picking up the phone and talk with your prospect. Anytime!
Picking up that phone, however, is not an easy thing to do. Not everyone feels comfortable in doing that. We hate when we get a cold call, so when we are the one doing it, we feel pretty bad about it. But this is our business, we need to overcome that fear and just do it.
What I highlight here below can be used in both cold or warm contact. This is a structure that can be adapted to any situation and industry, regardless of the prospect.
Remember: the first phone interaction is mainly to understand whether there is mutual interest.
Tell Your Prospect What’s Going To Happen
The introduction is the most important part. We need to tell the prospect what is the call going to be about. Remember we called him and we set the pace, not the other way around.
This short introduction will let our prospect understand that we are not going to waste his or her time. We have a plan and we are making him/her part of it. No surprises during the call.
The best way to approach this is to highlight the following 5 points we want to touch upon:
- TIME: How long is this call going to be?
- PURPOSE: Why am I bothering you?
- PROSPECT AGENDA: What’s in it for you?
- SALES AGENDA: What do I want to get out of this call?
- OUTCOME: How do we go with the next step?
TIME – How long is the call going to be? How much time will we be taking out of our prospect day?
It’s important to give our prospect an idea of how much time we want to talk with him. We want to tell the prospect that we won’t be taking more than 10 – 15 minutes of his time. We have a plan and we will stick to it.
I know, you want to keep him on the phone for an hour and sell him everything you have. Moreover, you want to get a commitment to buy.
You need to change attitude now!
Remember that we are in the driver seat and we decide where the communication goes and how long is going to be.
The “trick” here is to set for a relatively short time-frame. 10-15 minutes usually works. Why? Because unless we catch our prospect on the way to the toilet or at the beginning of a meeting, he will have 10 minutes to spare with us.
The time we set at the beginning of the call is to create comfort on the other side. Our prospect knows he won’t waste more than 10 minutes of his life if we have nothing interesting for him. However, if we have something interesting, either one of these two things will happen:
- He will give us more time to shine and talk about our solution
- He will ask us to call him or set up a face-to-face meeting to go into more details
That’s what you want! You ask for a small fraction of his time and try to get more of it.
In 10 minutes we won’t be selling our product, we are simply trying to get a commitment for more time. It’s a small victory.
Focus on incremental commitments!
Why is this technique useful?
- We create a sense of trust with the prospect
- The prospect knows that we are not going to bother him for 2 hours
- If the prospect is not interesting for us, 10 minutes won’t kill our productivity
PURPOSE – Why are we calling the prospect? why is he/she the chosen one?
By going through this step we will acknowledge the fact that the person we are talking to is actually the right one. This is very important for both of us. We want to make sure our prospect feels comfortable, but at the same time, we don’t want to waste our time, talking with someone who is not responsible for what we need.
In this step, our prospect will get a hint of what we are going to talk about during these 10-15 minutes. Remember, we can’t just jump into pitching our product straight away.
What if he is not the right guy? What if he has no interest in our solution whatsoever? What if he is about to leave the company and he is not the decision-maker anymore?
PROSPECT AGENDA – What’s in it for our prospect? What is he/she going to get out of this call?
Once again here you just go through some main points on why our prospect should be interested in listening to us. Very briefly we highlight how the call is going to eventually benefit the other side.
As for the previous two points, the major objective of this step is to create understanding between the two parties. Remember that the prospect is still unsure whether our solution is relevant for his daily business.
A common mistake that might happen in this (and next step) is to go into too many details. Remember this is just the introduction. We want to give an overview of why and how things are going to work.
SALES AGENDA – What do we want to sell? Why do we think my solution is worth his/her time?
We give an overview of our solution and put it into context considering our prospect’s business. We are giving out hints on how a potentially longer call is going to be.
The idea in this step is very similar to the “prospect agenda” step. It’s just from our perspective. By explaining what we do and what we want to achieve, the prospect will have a better understanding of our business and if intrigued will let us talk.
Remember although we believe that our solution is what the prospect needs, he is yet to find out. We need to present our agenda in specific terms but we still don’t want to start selling. The introduction purpose is just to highlight what is going to happen in the call.
OUTCOME – What happens next? Where do we want this to go?
This might sound strange, especially if you think we are still in the introductory part of the call. Stating the outcome will create a sense of comfort from the prospect’s perspective. We have now given a full overview of what’s going to happen, included a possible follow up. Your prospect is aware of what’s happening, no surprise.
Talking about the outcome of the call is important because we are already telling our prospect what we want to get out of this call, being a follow-up call, an in-person meeting, or simply understanding whether there is mutual interest or not. This step is as important as the first one. We often forget about this or are unconsciously scared of bringing it up.
Don’t be scared, this is part of the game and you are the one dictating the rules of the game.
A good practice in the outcome step is to clearly state to the prospect that we don’t know whether our solution is the right one. This might be counter-intuitive but in a way it’s true.
We think our service is needed in the prospect’s company, but we are just assuming that. If we are honest with the prospect and take this step, the other party will not feel threatened. We will not sell anymore, we will find out whether the two companies can collaborate. It’s a small step that makes a huge psychological difference.
These 5 steps in the introduction part will help you maximize your sales calls results. The introduction is crucial to success. Master this step and the rest will be about discovery!