How to start a sales call the right way

On the receiving end of a sales call it can be annoying. An unexpected interruption. Someone trying to sell you something you aren’t ready to buy, maybe haven’t even heard about, and that you don’t want. What are the chances they’re going to convert you into a customer? You try and get out of the call any way you can, or just hang up.

No wonder it can take as many as 18 calls to get through to a decision maker.

For salespeople, as much as we hate to admit it, our buyers behave the same way as we do when an unexpected sales call comes through, or we get a sales email or message on LinkedIn. We are all facing the same challenges.

So here are a few ways you can start your sales calls the right way.

#1: Do your homework

One of the worst things you can do is get through to a decision maker and not have anything to say. Sure, you can talk about your product/service - but what they’ll want to know is why are you calling them, specifically?

  • Do they fit your customer profile? In which case, you can start with “My research shows that . . .”
  • Has someone in your network - a company similar to the one you are calling - suggested they could benefit from your help? Start with, “One of our customers, [name] suggested you could be a good fit for . . .”
  • Whenever possible, always use a mutual contact. It establishes trust far quicker. “[Contact name] at [company] suggested we should chat. He/she thinks that . . .”
  • Based on the projects they deliver, would your product/service be a good fit? You could start with, “I noticed on LinkedIn [or in the press / company blog / another social network] that one of your major projects this year . . .”
  • Are they a similar size, with potentially similar challenges to another client you are working with? A great opening would be: “We have been working with [company name] . . . we achieved [these results] . . .”

Give yourself enough time to research these prospects. Between calls, meetings or demos: use your time wisely so that you are ready for those chances when you are speaking to a decision maker. Be informed and ready. A little research goes a long way.

#2: Be positive

We all have bad days.

A long commute, stuck gridlock for 30 minutes when you’re running late.

Too much work to deal with, never enough time.

A deal doesn’t go your way. A colleague gets on your nerves.

Don’t bring any of that negativity to your sales calls. To save yourself time, always have something positive ready to discuss. Have a new one each day, if you can’t think of anything spontaneously. It could be the weekend, a holiday, a sports game. Whenever possible, tailor it around the prospect you’re calling, and for those you don’t know well enough, have a few generic ones ready.

One of the most effective ways to get a prospect engaged is to ask “How’s business?” Not only should this get them talking positively about what they do, but it creates a natural opening to why you’re calling.

#3: Always frame the conversation

A potential buyer wants to know a few essentials:

  • Who you are;
  • Why you’re calling;
  • How much time they might be on the phone; and
  • What are the next steps?

Although scripts aren’t always the best way to approach a sales call, it is always useful to have this information on your mind. Start with your opening, be positive, frame the call and then move into qualifying questions.

Keep in control of the conversation. If your prospect sounds interested, but doesn’t have enough time, wrap it up with a meeting, demo or call scheduled at a more convenient time. If, however, they do have time, dive into qualifying questions and maybe try to go for an instant demo after qualification.

#4: Are they a viable prospect?

At this point in the call, it’s worth remembering that someone who sounds interested could be a potential client. Could be, but how do you know unless you ask a few qualifying questions?

For example, getting a clear understanding of the following is invaluable in the qualifying process:

  • Are they looking for a new supplier?
  • How soon are they looking to implement/buy your or a similar product or service?
  • Are you talking to a budget holder, decision maker or an influencer?
  • What challenges are they trying to overcome that you can help with?
  • What would help them go with your solution to solve these challenges?

Depending how much time they have, now could be the perfect opportunity to qualify a lead with a live product demo. Show them how it works. Ask and answer questions while you are illustrating product features that solve some of the challenges they are talking about. You don’t need to show them everything the product does, just enough relevant information to help them make a decision.

#5: Plan next steps

Every sales call needs an outcome.

For some, you could sign a prospect up to a free trial. For others, you need to come back with a custom quote and more information. Whatever needs to happen next, have a plan in place and stick to the agreed timescales. Know what you expect of them and what they can expect from you, and then complete the follow-up actions.