Getting that sign on a contract that seals the sale is a long and challenging process. Startup founders often forget the importance of sales and focus on building products that few really want. Sales is as important as product development. Probably the biggest misconception about sales is that it can be easily done by anyone. Entrepreneurs need to realise what’s the process behind getting a client onboard and ultimately maximise their efforts to bring the best results in the shortest period of time.
Sales is about creating a process that can be replicated over and over successfully. Your team needs to become a “sales machine” that operates through specific and proven activities. There are several steps that needs your attention as a startup founder when thinking about maximising your sales efforts: lead generation, cold contact, introductory phone call, follow up phone call, meeting in person and so on.
Each step is very important. Each one of these has specific sub-activities that your team or yourself need to consider and critically analyse to increase results over time. In the same way you A/B test features on your website or app, you need to A/B test your sales activities. Test different versions of the same step; analyse which one works best; reiterate with similar variations to optimise results. It’s a process and like any other it takes 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 looking at a video, you simply have to do it. However, you can master the process behind this interaction, minimising 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 you can’t take out of the equation. You must interact with a 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 you are in. There are some where cold calling is more accepted than others. 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 your business, you 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. You need to tell the prospect what is the call going to be about. Remember you called him and you set the pace, not the other way around. This will let your prospect understand that you are not going to waste his time. You have a plan and you are making him part of it. No surprises during the call.
The best way to approach this is to highlight main points you want to touch upon:
- TIME: How long is this call going to be?
- PURPOSE: Why am I bothering you?
- PROSPECT AGENDA: What do you want to get out of this call?
- SALES AGENDA: What do I want to get out of this call?
- OUTCOME: How do we go with the next step?
TIME – Why do we need to tell the prospect how long is our call going to be? Won’t we be shooting ourselves in the foot?
Not really. The idea is to tell the prospect that you won’t take more than 10 – 15 minutes of his time. You have a plan and you 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. However, you need to change attitude. Remember that you are in the driver seat and you 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 you don’t catch your prospect on the way to the toilet or at the beginning of a meeting, he will have 10 minutes to spare with you.
I can hear you though. You are screaming and want to tell me that you can’t possibly do this call in 10 minutes. It’s insane, you just can’t. You have so much to say. Keep in mind that the time you set at the beginning of the call is to create comfort on the other side. Your prospect knows he won’t waste more than 10 minutes of his life if you have nothing interesting for him. However, if you have something interesting, either one of these two things will happen:
- He will give you more time to shine and talk about your product
- He will ask you to call him or set up a face-to-face meeting to go in to 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 you won’t be selling your product, you are simply trying to get a commitment for more time.
Why is this technique useful?
- You create a sense of trust with the prospect
- The prospect knows that you are not going to bother him for 2 hours
- If the prospect is not interesting for you, 10 minutes won’t kill your productivity
PURPOSE – Why are you calling the prospect? why is he the chosen one?
By going through this step you will acknowledge the fact that the person you are talking to is actually the right one. This is very important for both you and the prospect.
By quickly explaining the purpose of the call, your prospect will get a hint of what you are going to talk about during these 10 minutes. You can’t just jump into pitching your product straight away. What if he is not the right guy? What if he has no interest in your product whatsoever? What if he is about to leave the company and he is not the decision-maker anymore? This step is as crucial as setting a time frame for your call.
PROSPECT AGENDA – What’s in it for your prospect? What is he going to get out of this call?
Once again here you just go through some main points on why your prospect should be interested in listening to you. Very briefly you 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 your 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. You want to give an overview of why and how things are going to work.
SALES AGENDA – What do I want to sell? Why do I think my solution is worth your time?
You give an overview of your solution and put it into context considering your prospect’s business. You are giving out hints on how a potentially a longer call is going to be.
The idea in this step is very similar to the “prospect agenda” step. It’s just from your perspective. By explaining what you do and what you want to achieve, the prospect will have a better understanding of your business and if intrigued will let you talk.
Remember although you know that your solution is what the prospect needs, he is yet to find out. You need to present your agenda in specific terms but you 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?
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. You 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 you are already telling your prospect what you 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 you don’t know whether your solution is the right one for him. This might be counter-intuitive but in a way it’s true. You think your service is needed in the prospect’s company, but you are just assuming that. If you are honest with the prospect and take this step, the other party will not feel threatened. You will not sell anymore, you 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 maximise your sales calls results. Introduction is crucial to success. Master this step and the rest will be about discovery!
Note: The process highlighted here is the result sales trainings and professional experience.