Congratulations! Your B2B sales prospect has agreed to take a call. Now what?
When it comes to B2B sales, preparation for your sales call increases your chances of success. Achieving success requires more than just having a standard sales pitch that you can rattle out at every meeting. You need to do some homework so you can tailor your call to the person you are speaking to. The more prepared you are for a sales call the more likely you are to progress your deal.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for a sales call in order to make the most out of the conversation and land that crucial new business.
First, set your objectives for this first call
In business-to-business sales, if this is your first call with the prospect, then your goal is not to close the deal. Your goals are to
- “Qualify” – confirm they potentially need what you have to sell and
- “Advance” – have them agree to engage in the next step in the process.
Use this first call to confirm the target company has a problem you can solve, and that the person you are talking to has the authority and potentially a budget to move things forward.
Call Preparation and the Rule of 3
The rule of 3 is a simple concept where you take 3 minutes before the call to find out 3 things about the prospect and their company that will be relevant to your call.
Research your Prospect and their Company
Doing “Rule of 3” research is good but not sufficient. You should take time to do your homework so you can have a better call.
Firstly, you picked the prospect for a reason before you reached out to them (or at least I hope you did). So you should have some information on them already i.e. their location, industry sector, business size, the person’s role and why you thought they were a good prospect in the first place.
By checking out the prospect’s company website and sources like Crunchbase you can confirm details like company size, recent funding, any recent news, and what types of customers or industry sector they sell to.
You should also check the contact’s LinkedIn profile. Check their role, past experience, education and the number of employees at their company.
If you can get some idea of their business model, industry, company size and challenges before the call you will be able to tailor the call to suit their needs.
Doing these pre-call checks also helps to avoid stupid mistakes e.g. assuming you are talking to a mid-level manager when you in fact are talking with a C-level executive with real influence. It will also help you assess if the person is likely to have particular experience in your solution area. Are you pitching to a high-level generalist, or to a specialist who will be familiar with your product category and your competitors?
Develop Talking Points and a Script
This might be an obvious point, but you should have an outline of what you want to say.
Most salespeople have a standard sales pitch. But just rattling out the standard pitch on every call will not produce good results. You need to tailor your pitch to the person you are speaking to.
By writing down what you know about the prospect, it helps you stay on track and ensure you cover all the key points you want to make. Also by having a rough script it will improve the relevance of your pitch.
Running the meeting
On this first call, listen more than you talk – “God gave us two ears and one mouth”. Sales technology firm Gong.io has analyzed hundreds of thousands of sales calls. They have found that where sales people do most of the talking, deals do not progress. Where the customer does most of the talking, deals do progress.
This does not mean you barrage the prospect with lots of questions. But it does mean you listen and try to diagnose what problems they have.
When you are confident the prospect has a problem you can solve, agree to a next action that helps you progress to your end goal – for example, a demo, or an outline proposal or a date for a follow-up call.
Add Value at every Interaction
When someone agrees to a call with you, they expect that either you can solve a problem they have, or you can tell them something they do not already know.
They are expecting to gain something from the conversation.
The book “The Challenger Sale” suggests you should also challenge the prospect and how they do things today, using your insight to show them a better way.
So for this first call, and all other subsequent calls, think about what you can provide to the prospect to make the call worthwhile – “Add value at every interaction”.
Other rules of thumb
There are some other basic rules of thumb when a contact agrees to a call:
- Respond to the prospect’s email as quickly as possible.
- Send a calendar invite as soon as the day and date are agreed.
- Be on time for the call.
- Respect the prospects’ time and do not let the meeting run over.
There’s an old saying that the best sales guys are those who can handle the most objections. Be prepared for objections and think about how you can respond to them.
This can be done by addressing common concerns or by providing case studies or customer references. You could also organize a call with a client and your prospect which will help to build credibility and alleviate any concerns.
Close the Call and Set Next Steps
As the call comes to an end, summarize the key points that were discussed in the meeting and ask if they have any additional questions or concerns.
Then make it clear what you see as the next step in the process, and ask the prospect to agree to that next step. This could be to review an outline proposal, or to schedule an online demo, or to put a follow-up call in both your diaries. Whatever the next action is, you should mutually agree it before the call finishes.
If the prospect is interested but cannot commit to a next action right now, identify some way to maintain contact e.g. by adding them to your company’s newsletter list, or specifying a date for check in call in the near future.
Getting a contact to agree to a call in B2B sales is a great first step, but it’s important to have a plan in place to make the most of the opportunity.
Do your research on the prospect and their company. Then set objectives and plan your pitch. During the call actively listen to your prospect and ask open ended questions to gather more information. Make sure you provide value to them during the call – tell them something they don’t already know. Address any concerns and finally end the call with a set of clear next steps.
By following these tips, you can increase your chance of success and winning the deal.
Written by Michael White
Michael White is co-founder and CEO of Motarme, the Sales Technology and Services vendor. You can find him on LinkedIn .