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How to Prepare For a Sales Call

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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.

Anticipate Objections

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 .

How to Write Outbound Emails

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Writing Outbound Emails

“Outbound email” means reaching out systematically to people who fit your target customer profile using email. 

You can be more effective if you follow these tips and guidelines.

Note on the overall approach

  • Outbound lead generation is based on sending a succinct email with a clear call to action to someone who matches your target profile.
  • Outbound sales is a well-established approach among B2B technology companies – it is used by 75% of US tech companies according to a Gartner survey on sales technology usage.
  • That means there is lots of data to show what works in terms of email structure, content, length etc.
  • Outbound emails are more like the ‘direct response’ ads you see in newspapers and magazines than typical marketing or web marketing copy.
  • The language you use is usually shorter and more direct.
  • It should also look like an email you would send to a work colleague or friend – not like a marketing email you are sending to thousands of recipients.

Be careful about who you target

  • As a rule of thumb, we tell clients that about 60% of the success of outbound sales campaigns is based on the accuracy of who you target, 10% on your subject line and 30% on your messaging.
  • So think carefully about who you will target. Have a clear idea of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Your ICP is a summary of who you have been successfully selling to e.g. “Plant Operations Managers at Food Manufacturing firms with 100 to 200 employees”.
  • A good Ideal Customer Profile is one that, if we had 10 people matching that profile in a room, you’d expect to have serious sales interest from at least 5 of them.

The subject line

  • People will never get to hear about how great your product or service is if they don’t read your email in the first place.
  • The subject line is what people use to decide whether to open your email or not.
  • Some general rules for subject lines include:
  • Length – keep it to 10 words or less
  • Not too specific – do not try to summarize the content of the email in the subject line as that is likely to cause a percentage of recipients to think they can ignore it. 
  • Clear about purpose – recipients should not be surprised that you are seeking to make contact with them, so it’s best to signal that in the subject line
  • Don’t “bait and switch” – do not suggest one offer in the subject line and then either ignore it or contradict it in your actual email copy.
  • A/B test different subject lines – send one subject line to half a list, and an alternative subject line to the other half, and see which gets opened more often.

Think about the person receiving the email

  • “Bad first date syndrome” is when you talk too much about yourself, and not about the person you are with.
  • Well, that’s true for sales emails too. They won’t work if you talk too much about yourself or your company or product.
  • When we open an email most of us are thinking “WIIFM” – “what’s in it for me”. You need to answer that as quickly as you can.
  • The StoryBrand framework recommends that you make your customers “the hero of your story.”
  • The framework recommends that you ask yourself
  • What does the hero want?
  • Who or what is preventing the hero from getting what they want?
  • What will the hero’s life look like if he or she gets (or does not get) what they want?
  • Now try to create a first draft email focused on your potential customer (“the hero”) addressing these points.

Time is a factor – keep it quick

  • Because these messages are email based, time is a key factor.
  • Recipients decide to read or delete a message within 3 to 6 seconds.
  • And when they decide to read the message, time is still a factor – most recipients are looking for a quick reason to delete or ignore your message.
  • This means you need to communicate “What in it for me?” (WIIFM) very quickly – ideally by the 1stor 2nd  paragraph.

Ideal email length

  • Industry studies suggest that shorter is almost always better than longer when it comes to emails.
  • Marketing email vendor Campaign Monitor suggests the ideal length is between 50 and 150 words. Constant Contact found that it was about 200 words.
  • We are not that prescriptive – longer emails can work, if the additional text provides valuable information.
  • But as a rule of thumb, we try to stay at around the 200 word length or less.

Structure, sentence length and sentence complexity

  • For business communications, especially outbound emails, simple short sentences work better.
  • Simple short paragraphs work better too.
  • Sentences and paragraphs should communicate a key concept, not multiple concepts.
  • A study by Boomerang found that emails written at a “third-grade reading level” had the highest response rate.
  • They performed 36% better than those written at a college reading level.
  • This isn’t because recipients are stupid, but because shorter sentences are easier to scan, understand and respond to, no matter how smart you are.
  • We recommend an average sentence length of 15 to 18 words.
  • Complexity is when you have complex phrases separated by commas, or complex terminology that is unexplained. Avoid complexity in your emails.
  • You should keep sentence structure as simple as you can.
  • One of the simplest ways is to break long, complicated sentences into shorter, simpler ones.

Use of ‘You’ and ‘Your’

  • We recommend that you use the words ‘you’ and ‘yours’ in the first sentence and frequently throughout the email.
  • This is because it creates greater engagement with the recipient.
  • It also helps you avoid writing sentences that are too abstract or disconnected from the recipient’s needs.

Getting to the point

  • Put the important stuff up front. Whatever people see or read first, they will assume that is your primary focus.
  • Put the most important facts, information and observations at the start. Try to order this by what is likely to be important to the recipient.
  • Readers should understand what you are trying to communicate to them and ask of them within 2 paragraphs. If they are confused, they will not respond.
  • Emails should explain “What’s in it for me?” really quickly. Make it clear why should they respond, and how will they benefit.


  • Your message should persuade the recipient;
  • that they have a need that is worth addressing
  • that is is worth addressing now and
  • that you can address it.
  • The first part is important – people may be aware something is a problem, but they may not think it’s a big enough problem to actually do something about it.
  • You need to overcome that inertia.
  • Use the Need-Outcome-Solution-Evidence (NOSE) structure to persuade them.
  • NOSE means:
    • briefly describing their need and why it’s a big deal,
    • explaining the outcome if that need could resolved,
    • describe what your solution looks like, and
    • provide evidence you can deliver.

Call to action

  • You need to make it clear what you want the recipient to do in response to your email – this should be crystal clear.
  • If you want to have a phone call with them, say so, explaining how they will benefit.
  • Make the call to action “low commitment” – something that is easy to say yes to.
  • So instead of asking if they are free for a physical meeting or hour long phone call, ask instead if they are free for 5-minute web call.
  • Do not have more than one call-to-action in any email.
  • For example, don’t ask for a phone call and then also ask that they download a brochure.
  • Every additional call to action dilutes the overall impact through confusion (“what do they want me to do?”) and reduces the response rate.

Active / Passive voice

  • Passive voice is where you say, “a solution was delivered”. Active voice is where you say, “we delivered the solution”.
  • For email, Active voice is always better.

The Tom Sant Checklist

As a final piece of advice, we have adapted a checklist from Dr Tom Sant’s “Persuasive Business Proposals” that we think is useful

  • Have I accurately identified my audience?
  • Do I understand what they need?
  • Do I know what their likely decision criteria will be?
  • Have I used the words ‘you’ and ‘yours’ at the start and frequently throughout the email?
  • Have I kept my email short?
  • Have I avoided cliches and jargon?
  • Have I used active voice?
  • Have I expressed myself clearly?
  • Are my sentences short and simple?
  • Have I eliminated jargon?
  • Have I eliminated unnecessary detail?
  • Do I have a clear call to action?

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 .



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