If you are a sales leader or rep at any level, you have probably put some time into improving your sales ability. That could be reading a book, attending a seminar, or simply taking training from other high-performing people at your company. You don’t have to go to many new jobs to realize that there is a certain culture to improving your call – and it usually starts with some type of call flow or structure. This is one of the best ways to take someone who is still learning the ropes, and help them make sense of a, sometimes complex, set of topics. In this blog we are going to aim to break through the mold a bit and talk about what a call framework should look like. Granted, there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, but there are certainly cornerstones that you can get right. Compare this to what you are doing today – are you missing anything?
When you think about controllable, pre-call planning is one of them. I always caveat the amount of research that goes into the call with the size of the opportunity. If it’s a 5k ARR deal, then putting in a week’s worth of research is probably overkill. On the other hand, if there is a $10 million deal, then maybe you should put more time into it. On any level, there are a handful of things that you should know going into the call.
First names are obvious, but I mean how to pronounce them. DO NOT MESS UP SOMEONE’s NAME. Have you had someone mispronounce your name? They may as well say “I don’t respect you or your time enough to put 10 seconds of research into how to say your name”.
And really, what do they do? What are the other titles of their peers? If they are a “Director of Sales” but there are 10 directors in a 25 person company, what do they really do? LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help quite a bit with this.
Time with the company
It’s right there on their LinkedIn. Have this researched and maybe hold as a talking point (i.e. “I see you’re brand new, what inspired you to take this role?”, or if they have been there a long time, I love the sarcastic “I did some LinkedIn stalking and it looks like you are just learning the ropes at XYZ co.”)
Again, LinkedIn basically is their resume. You can quickly identify their persona off of where they have worked and what titles they have held.
What the company does
On a high-level, what do they do and how do they compete in their market. You need to be able to speak from context.
Specifically, yearly revenue and employee count. If you have never heard of a company called At&t, or Apple, or IBM, or Google or (Name a huge company), then you have been living under a rock. But you can’t possibly know the name of every company. Knowing the size of the company will let you make some assumptions about the budget, sales cycle, and procurement challenges.
This will help you know what timezone they are in, maybe even check out your calendar ahead of the call knowing your next step and some available slots…
If you are selling software, you should have some idea of their technology (especially if you sell B2B technology!). What CRM, Marketing tools, Dev tools do they have? Zoom Info, Google Chrome’s “Inspect” functionality, and some experience go a long way in uncovering this.
If you are selling widgets, then maybe look for clues or examples you can use to solidify your positioning. You can use anything from news, content, announcements, or even competitors as live examples of how your product works for them as a company. You should have an idea of how they likely manage the pain of whatever it is your solution solves.
Agendas are the first real “business” interaction that your prospects or a new stakeholder will have with you, so it’s important you nail it. Once you are on the call, there is a need to be in control, but not overbearing control. There is some tonality at play here as well as how you do this will cement your buyer’s perception of you throughout the demo and into the rest of the sales cycle.
To accomplish this, most reps I have worked with simply say they want to set up a quick agenda for the call. Generally, and depending on the demographic, you start with some introductions, move into discovery, and then on into a demo. But I like to make it all about saving time and helping the prospect. My agenda looks something like this: “We are all really busy so let’s jump into it with some introductions, then if it’s ok I would love to ask some questions to validate that the conversation makes sense. If it does, we will do _____. If it doesn’t, we can part ways and get some time back. Sound fair?”. There are several concepts from many sales leaders at play in this agenda, but in short, it is saying that your time is important, you respect their time, and you are here to lead the conversation. Whatever you choose as a call framework for your agenda, make sure you say it confidently and are conveying the undertones that will position you to win.
To have a really productive sales meeting, you need to know the buyer’s pain, and then outline how your solution solves their pain. There has been some debate on how to build discovery into call flows since the invention of the sales meeting. Old-style is to do a bunch of discovery upfront (death by 1000 questions) to get every ounce of information possible, then show a solution. I hate this and your buyer probably does too. But even worse, is death-by-powerpoint. I never remember an impressive PowerPoint presentation that was actually helpful. It can be done, but you lose half of your credibility the second you start a slideshow.
The newer style is to sprinkle in discovery questions throughout the sale and demo. This is really tricky because it might mean you spin your time on cycles that don’t go anywhere. So, I recommend having one or two killer questions, up-front, that really get your prospect talking and off to the races. It’s not a bad idea to also have a question or two for every segment of the conversation you plan to walk through. One of my favorite questions is (when speaking on either inbound or outbound) “I’m curious what prompted you to reach out” or “I know I emailed you, but I’m curious what prompted you to want to spend the time”. Usually, the prospect will tell you every pain point they have and all you had to do was listen attentively. This also helps you determine fit. Maybe your solution is a terrible fit for what they need. At that point, don’t waste their time, or yours and just tell them openly “I’m really excited to meet with you, but I respect you and don’t want to waste your time – we are not a good fit for X, Y, and Z reason”. Funny enough, about 20% of the time, the prospect will push back and tell you why you are a good fit and should continue. When that happens, the win-rate goes way, way up. Lastly, for those really cold/poker-faced prospects, I will say something like “Many leaders in (whatever type of leader they are) come to us for X-bullet, Y-bullet, and Z-bullet to solve challenges around (Insert problem). Based on my research, you might have some similar challenges to overcome Did my research steer me wrong?”
Again, not a bulletproof example of discovery, but giving the idea that you are here to help them and are worth trusting. After all, you have put in the time and effort into their problems, why wouldn’t they reciprocate with some open dialogue?
No, not closing like “Is there anything from keeping this from happening by the end of this week?” – though, that’s not crazy. But closing out the call. Incrementally, in B2B and sometimes even B2C sales, there is a need to have multiple calls, get multiple people on the call at once, ext. Closing out the call starts at the beginning of the call – you need to know what the end of the call looks like. If it’s a technical call to validate capabilities, then closing out the call might be a closing question to the technical person. Something like “Is there anything about the project that would keep the organization from moving forward with it?” Or “are there any other technical concerns that keep (insert champion name) from being able to put a solution like this in place?”
Really, to successfully close out a part of a call, you need to have an idea of what your next steps are going to be, such as in a call framework. If you don’t know your next steps or at least the direction you want to steer, then you are going to come off less confident and likely lose the deal. For closing out a call, I’m a big fan of Skip Miller’s Summarize, Bridge, Pull (if you like that – check out his book and the Podcast we recently recorded with him called Outbound Prospecting). It gives you the ability to make sure your prospect has everything they want to say on the table and really understands. If not, with a good closing statement, they will tell you.
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