The First Sales Call With a Potential Client


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Organizing for the call, scheduling the call, and making the call. Making calls on a conference line. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the entire company or organization. Make sure to ask and answer questions, keep them engaged, and present a good flow of information.

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The First Sales Call With a Potential Client

  1. 1. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 hello@hotprospect.comSpeaker 1: Hi. This is Joe Fahrner, the CEO and co-founder of I’m here with Kelly Huffman, the VP of Sales here at How are you doing Kelly?Speaker 2: I’m doing well. Thanks, Joe. How are you?Speaker 1: Awesome. I can’t say that everybody worked on So this is the 4th edition of our podcast. We talk about social selling and using big data to make better decisions about how you allocate your sales and marketing resources. Today we’re going to keep following along the art that we started in our last podcast about preparation for sales calls and moved on to the next step and start talking about, you know, you’ve kind of got that first meeting to that first call set you’ve done some basic research on the company and the prospect you’re going to be talking to so you’re prepared to have a context going in to this conversation. And now we want to talk a little bit about the kind of flow that initial call and some of the key tips and strategies that we used in our own work as sales folks here in Hot Prospect. So, before we get to the actual call itself, there’s a couple of decisions that can be made when you’re kind of post [inaudible] scheduling the call about how you’re actually going to kind of arrived to the same point and the tools you’re going to be using on that call. One of those things that we often see a couple of different ways, Kelly you can setup calls so you can basically just determine who’s going to call, who direct, right? Or you can setup a bridge line or use one of these kind of tools, free sharing tech tools and WebEx or Sales Crunch or ClearSlide. What are your thoughts on kind of when it’s right to just use sort of a natural direct call versus doing something that’s a little bit more sort of engaged around demos and stuff like that using one of these tools?Speaker 2: You know, I think it’s about a couple of different things. One is making sure that like anything we do in sales and marketing you make sure take all the friction out of the process. So in many cases that means a dialing bridge and there’s a different kinds of dialing bridges but the dialing bridge might be the best way for you to go because it’s frictionless and everyone knows they’re calling an 800 number. It’s also strangely— you may think of this intuitively but it’s kind of a neutral third party that you may don’t have a direct number and that happens actually quite often
  2. 2. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 where you’re communicating to somebody via email and you still don’t have a direct dial and you haven’t been through their phone tree, etc. So, it just provide everybody kind of a mutual meeting place. I think that often works. In many cases too if you’re definitely only going to be talking to one particular person, whether or not you should be calling their number directly. And I think also most importantly everybody seems to have gone mobile these days and the concept of work phones are now becoming something that’s not really part of your daily workflows and more often than now people want to speak on a mobile phone and it might be best for them to be in a conference room and or dialing in in a quite space, etc. So, for me I think in general, I’m now using conference lines as my de facto way of communicating on a call unless specific as otherwise.Speaker 1: That’s cool. Is there a preferred sort of provider that you’ve been using?Speaker 2: I don’t want go out and say a particular company because they really are so many. But the ones that I’m more partial to are coming from some of the companies that provide web-presentation type of software then along with those services they will provide you with a dialing bridge. The key aspect of being—I think there’s even a subtle shift in that technology. It used to be that you got a number and dial in and then you had, perhaps, a moderator code, etc. and I think it’s gotten so much simpler now that really you could have one dial-in with 4 or 5 or maybe 6 digits for everybody to get in and keep it really, really simple and make sure that it’s always working because sometimes these services don’t work. And if you have one of those and they’re not working for you one out of 5 times, drop it.Speaker 1: Right. Yeah. That’s a great point where like when there’s issues with the technology a lot of times that’s going to come back in just bite you because any frustration that the prospect has of trying just get on board one of the calls especially it’s new to them, it’s going to come back obviously it’s going to hurt their mood coming in to the call but also it’s going to reflect probably on you rather than the technology writer script point.Speaker 2: I would add to and it depends entirely on the perception you’re trying to put out there, but some of these services are free and the price you pay
  3. 3. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 that they announced that they’re free. So if you’re very, very concerned with perception that you’re not a company that can afford to have its own dialing bridge then you might want to avoid those. I think generally speaking people get caught up on that and it’s really not that a big of a deal. Yep, Absolutely.Speaker 1: Yeah. I think in general with a lot of these, there’s a sass models of have of all around these types of tools. One, they’ve got relatively low cost than whatever a member or something like a WebEx or something being, you know, 5 or 8 years ago. And then additionally people in the professional world in the business world are more were used to using free tools and served what they call the consumers [inaudible] of the enterprise, right? People are like not as freaked out by the fact you’re using a free tool for a conference call may be they would have been few years ago. Cool. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on that but I thought that was an interesting point to touch on. So, now we can talk a little bit about, again, in the previous podcast scheduling the call just now about some considerations around the tools you want to use to actually facilitate the call. So now let’s talk about—you’re getting on the phone with the prospect— and one thing I always mentioned to people who were just getting started in sales whether it’s a people that I’ve worked with or people that are asking for advice is there’s one question you should always be asking at the beginning of every call. It’s just a common courtesy basically to ask the prospect you know, if you’ve got a scheduled time speak with them, “Is it still a good time to chat?” Right? And I think the people tend to really appreciate that and sort of serves a couple of purposes. One, if it is a bad time for that person, if something came up, people get busy, – this happens to all of us – you really want to give them the opportunity to sort of say, “You know what, actually, it’s not a great time something came up things are crazy let’s reschedule for another time.” Because if they are—did you have some other conflict going on or something else is top of mind? It just not you get the mind share you need, take it your point across with the prospect. So it’s one of these things were it just a no brainier and common courtesy to ask if it’s still be a good time. The other thing is most of the times my attempt to attend you’re going to hear him say, “Yes, it is a great time.” And that puts him right mindset. I mean, a lot of this first calls is finding kind of a common
  4. 4. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 ground with people and just getting in to motive saying “yes” to a simple question like, “Yes, it’s still is a convenient time to chat,” helps you towards that goal. So the other thing that we talked about the previous podcast which is preparation and so I’ll touch on that again very briefly here. You know, really make sure you’ve done your homework prior to the call. You use the free resources we talked about on the previous podcast, you’ve done the research, you know a little bit about the company, you know a little bit about the prospect. The very least you visited their website and maybe read the “About us” pages, you’ve got enough contexts so that as you’re going through you can position things effectively. But, again, don’t be over confident based of that preparation. So really it’s better to suddenly give contexts to your pitch based of on what you’ve learned in that preparation rather than being like overtly presumptive because that has the potential to really turn people off. And another tip I could use in that regard is a lot of times you don’t want to be sort of suddenly presumptive about something I expect is true based off of the research I’ve done. I’ll sort of present it and then followed it up with, “Is that correct?” you’re asking for clarification and either allow him to correct me or to confirm that I have it done the right track. So the next thing that’s again, kind of an obvious point to something I’ve know I’ve failed to do earlier in my career is when it says listening for science of disengagement, alright? So basically, Kelly I know this is something we’ve talked about before, do you have any thoughts on kind of how to approach that?Speaker 2: I actually do, but I would say before you can listen for science of disengagement, make sure that you’ve engaged with your prospect and that you’ve done some measure of discovery. I think the concept of discovery is something that can be misused. But you’ve come to the call prepared, you’re on with just enough information to be dangerous as Joe said you don’t want to be presumptive but you really should have some warm up session around discovery around the company and that’s something you want to be careful with. You don’t want to say, “Hey, so tell me what you do?” Right? You know what they do. So you need to find some commonality and you asked questions about paying points that might pertain to your products. You don’t want to say again, “What you do?” You’ll also don’t want to say, “Do you know what we do?” You know
  5. 5. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 that’s not discovery. But really, if it some product in a particular vertical and you can really get in to a little bit about them at a paying point. I think to Joe’s point are some of those kind of leading questions or things that you think you might know but trying to get their clarification, also allow them to speak a little bit and show that their experts. And I think that will really you get in to your conversations start to engage in your pitch but you need to not over think it but also not have it be disjointed where you’ve asked them something in discovery for the sake of it and then you go off on a different tangents, start your pitch as if that a little piece of discovery never happened. Try and find the segue into your turn to speak.Speaker 1: And I think the other thing is really focusing on making a conversation. Again, the same is obvious. But it’s really easy in these types of phone pitches in particular for to turn to like kind of a presentation and so making sure that it’s relatively even amount of conversation on either side of the phone. And also another kind of technique that I find that I just do naturally is trying to kind of mimic the pattern of the other individuals of their survivor active fast talking person. You kind of want to engage with that kind of hyper speed whereas if they kind of laid back, so you don’t want to bore them over—Speaker 2: That’s a good point.Speaker 1: —in this craziness, right? So try to be wary of that. So talking about the disengagement stuff, one of the things I found – again, this falls in to the same basic bucket of trying to make sure that it’s a conversation – is it’s pretty easy on the phone for people to just totally disengaged. And one of the rules of thumb that I’d like to use, if I’ve talked for more than 10 or 20 seconds and I haven’t gotten like courtesy engagement like kind of a verbal nod or some answer or something like that, I’d like to stop and check in and sort of prompt down for some sort of response. Very often, you’ll hear just things of totally blank on the other end of the call? That maybe they just put you on mute, right? Just kind of sign of deaf and be one like kind of make sure that you’re engaging. The other thing that often you’ll start to hear them clicking around on the internet or typing this type of things, when you hear that it just a great signal that you happily engaged them very well. And so you want to make sure that
  6. 6. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 you’re reaching out and giving them engage, you’re asking them meaningful questions, getting the body on things, because otherwise you’re going to bore them over for 20 or 30 minutes on the phone and they’re going to retain nothing because they weren’t paying attention and it’s very unlikely that anything possible come out of the outcome. Along the same lines when you’re having that kind of conversation, you’re asking questions, you want to be providing answers, you want to be directing the conversation but you want to make sure that – again, we’ve touched a few times here – that you’re being relatively brief and concise. And I mean, frankly, it’s not something I’m all that great at, may be with a little help from podcast, we can talk. But basically, what I try to really focus on is, can you be conscious of the fact that you’ve got 20 or 30 minutes of the time on the phone and that really should be about educating this person and understanding how you get to the next steps with them and very rarely is the best way to do that is to monopolize all the conversation right with hard core pitch stuff. I mean, the reality is there are very few sales processes in this world that close on a single call and so in this first call you, you really should be trying to validate some number of assumptions about this prospect, are they a good fit, it should [inaudible] a good fit for them, i the need that the problem that you solve and are you well positioned to do that in this case so that you can make sure that the prospects can walk away from this a good feeling and not just feel like, “Hey, I sank 30 minutes in to getting a hard sell by some sales guy on the phone.” Is there anything intrigues on those lines, Kelly that you’ve done in the past to kind of make sure that it’s a good, even back and forth, with the prospect?Speaker 2: Yeah. I think you’ve touched on most of them but the counter point to that is if you become too self-aware of the fact that you’re under limited time constraints you might suffer from one of my great weaknesses, which is the tendency to speak really, really quickly and the interest of time saying, “Okay. If I only want to speak for a little bit so that I can engage with the client well. I’ll just put all my words in to a much quicker sentence.” And that doesn’t work especially for me, it’s a bit of a challenge and I have to constantly remind myself to slow down, breathe and remember that’s a two-way conversation.
  7. 7. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 hello@hotprospect.comSpeaker 1: Absolutely. That’s a great point. Obviously, I suffer from the same infliction. (Laughs). Let’s see. Now we’ve talked about a lot of the specific techniques we used during that conversation, you know, really making sure that this conversation, asking and answering questions, making sure that the prospect is engaged, making sure it’s a good flow of information. But again, you’re not going to close a deal on a 20 or 30 minute interest sales call and so a lot of these initial call is really tin up to this is the kind of the tail-end and figuring out what are the actionable next steps to actually moving towards the sale or further qualification of the prospect. So Kelly, how do you like to tie up the end of your calls? Like is what the, you know, in the last couple of minutes of the call you’ve given the pitch, there’s been some good next back and forth— What are kind of the general techniques you use to go from the end of that call to whatever the next step is in your sales process?Speaker 2: I think that it’s important to summarize what the action irons are from the call. And some of those might be actions irons that you’re kind of pressing as your own agenda. But ultimately, you want mail it to get a verbal confirmation from the people that you’re speaking with that “Yes, the next steps are going to be– I’m going to send you a demo via email” or “I’m going to send you some more data points” or “We’re going to take some defining step in the very near future. hopefully the same day at least from an electronic call or perspective.” I also like to at least get an informative which will actually give me a sense of their receptiveness to what we’re talking about by just saying, “Hey, I’ll take my particular action item and deliver that today. And then perhaps we can follow-up this time next week and we can discuss that.” And you can actually use that as good gauge to see if they immediately like, “Well, I don’t know I’m sure if I can do that.” Or their at least receptive to having that specific call. And if you feel very strongly about it then you can just confirm it right then and there and then some a meeting request for that exact time the following week which is a great indicator that you’ve got somebody interested in speaking to you again.Speaker 2: And that’s a good point but I think you nailed it which is basically like making sure you’re gauging it correctly. Because a lot of times, I know even both as a sales person early in my career and also as I’ve been a buyer in my career, a lot of times particularly junior sales people, they
  8. 8. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 really try to bore you over around getting that next meeting scheduled because that’s like part of their KPIs or whatever they’re tracked by their managers or something like that. So I think you want to kind of push just the right amount to scheduling in real time because sometimes you’ll end up with like this second scheduled call for somebody’s who is not really allowed to bought in and then all of a sudden it just another waste of 30 minutes, right, because they were just doing it because they were trying to be polite or something like that. So, if you sensed it that they may be are not at all excited it about you may want to consider other things you could do offline before the next call to get them keyed up. And then the other thing, you can [inaudible]up but I would also add just sort of confirming with them, what they see is the next step as well. And a lot of times that’s asking them to kind of give you some forward looking insight into their process internally. So what are the things that have to happen to move to the next step on their end as well. And then the final things you’re up to calling, I think the final piece of this segment of the process from my standpoint is you know kind of what is the next offline follow-up or their next email follow-up. Before the next call, what are the best practices around when you reach out to them next—there’s bunch of the ways that I’ve seen this done. Sometimes people send really specific meeting notes or next steps. Sometimes it’ll happen to me, we’re after the call somehow it’ll actually happen a few days later. What’s you’re best practice around that stuff when you got off that call and you want to do the follow-up, how much time do you wait for the next touch point and then what is kind of that typically the context of that?Speaker 2: It’s like the dating game like when do we call back.Speaker 3: Right. I was going to say it’s obviously just exactly like that scene in Swingers, the movie Swingers, you know? They’re debating like what the right amount of time is to call even ifthey just met it’s the same thing, yeah. (Laughs).Speaker 2: I like to follow-up immediately. By immediately I mean realistically within the same day. A couple of reasons, one, it’s still fresh, it’s still top of mind both for myself and for the other party as well. So you can make sure nothing falls in to cracks and you stay relevant and you get whatever
  9. 9. 398 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 you’re deliverable was out the door. At the very least it always makes me feel better to do that.Speaker 1: Yeah. You’re getting off your list. I think you touched on it. It’s like same day but probably a few hours, post call or depending upon when the call happened. Well, a lot of times what I find is like, again, especially now in my career, I’m more often the buyer than the seller, I find it like if I’ve set aside 30 minutes for a call that’s usually back-to-back with something else. So if something hits me right after that call, maybe after the call we’re just going into a cue of emails and that I’m going to get to you later. We need some time to catch back up. This type of things is probably useful. But yeah, I could use the same day, at the very minimum is probably the right amount of time because then you don’t have any artificial delays beyond that. Cool. Cool. Yes. And hopefully this has been a helpful set of tips on how to handle your first call with a new prospect and some of the basic follow-up stuff. We got to hear, if you have any questions or tips of your own and feel free to send them comments. You can find Kelly at Kelly Huffman on twitter. I’m Joe F. on twitter and Hot Prospect is at Hot Pros, H-O-T P-R-O-S on twitter. Thank you very much for sticking with us. And we’ll look forward to talking to you soon. Thanks.Speaker 2: Bye-bye.End of AudioDuration: 19:35 minutes