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First sales call with a potential client

Michał Szehidewicz in

Blog/First sales call with a potential client

The first time you call potential clients is always interesting. It’s impossible to know what questions or objections you’re going to have to deal with in your efforts to qualify the lead. It’s probably why calls are easily my favourite part of sales. I’ve made (and still, am making) tonnes of calls, and want to give you a few pointers for being better at connecting with future customers. I’ll start with something pretty obvious, the importance of focus, and as you read on there will be a lot of actionable advice for improving your first call with new clients.

Above all else: STAY FOCUSED

yoda will help you focus in sales calls

 

You need to balance out other duties (prospecting, answering emails, reporting) and calls, which should be your highest priority.

  • That’s why my first tip here is: don’t jump on a call while you’re doing something else. Set a specific time slot when you can focus only on the call.

Being concentrated really helps when you’re in front of your client. Take a 10-minute break to clear your mind:

  • watch something you like on YouTube (maybe a TED talk?)
  • listen to your favourite track
  • do some push-ups
  • grab a coffee

Basically whatever helps you stay on your A-game.

Let’s start connecting

Always be punctual. If you set an appointment with your client, call at the exact time to earn extra points before even starting.

  • On Skype (or similar apps) it’s good to message clients whether they’re ready before you call. Invite the client as a Skype contact early on – once your call is scheduled, just ask for the username and send an invite.

In the invitation, a regular: “Hey {{first name}} please add me as a Skype contact – Michal, RightHello” will be enough. After you connect, you’ll be able to message them and share links and files during the conversation.

  • Before the call, I’ll drop a line like: “Shall we start?’ or ‘Just please call me whenever you’re ready”. Don’t forget to be punctual here as well, send the message exactly at the set time.
  • Your client may be late. I suggest to wait around 10 minutes and drop another line like “are you there?”. If that fails, try calling their phone to ask about your meeting.

Here’s a little pro-tip for connecting over the phone – dial the number a minute or two before the appointment. When you’re calling abroad, you need more time to connect. 

Small talk is important

On Skype, you’ll know the client is ready to talk when you get a response. But over the phone, the first thing you do (when cold-calling) is ask whether you’re not interrupting.

Remember Charlie app from part 1? Charlie can give you a briefing about the person you’re meeting. Do some research on your own if you don’t feel like using it.

Small talk in sales calls

Why?

  • You should spend the first few moments discussing something that regards the client, look for commonalities or things that genuinely interest you (events, new products, etc). If you don’t give a shit, why are you calling in the first place?
  • Good small talk isn’t a friendly time-waster. It makes the deal more friendly. Don’t limit yourself to a few remarks about the weather, be creative.
  • Thank your client for finding the time for your call. A simple “I’m pretty sure you keep busy, this is why I really appreciate the time you give me” is a good start.

It’s about the client

After small talk comes the time to start discussing business. Your main priority is to qualify the lead (take a look at Bartek’s post to see how it’s done).

The worst scenario is a client who wants to buy something with no value to their company. Part of your job is to check if there is a real business fit – if not, then admit it. Preventing clients from buying something virtually worthless might be the best thing to do.

  • A good method to check business fit is a few educated guesses about their company’s future. I use questions like: “Based on the information from your website and Linkedin profile it seems you guys are planning to scale up, am I right?”.
  • Everyone loves to talk about their companies, so listen and show interest. Don’t hesitate to ask when you don’t understand something, it’s proof that you’re listening.
  • After you get the basic information, go deeper and ask about business areas that are related to you (note their answers). For instance, at RightHello we collect information about salesforce, sales processes and marketing/sales cycles in general.
  • We ask questions about: lead sources, CRMs, sales cycle length, the size of the sales team, etc.. Based on that I decide if the discussion should go on.

Always try to talk less than your client. Generally, I try to keep a ratio of 85% (customer) – 15% (me). They’ll see that you’re not just trying to close a deal.

How to cut them loose

how about no sale after your call

You might decide you shouldn’t do business with someone.

  • Be thankful and offer to follow-up in case there’s a better fit.
  • If you’ve made a good impression at the beginning, try asking for referrals to friends that might benefit from your services.

That’s exactly what I do when I hear that a customer has no sales team or has no time for sales.

How to proceed

If they seem to be a fit, you can move on and start bragging.

  • It’s not about you or your product – it’s about them, so offer a solution to their headache instead of a sugar-coated placebo.
  • Thank them for the information they delivered. I say something like: “Thanks for that short introduction – I think that I understand what you guys do and who benefits from it”.
  • Ask your client to interrupt you whenever something is unclear. Also, stop yourself every now&then to make sure they understand everything
  • Keep your pitch short, it shouldn’t last more than 3 minutes. Welcome to the world of short attention spans.
  • Now those notes you made after asking questions come in handy. Once you know what’s important for your client, use it in your pitch to make it fully personalised.
  • Keep referring to the information you heard earlier. Don’t repeat the mistake many sales guys make – using the same pitch for all clients.
  • Help yourself with a script or agenda with:
    • a few powerful phrases
    • the main issues you want to discuss
    • information about the client

When preparing my demo script, I made an initial draft of it and improved it over the course of 20 calls. It took me a while to polish it until it was good enough.

Money

This is the one thing you absolutely have to remember from this piece:

Never be the first person to mention money.

  • If you’ve talked about everything else and the client still isn’t asking about pricing, you might say: “Is there anything else I could explain?”.
  • There’s a huge chance the next question will be about cash. This is important, because if they don’t want to talk about money – there is a high probability that they’re not interested in working with you.
  • If it is about cash, then be confident and show that your stuff is worth spending every penny you charge. Just don’t make the impression of a guy that just wants to get into their wallet. Keep practicing and you’ll identify the right patterns.

Don't talk about money during first call with new clientIt helps if your business model is simple. People love easy things, especially when they have to pay for them.

  • If the model your company uses isn’t too easy to understand, just give your client an outline.
  • You’ll have to be more specific in the follow-up email after the call – consider preparing a PDF file with an explanation of all the things related to your pricing model.

Another pro-tip – communicate complicated things in a simple way. (If you have a choice, always pick the simpler way to say something)

How to conclude?

That first call (especially in the IT environment) is not about selling, but about getting to know one another. That’s why you want to finish it with some version of these two questions:

  • “Would you consider our service/product as something useful to your business?” – they’ll probably answer honestly, and it’ll help you evaluate customer potential. If they’re hesitating, this might be the last chance to deal with objections. Keep asking questions and find the issues.

Based on that you decide whether it’s worth following up again. And remember – never conclude the call with a question like: “do you want to buy from me?”. It’s like inviting someone to your apartment after one date – it usually doesn’t work. 🙂

  • “When could we get back to each other – is one week enough for you to make a decision?” – Always get this answered. You’ll know when to follow-up, and you’ll have an argument to use when they’re not contacting you with a final answer. When you suggest a specific time-frame (“is one week enough?”), the client should agree to it.

By all means, avoid the trap of “I’ll get back to you once the decision is made”. A huge majority of these cases aren’t meant to work out. You don’t want to waste time on these instead of focusing on the valid ones.

In summary:

  • Be focused
  • Be patient
  • Research for small-talk material
  • Above all, qualify the lead
  • Keep your pitch short
  • Don’t talk about money until the client mentions it
  • Confirm business fit with 2 questions:
    • “Would you consider our service/product as something useful to your business?”
    • “When could we get back to each other – is one week enough for you to make a decision?”

Thanks for reading! We also recommend you to check our case studies.

This is the second part of my “Anatomy of a Sales Call” mini-series. You can check out parts 1 and 3 here:
Preparation is key to effective calls with new clients
What new clients need after first sales call

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  • Mahesh Kuldeep

    that was an amazing article….thank you michal

  • Busani Moyo

    I am helping a client deal with sales calls for the first time and this has really been helpful in preparation for mu session with the client. Thanks for sharing.

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