At its most basic level, a sales call is a conversation between a salesperson and a prospect about the purchase of a product or service. These calls — most often conducted either in-person or via video — involve multiple parts, including initial agenda-setting by the rep, the product pitch, a demo, prospect objections and rep responses, negotiation, and outlining of next steps. Ideally, a rep closes a sales call with a verbal agreement from the prospect to make a purchase.
In a typical sales process
, much of the preparation, including prospect research and qualification, occurs days or weeks before the sales call is even scheduled. The tasks explained below are specific to the call itself.
Before you make the call, determine your prospect’s needs and pain points. This avoids any surprises during the call itself, as you’ve already established alignment with product solutions and set expectations of what’s to come.
You can share a brief agenda with the prospect before you call. Make sure to include a short value proposition with them too, describing how you can potentially help them.
This is also an opportunity to tactfully ask who else needs to be involved in the decision-making process before the purchase can be finalised. For larger companies, this often includes legal teams and high-level company executives. Send an advance copy of the contract or a prepared quote so all decision makers can review sales details before the call.
In a recent Salesforce study, sales reps reported they often struggle to fully understand their prospects’ needs — in part because they don’t conduct adequate research or hold discovery calls. The result is a generic sales pitch that doesn’t frame the product as a solution to unique prospect problems.
To avoid this, make sure you know each prospect’s needs inside and out. Then create a slide deck or presentation specifically addressing those needs.
Also, keep your prospect’s communication and engagement preferences in mind as you prepare your pitch. Some prefer standard slides while others may enjoy video or interactive content.
Talking about your product as a solution only goes so far. To ensure you’re delivering what the prospect needs, consider presenting a video or interactive demo during the sales call. Keep it to no more than 10 minutes and, if needed, prep the person leading the demo so they know to highlight specific features that meet the prospect’s needs.
to the sale — even if you’ve done your homework and mapped out the perfect product solution for the prospect. To prepare for this inevitability, outline the sales objections your prospect is likely to have, along with responses. Use this as a reference during the sales call.
Set a sales call agenda, review quotes and contracts, take notes, and automatically log prospect communication on one platform.
Veteran sales reps will tell you: There’s no magic formula for the perfect sales call. That said, you can still make sure you’re addressing prospect needs and moving things closer to a sale. The tips below, sourced from sales experts, are a good place to start.
According to a 2021 Salesforce survey, only 32% of sales reps say they receive excellent training or coaching, including training on sales calls. This results in a lot of missed opportunities and, in some cases, botched deals.
To ensure you have the insights needed to master sales calls, make sure each one is recorded on your phone or videoconferencing platform. When calls are complete, review them. Find objections you might have missed or insights you could have added. Tools like Einstein Conversation Insights can even help you analyse commonly used keywords and your listen/talk ratio. You can also share calls with your manager or colleagues for feedback. Remember: Each call is an opportunity to learn, improve, and boost sales.
Many reps make the mistake of launching into their sales pitch too soon. You want to build rapport and comfort with your prospect, and that starts with a friendly greeting — maybe even chitchat.
Avoid being over familiar, though. If you take things too far, or try to be too chatty, your prospect is likely to see it as an 'act'. Keep your greeting to a few minutes, and then move on.
Business moves fast, which means change is constant. To be sure you’re not wasting your carefully prepared pitch on a prospect whose needs have shifted, preface your agenda-setting with a simple question: “Has anything changed since the last time we talked?” This allows you to adjust your talking points to meet their needs in the moment or, if needed, reschedule the call so you have time to prepare a new pitch.
After confirming that the prospect’s circumstances haven’t significantly changed, spell out the agenda for the call. This may change slightly as the call progresses, but it’s key that you set expectations so the prospect is not caught unawares. This agenda should align with expectations set at the end of the discovery call
and be as straightforward as possible.
Below is what a typical sales agenda might look like. Some of these items are for your eyes only. The items in bold should be discussed with the prospect.
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Reiterate your prospect’s pain points during the call. This accomplishes two key things. It shows that you listened and are putting their needs front and centre, and it sets the stage for presenting your product solution.
As you work your way through your sales pitch, lean heavily on language that favours value and problem-solving. How are you attempting to make your prospect’s life easier or better? Be specific and, if possible, show measurable improvements.
There are two emotional levers you can pull: pain and pleasure. Show the prospect how you can take away their pain while also adding pleasure. Always connect these solutions to your product.
Let’s say you sell travel insurance and are talking to a prospect about insuring an upcoming trip to Europe. You can reference the peace of mind your prospect would feel knowing their investment in plane tickets and hotel reservations is fully refundable if their destination city shuts down due to inclement weather. Even better, you can let them know about special discounts or gifts they would enjoy with the purchase of an insurance plan. Pain removed, pleasure gained.
Most products have a healthy helping of competitors in the market. While you may make a compelling case for solving your prospect’s problems, competing products frequently offer similar solutions. To avoid being outshone by other companies, research your competitors in advance and articulate differentiators that clearly elevate your product above others.
“If a prospect mentions a competitor, use this as an opportunity to understand their requirements and the solutions that they are looking for," says Trina Choy, Strategic Account Executive at Salesforce. "Encourage your customer to think about what you are offering, not what the competitor has. Let them sell your product to themselves, rather than you selling to them.”
What you say matters, but how you say it matters more. This is especially true in sales. In fact, leaning on empathetic, value-based, and positive language is critical to earning prospects’ trust and emotional buy-in. Once these are in place, closing a sale is relatively easy.
For example, instead of using terms like “payment,” which implies debt, use a word like “investment,” which implies ownership and opportunity. Other positive terms like “benefit,” “guarantee,” and “easy” are effective ways of securing buy-in during a sales call.
New sales reps often react defensively when prospects object to a sale — even when the objection is valid. While it’s good to have some responses in the bag to underscore your product’s value, the goal in objection handling is not to fire back with counterpoints.
Vu Anh Nguyen, General Manager at Baya in Vietnam, says that listening is more important than talking in these situations. “Do your best to understand what the customer wants and let them make their own decisions. Don’t do it for them," he says. "If you listen carefully and focus on the small details you will soon see why they make certain choices and how to influence their sales journey.”
Here’s an example of how this might play out in a sales call:
I just don’t think I’m ready to buy yet. The contract is pretty long.
I hear you, but can you help me understand why the length is a problem for you?
I just worry our needs will change in three months, four months — heck, even a few weeks in. Then we’re stuck with it.
So if I understand you right, you're worried that if your needs change — whether it’s a few weeks in or a few months in — you’ll be stuck with what we’ve chosen today. Is that right?
So that aside, is there any other reason holding you back from working together?
Nope, that’s pretty much it.
And if that weren’t a concern, you’d feel comfortable moving forward?
I understand. I’ve heard similar concerns from others. But let me put your mind at ease. If you don’t see a use for our product after a few months, we can talk about early cancellation or switch you to a different product that would better suit your needs. Would that work for you?
Yeah, actually that would help a lot. So tell me about these other options …
Sales reps are often dinged for talking too much in sales calls. The goal during these calls is to provide value and solutions for the prospect while making them feel heard. This requires more listening than talking; a 60/40 listen-talk ratio is often favoured by sales experts.
Choy puts it simply: "You should spend more time listening than talking. When you do talk, ask questions!”
When prospects ask about the effectiveness of your product, it’s common for reps to respond with stats. These can be compelling, but they can also lead to glassy-eyed stares.
As an alternative, Stanford Marketing Professor Jennifer Aaker suggests using stories to grab attention and secure buy-in: “Research shows … our brains are wired to understand and retain stories. A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey, they feel different. The result is persuasion and, sometimes, action.”
There is one caveat, however. If you find that your decision maker is analytical in nature, they’re likely to value clear-cut statistics that validate your product as the best solution to their problem. Keep this in mind and use relevant metrics to support your compelling stories.
One of the biggest mistakes new reps make is leaving sales calls open-ended. Prospects frequently respond to pitches with a casual, “I’ll think about it.” New reps, aiming to please, agree to give them space for deliberation. Inevitably, however, prospects are caught up in other responsibilities and forget about the sale.
To avoid this, close the call with a couple of direct questions/comments:
- “You’ve highlighted X and Y as problems for your business. We’ve just taken a look at the product and how it can solve those problems. Do you agree it’s a good solution for you?”
- “Great. It sounds like we’re on the same page. To take care of your problems ASAP with the solution we’ve discussed, all we need to do is take care of some easy paperwork and we’ll get you onboarded immediately. Sound good?”
If a prospect doesn't commit, make sure they are aware of the cost of inaction. Explain the cost in time, money, and labour if they wait to make a purchase decision. When they recognise the consequences of waiting, securing a “yes” to the sale becomes easier.
After you receive your “yes,” clearly outline what will happen after the call. This includes action items for you, the prospect, and any other decision makers or stakeholders, as well as clear deadlines for each action item. Ask for agreement to this schedule, and then follow up with an email summarising your call. With a clearly outlined task list, closing a deal becomes simply a matter of keeping the prospect on schedule.