You’ve just finished cleaning up your desk and you’re preparing to head home for the day. Then you receive a ping from your inbox. It’s a message from your customer relationship management (CRM) platform letting you know a prospect just requested a call.
It’s tempting to leave it for tomorrow, but you know you’re seven times likelier to have a meaningful conversation with this person if you respond within the first hour. And if you want to close the deal, your chances are highest if you connect within just a few minutes.
You open the email to see who made the request. You don’t recognize the name. This is the first time this person has reached out to your company and you know nothing about him. Your chances of closing the deal increase exponentially if you go in warm, but there’s no time to waste.
How do you prepare for this kind of situation, or any other sales call, in just a few minutes?
Cold calling is one of the toughest sales situations, but with an array of digital and technological resources available, salespeople can turn surprise calls into warm ones. What’s the secret? They have a pre-call checklist that helps them quickly research and prepare for a conversation that can launch a prospect forward in their customer journey, whether the next step is just asking a few questions or converting and becoming a customer.
Here’s how you can create your own pre-sales checklist. These tips will help you prepare for a successful call in just 15 minutes.
Your 15-Minute Sales Pre-Call Checklist
- 3 minutes: Review your CRM platform
- Find out about this person’s relationship with your company.
- Learn about their previous interactions and where they are in the funnel.
- 7 minutes: Research the contact and their company
- Check social media and the company website.
- Still have questions? Try the Google News tab.
- 4 minutes: Make a plan for the call
- What is your goal?
- How are you going to play on your strengths and weaknesses?
- Prepare your value proposition
- 1 minute: Relax
- Lower your adrenaline before the call.
- Give yourself a minute to breathe.
Review Your CRM Platform: 3 Minutes
If a prospect shares their phone number with you, there’s a good chance they’re pretty far along in your sales funnel. In fact, the average B2B buyer is already 57 per cent through their purchasing journey when they hop on their first call with a sales rep. Thanks to search engines, forums, review sites, knowledge bases, white papers, social media, and an overwhelming amount of data and information available online, your customers and clients are educating themselves as much as they can first, then turning to your company to learn more.
That means marketing needs to be on top of their game, guiding prospects through the upper sections of the funnel. But it also means salespeople are just moments away from critical information about the person on the other end of the call — as long as their CRM platform has been used to collect and organize all your customer data, including every opportunity and every interaction.
Your CRM software will tell you how many touchpoints a prospect has had so far, what those touchpoints were, what prompted the lead to get in touch, and which products or services they’ve researched or are interested in. The CRM software pulls up this information quickly and visually. You shouldn’t have to spend more than a few minutes understanding this person’s relationship with your company.
Research the Contact and Their Company: 7 Minutes
Your CRM platform can tell you nearly everything you need to know about a prospect and their relationship to your company, but your prospect has yet to share their full story and that of their own company. This is where experienced sales reps need to rely on their own research skills.
Statistically, the success rate for qualifying leads with cold calling is minuscule. Warm calling, on the other hand, generally provides a conversion rate of around 30 per cent. Sales, to some extent, is a numbers game: Not only do your chances of closing a deal increase the more you can prequalify a lead, but you’ll make more sales overall by increasing the time you spend actually speaking with prospects.
That means pre-call research needs to happen fast. It also means you can’t let yourself get pulled into the rabbit hole and invest hours looking into a prospect that may not convert. Luckily, there are three sources that can quickly give you a better understanding of your prospect. Just be sure to limit your total research time to a few well-spent minutes.
Begin your research with social media. Find out which networks the majority of your prospects are on, and keep those links handy. Become familiar with how to quickly look up people and companies so finding the right profiles and pages takes very little time. Reps who do this often develop a habit of moving their eyeballs to the same places on each profile without having to think too much. Here are a few places that should tell you a lot in just a few seconds:
About Page/Self Summary
These pages give you a quick overview of people and companies.
These will tell you where else you can connect with them and get a fuller picture of who a person is.
Here, you can often learn about any changes, current struggles, or successes that can help you understand where your prospect is right now.
As you scan, jot down a few notes. Specifically, look for:
- Interests or people you have in common. These can make great icebreakers.
- Language and tone. You can build trust by mirroring these.
As you wrap up your social media research, quickly scan for links to a company website. Social media profiles can give you a few quick details about a company, but if you still have unanswered questions, their website can help fill in the blanks. Look for these pages that nearly every company website has: home, products and services, and an about page.
The Basics of What You Should Know About a Lead’s Company
- Its demographics
- Its strengths
- What is their mission?
- Do they list their values?
- Its financial health
- Do they have an “Investor Relations” tab?
- Get a feeling for the future of their company.
- The field and their competitors
- Where does the company fit into the bigger picture?
- What challenges are they facing?
You probably already have a basic understanding of what the company does from their summary on social media. If not, learn more on the home page.
If the home page is vague or you’re still not completely sure what the company does, check out what it offers.
A quick scan of this page can tell you how this company positions itself in the market, as well as their values and priorities. If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to read a brief bio on your contact and get an idea of the company hierarchy. Knowing who the decision makers are can help you set a goal for your call or know who else to talk to at the company.
Still have some time? Click on “Newsroom,” “Press,” or “Blog” to see what’s new with the company.
There’s a good chance your research will already have taken up the allotted seven minutes you should spend on this step. If the company doesn’t have social media profiles or an extensive website, however, there’s still one more source that can help you predict a prospect’s needs: the media.
First, try searching on Google for the company or prospect name, and look at the results in the News tab. Another phrase to try is “[Company Name] press release” to find any news stories the business itself has put out, since what’s big news for the company may not make it into a story by a news outlet.
To quickly learn all you can, scan headlines and subheads. News stories and press releases are designed to give you the important information right up front. Only spend more time reading if the story directly relates to your immediately pending conversation.
Make a Plan: 4 Minutes
You’re 10 minutes into your pre-call checklist. You have a pretty good idea of who your prospect is and where they are in the sales funnel. Now you can create your game plan.
Goal of the Call
Eighty per cent of sales occur after five or more follow-ups. For each call, it’s important to have a specific goal in mind, such as better understanding a prospect’s needs, building rapport, or addressing a specific obstacle that’s in the way of the deal. Write down your goal and highlight it so it stays top of mind.
How to Determine the Goal of Your Sales Call
- A sales call goal should answer either:
- What do I want to happen as a result of this call?
- What do I want the prospect to do as a result of this call?
- Typical sales call goals:
- Get names of important contacts
- Qualify an opportunity
- Make a presentation
- Get an order for…
- Get a decision regarding…
- Determine a close date
- Negotiate a sales contract
- Close an opportunity
- Get a purchase order
- Additional, non-specific types of calls are:
- Suspect Call: Do they need your product?
- Prospect Call: Who should you talk to about your product?
- Introduction Call: Present a general overview of your product.
- Courtesy Call: Social call.
- Service Call: Follow up on a past sale to assure customer satisfaction.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Every salesperson knows what’s unique about their brand’s offerings. The best salespeople also understand their own strengths and weaknesses. A Meyers-Briggs personality test is a great way to learn these. About half of all people who take the test are introverts, for example. If that’s you, you know that being the fast-talking, cheerleading type of salesperson isn’t how you prefer to interact with leads. Play up your strengths, such as being able to thoughtfully answer questions and dive deep into discussions about your products or services.
Briefly review what strategies work for you and brainstorm some ideas on how to connect with this particular prospect. If your prospect seems like the cautious type, think about how you’ll reassure them with your own confidence or by explaining your company’s satisfaction guarantee. If the prospect’s social media is full of jokes and funny videos, get ready to be more lighthearted.
Start the Relationship
One of the best ways to earn a sale is to personalize your interactions with a prospect. Connect with them where they are. Be aware of or get ready to learn about their interests, as well as what matters to them and their business.
When you talk to this new lead, address their individual needs. Why is your company the best for meeting those needs?
Is your prospect dealing with budget cuts? Tell them how buying from you can save them money.
Are they struggling to expand? Talk about how your services can help them boost their market share.
Is the company outpacing the competition? Emphasize how you can scale with them.
Take a look at your notes and use them to create a customer-specific, compelling hook. If they’re still in the exploratory stage, use another method to start building a relationship with them. Whatever you do, you need to be relevant and offer them a specific value. Your overarching goal is to guide them into the next part of the sales funnel.
Relax: 1 Minute
Now that you’ve taken some time to understand your prospect, their company, and how you can best help them, use your last seconds before the call to relax. Racing against the clock to prepare for a call can get anyone’s adrenaline pumping, and you don’t want that energy to speed up your speech or interfere with your ability to listen.
Go over your notes, then take a deep breath. Find that zen that allows expert sales reps to turn any call into a friendly conversation. You’ve done your homework and you’re ready. Now go get ‘em.
Read more about how you can improve your sales team in our free ebook, “Secrets of the Most Productive Salespeople.”
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