Imagine a sales call where you and the buyer are in complete agreement on what will be happening during the conversation, without surprise or mystery about why the meeting is occurring. The buyer is confident that their meeting expectations will be met, and so are you. Both parties are on the same page about the acceptable outcomes, and both have set aside an agreed to amount of time to focus with uninterrupted attention on the meeting.
Does this describe your first few minutes of your most recent sales call? Does it describe the conversation between the two of you prior to the sales call?
Having a consistent strategy about how to start your sales call puts you in control and shows your buyer you are prepared.
A fundamental element of this strategy is having a clear picture, ahead of time, about WHY you are meeting in the first place. Sounds simple…yet it is easy to confuse WHAT you want to cover with WHY you want to cover it. When I ask salespeople to tell me what the purpose of a discovery call is, they usually tell me the purpose is to sell their product, or to build rapport, or to qualify. None of these things is actually the purpose of the meeting! These are agenda items that you hope to accomplish. The real purpose of a discovery call to determine if there is a reason to do business together.
Before you even begin any meeting, it is important to reach agreement on five elements with your buyer. These are:
- Purpose of the meeting.
- Length of time needed.
- Understanding of what the buyer wants to cover and what they expect from you.
- Clarity of what you wish to cover, and what you expect from the buyer.
- Agreement ahead of time of what you looking to conclude by the end of the discussion.
For example, a pre-meeting agreement you set up on the phone might go like this:
Sales Rep: “Sujata, it sounds like we should meet to determine if it makes sense to work together either now or in the near future.”
Buyer: “Yes, I agree.”
Sales Rep: “Okay. Let’s get an hour on our calendar to do so. What date and time works for you?”
Buyer: “How about August 15 at 10 am?”
Sales Rep: “That works for me. I’m sure there are some things you are going to want to know about our business. Maybe the types of challenges we help companies solve. What do want to be sure I address when we meet?”
Buyer: “I want to understand your solutions, along with the markets you serve. I will want to know how much the products cost too.”
Sales Rep: “I appreciate that. I’m happy to share how others have utilized our solutions. I am thinking it may be too early to discuss cost at this meeting – as I doubt either one of us will leave with a detailed picture. Can we set that aside for now, and focus on determining whether there would even be a need to know pricing?”
Buyer: “Okay. If there is a fit, though, I’ll need to know that early on.”
Sales Rep: “Certainly, I understand. Sujata, I’ll have questions for you regarding your challenges, what you’ve done so far to address, what is working, not working. From there, we may need to discuss what you typically invest to address similar problems, and how your company makes decisions of this type. Is there anyone else we should invite to this initial meeting?”
Buyer: “No, I think it’s best the two of us meet first.”
Sales Rep: “Alright. I think if we do a good job of due diligence in our initial meeting one of two things will happen. It will be obvious there is no reason to work together; or we will conclude there is a reason to keep talking. If no reason, we simply end the conversation. On the other hand, if there’s an interest, we’ll likely need to involve others as the next step in our discovery process. Can we work together on those outcomes?”
Buyer: “Yes, that sounds good.”
Sales Rep: “Great. I’ll send you a meeting invite, with our agenda included.”
When you do begin the meeting, take the lead and remind the buyer of all the elements the agreed-upon agenda, also known as an Up-Front Contract. Be sure nothing has changed that will impact your objectives before you start your meeting. Always end your meeting with a summary of what was covered for confirmation purposes, and say out loud, “Let’s be sure we have a clear next step about what will happen next, and when.” This assures you leave every meeting with both clarity and mutual agreement about what is on the agenda next time!
This simple, powerful pre-meeting step will keep you moving forward faster to a close of the file … or the close of business. It’s what happens before a great sales call!