Back in 2016, I penned an article for Selling Power that addressed selling and opening the sales call in the new digital era where we are inundated with apps, devices, and instant price comparison.
Most of that material can be applied to how a sales rep conduct themselves when opening a sales call. Remember, your prospects have massive information at their fingertips. They can find a mountain of information on your people, your company, and your product. Also, they can find similar information from your competitors. They can do instant comparisons between your solution and what your competitors are offering. And they can get quick access to reviews and testimonials from your clients, customers, and even prospects.
To this end, and I made this argument in that Selling Power article, the sales rep of today has to be more than a walking encyclopedia with hair who can merely regurgitate information and take orders. Successful sales reps must provide real value, and help show they can provide real, differentiated value when opening the sales call.
In that article, I highlighted 5 ideas your sales reps need to improve their success rate for opening a sales call. Those tips are:
- Be responsive, not reactive. Be the thermostat.
- Build affinity. You must build rapport to build your relationship, which builds trust.
- Be flexible and adaptable.
- Create a feedback loop. Know what’s happening with your prospect.
- Be strategic in executing your sales process.
Let’s look at two of these that you and your team can use when opening the sales call.
Building Rapport When Opening the Sales Call
First, let’s look at building affinity. Your sales reps must be skilled at developing rapport quickly so they can build the relationship and the trust that comes along with that relationship. As the adage goes, people buy from people they like. While there is a certain level of truth to that, I think it’s also important to recognize that people buy from people who are like them. So, when coaching your team to achieve rapport when opening the sales call, include the following:
- Coach your people on active listening principles. This is not having your team going through the motions like bobbing their head up and down to give the prospect a show. This is having your people listen to understand the prospect, their environment and their challenges to provide a relevant solution and showing that they are giving the prospect their complete attention.
- Have them do adequate research. We don’t want our people to be walking encyclopedias. However, there’s still a certain amount of research they must do on their prospect and the industry in order to make credible assessments about solutions. Just be ready to help them put the brakes on their research when they start getting too far in the weeds.
- Coach them to talk like their prospect. As mentioned before, people buy from people they like as well as people that are like them. So, when your sales reps open the sales call with their prospect, they need to use language their prospect uses. That means if the prospect is using technical language, they should use technical language. And if their prospect isn’t using $2 words, then they shouldn’t be using $2 words. They need to be listening and paying attention to their prospect in order to use their language.
Getting Feedback When Opening the Sales Call
Next, you must get your people to create feedback loops. While this might sound a bit technical, it really isn’t. Your sales reps need to know if they are on point with the solution they are presenting or if they are driving the process off road. Feedback comes in many forms. However, here are two that you’ll want to coach your people on immediately:
- Behavioral Feedback. You’ll want your people to know what’s happening with their prospect. This means they will need to pay attention to their prospect. They need to pay attention, listen to what their prospect is saying, and watch what their prospect is doing. For example, is their prospect looking at them or is she looking at her mobile device? Is their prospect sitting at attention or is their prospect fidgeting in his chair? Because sales reps don’t always give their prospects the attention they deserve, the sales reps will miss a glaring feedback signal and an opportunity to make a sales process correction. I’ll have more to say on coaching techniques for watching and listening for behavioral and vocal cues in future posts. Suffice it to say, watch your people and coach them to pay attention to the cues.
- Vocal Feedback. Sales reps are already familiar with getting vocal feedback, although it may not be immediately obvious. This is what we commonly call the trial close. Your sales reps should be trial closes frequently to take the prospect’s temperature and get permission before moving to the next stage in the sales process. If they aren’t making frequent use of the trial close, they are missing a big opportunity to reduce friction in their sales process.
Opportunities for Coaching
We’ve just reviewed only two of the 5 ideas outlined in that Selling Power article. However, there are still plenty of opportunities for coaching your sales reps. Here are three that come to mind:
- Over the Phone. When we had our call center, our sales leaders often used the VoIP technology in the phone system to either listen in on a phone call or share a call with a sales rep. Such opportunities can be invaluable to new reps who are struggling to figure out how to execute the sales process.
- Face to Face. There are times when your salespeople will ask you to accompany them or to assist them in opening the sales call, delivering a proposal, or closing the deal. Make no mistake, if they ask you to accompany them on a call, they are also asking for your feedback and coaching. Provide that coaching through the postmortem immediately afterwards. Don’t wait too long or the feedback will lose its relevance.
- In Individual and Group Meetings. Use your Monday sales meetings as opportunities for learning where you can teach and coach your team in a classroom type environment, and everybody can learn.
Opening the sales call is probably the most important part of the sales process you can coach your sales reps on. It is the foundation of everything we do. Like building a house, when you start with a strong, solid foundation, putting all of the other pieces in place becomes a lot simpler and easier.
For additional ideas on opening the sales call and executing your sales process, get a copy of Selling is an Away Game, available online at Amazon, fine bookstores and many Hudson News locations.