This is the blog transcript of our video “How to Start a Conversation With a Sales Prospect”. If you’d like to see more of our videos, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.
Closing the deal is what it all comes down to in sales, right?
Closing a deal might be the end goal in sales, but starting the conversation is what sales is really all about. After all, if you can’t start a conversation you’ll never close a deal.
So how do you start a sales conversation?
Hey everyone, I’m Ian Campbell, CEO of Mission Suite. Before we jump into today’s video, do me a favor and hit the subscribe button and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos.
I’ve been in sales for a little over 20 years.
When I first started, I always thought that it was just the natural “gift of gab” that would get me into a sales conversation. Since I was relatively good at it, I never worried too much about it.
But then I got to a point where I wanted to take a bit more control over those conversations.
See, when I was just relying on my “gift”, I realized that it was taking me a really long time to get to the point of the actual sales part of the conversation. That was fine when the conversation would end up leading to a new client, but other times I was spending valuable time chatting up a friendly person who had no interest in doing business with me.
While I got to know some great people, it didn’t help me grow my business. So I decided I was going to get more specific with the way that I started my conversations.
Turns out it worked! I ended up getting to focus my time on conversations with people who actually wanted to do business with me, and as a result my business grew.
Surprise, surprise, right?
It’s not that I didn’t talk to people who weren’t good prospects for me, I just knew earlier why we were talking and, as a result, could refocus my expectations and adjust accordingly.
So let’s take a look at the process that I set up for myself to start a real conversation with a sales prospect.
Step one – Tell them who you are
This may sound like an obvious one, but hear me out.
It doesn’t matter if we’re out at a networking event, making a cold call, or dropping in to a business somewhere, we have the tendency to look for that magical opening line.
You know what I’m talking about – that opener that no one is ever going to want to say no to, and will pique the interest of even the most reluctant prospect.
Well, that line doesn’t exist. Stop looking for it.
What’s more, there’s nothing worse than having someone come up to you and start asking random questions or laying out half baked metaphors about the problems that they start before you even know their name.
I’ve had so many people prospect me with some goofy version of “I square circles” and then dive into a story about those “circles” that they square before they finally tell me what their company is and what they do.
By the time they finally get there, my eyes have glazed over and I’ve completely checked out of the conversation.
When push comes to shove, the only thing that your contacts really need to know is who you are and how you might be able to help them solve a problem. That may sound cynical, but it’s true.
Stop trying to be clever, and just tell me who you are.
So start at the beginning – who are you?
Obviously you don’t need to give them your entire life story – at this point in the relationship people don’t need to know where you came from or how you got to where you are today. They just need to know who you are now.
So open with that.
Truthfully, you don’t need anything more than a direct statement, and it can be pretty short. Something like “Hi, I’m Ian with Mission Suite, we’re a CRM and sales automation platform.” is enough to start a conversation.
Step Two – Tell Them Why They Should Care
The next step in this little process that I dialed in for myself is to tell them why they should care about who you are.
This is the important part of that opening part of the sales conversation – why you should care about who I am.
Again, directness equals value here.
Because you haven’t shown any interest in me beyond my name and company name, you’re still looking for a reason to keep listening to me.
I’m originally from the east coast and came up doing business in some of the major cities back there. Now I talk to other east coasters and joke about the fact that it always felt like you had 15 seconds to show anyone you were talking to why they should give you the next 15 seconds of their time.
This is what I’m talking about here.
Why should I care about who you are? What is knowing who you are going to do for me to help my life get better? How will knowing who you are help my business become more successful?
When talking to a prospect, these are the questions that are immediately going through their mind after you introduce yourself. That’s why you hear them say “ok……”
So answer that question.
How you answer that question is probably going to vary from situation to situation, but again, be direct.
“I help businesses grow by helping their sales people get more initial sales appointments and making sure deals keep moving through the sales process without falling through the cracks.”
Straight to the point. No fluff. Just what they need to hear to know if I provide a solution to a problem that they want help solving.
Oftentimes this will lead to a question from the prospect that I’m talking to and maybe a bit of a tangential conversation. It’s ok to let the conversation wander a bit to answer their questions, but be careful not to completely lose control. You don’t want to get so far down a rabbit hole that it doesn’t make sense to bring it back to the primary conversation.
Also remember, not everyone wants help solving the problem that you think that they should, so if there’s no interest, that’s fine. It’s not an offense to you, they’re not fools, or blind to the issues in their business.
There could be a million perfectly good reasons why that’s true. Just move on.
What’s your favorite opening line to start a sales conversation? Let us know down in the comments and, while you’re down there, give us a like to let us know you’re getting some value out of it.
Step 3 – Tell Them What They’ll Get From Listening To You
Now we’re getting to the point where you’re setting up for the best part – the follow up meeting.
Sales aren’t made in the initial conversation anymore – the one call close has mostly become a thing of the past because of the vast amount of information to which people have access these days.
Given that, you have to let them know what value they’re going to get from listening to you specifically.
Think of it this way – You’re asking for 30 minutes of my time. Let’s say I’m at an equivalent salary of $150 per hour, that’s a $75 ask that you’re making. I’d better be getting something out of it.
So what real benefit will they get from spending time with you?
Typically just learning more about your product or service isn’t really going to cut it. Unless I’m tasked with learning about that specifically, or evaluating different offerings, that’s more of a benefit to you than it is to me.
But there are all sorts of benefits to getting together with someone in your field. Unless I’m also in that field, you have a ton of information that I don’t have and want someone to discuss with me.
Maybe what I’ll get is a bit of education. Maybe it’s a better understanding of just how I can implement something like your product or service into my business. Maybe it’s just new ideas that I can use to grow my business.
Those are things that have real value, but they have to be focused on the benefit to the prospect.
Step 4 – Ask Them a Qualifying Question
Now it’s time to get them talking
Finally, this is where you get to jump in and ask some sort of probing question to try to qualify them.
Obviously this introduction formula is very prospect focused, as it should be, but let’s not lose site of the fact that there are plenty of people who are willing to sit down with you and take up your time with no real need for your product or service, and no real intention to buy anything from you.
Hopefully you know some solid open ended questions to gauge someone’s interest in what you’re doing, but if not, try something like
“Does that sound like something that would be helpful in your business?”
“Have you ever done anything like this before?”
“What sort of results would you expect to see from something like this?”
You’ll obviously want to customize these for your business, and there are a million other questions that you can ask, but now it’s time to get them talking so that you can figure out if it’s something that they’re interested in and if they’re worth your time.
And if they are, now you get to set your follow up meeting!
Hey I hope you got something out of this video. And if you did, go ahead and give it a thumbs up and maybe a share so that others can see it too. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos and while you’re at it, check out these videos too!
We’ll see you next time around!