Sales is not about closing, but rather all about the opening.
Opening sales calls is everything! If you’re asking yourself questions about dealing with objections, follow up, emails, or any other stuff to increase your sales results, you may be looking in the wrong place. In this post and podcast, I am going to show you how to effectively start any sales call by following a very predictable system. Without using scripts and feeling “salesy.” Cool?
(to listen to this podcast, click here or the play button below)
I’ve been on a few client calls recently and we’ve spent quite a bit of time on how to open sales calls. It is the MOST important thing you can do. In fact, it is where I spend the bulk of my time with people when we coach. Simply nailing the first part of the process. The main reason behind this is because I am inherently LAZY. In all my work, I try and help find the highest value activities and make my life and my client’s lives easier. If you want higher conversions, shorter sales calls, and way less follow up, you just need to rock the opening and the first few minutes of any sales conversation.
When we do role plays and listen to live audio, it is where we make or break the sale. There are two distinct times during a call where it usually pivots and goes off the rails:
- We missed a conversation opportunity because we didn’t listen
- We said something we shouldn’t have and the conversation went a different direction
Your goal in any sales interaction is to keep it moving forward, reducing resistance, and controlling the flow.
Problem: You may be a “Salesy Weirdo”
We’ve talked about this before and you may hear me say this all the time. In fact, it was in the first episode of the podcast – Don’t be weird.
Of all the topics I speak about, this seems to resonate the most with people. The idea that we don’t want to be salesy or weird and we really just want to have normal conversations…but for some reason we find ourselves taking on some weird persona of what we think selling should sound like. And often, just that feeling of not wanting to sound salesy is enough to deter you from selling, amirite?
There are two kinds of salesy weirdos. And for effect, do take the time to listen to the podcast today. I do some great imitations of these!
- Overly robotic and formal. This is where we try and sound way too professional, perhaps go through a script, or have a predetermined list of questions. You don’t want to sound stupid or too informal, so you adopt this persona. It’s weird.
- Overly enthusiastic. You know this person immediately when they call with the big, “hiiiiii, how are yoooooou today?” That’s weird.
I think you get the point. Now, to combat this is to simply speak to your customers the same way you would your friends or family. Like a human. Cool?
Why is it important to perfect the opening of a sales call?
We all know the Head and Shoulders tagline, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s a bit more than first impressions though. The first 30 to 90 seconds of any sales call or interaction will determine the success of the rest. I wrote last year about making sure you are as authentic as quickly as possible, which is a powerful metric to track, actually.
There are some powerful psychological benefits to the opening and why you should spend some serious time getting good at it:
- People are survival creatures. Know that humans are hard-wired to spot danger. If you sound salesy, their Spidey-sense goes off and you already are lost.
- Your confidence creates confidence in them. If you sound like you are enjoying yourself and that you believe in what you are saying, they will naturally want to be connected to you. Remember mirror neurons.
- Disrupting patterns makes them pay attention to you. If you sound different from other people calling you, it triggers their brain to pay attention.
- You create instant trust. By being someone who is confident, different, and with solid energy, you get to start the call with control and that control will make them trust you much more easily.
Ditch the script, build conversation roadmaps
With my clients, I try and get them to eliminate the idea of using scripts. Sure we design the right language around ideas and build questions, insights, stories, etc. Scripts just don’t let you speak like a human to people and in a sales call, anything can happen. So we build the roadmap to better predict these conversations and control the flow.
The main reason is all about habits. Check out Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” and learn more. Essentially, but building these conversational routines, you can decrease the amount of mental energy you use and it will allow you to be much more present and engaged with your clients.
Sales pre-call planning
Prior to opening your sales call, make sure you have given yourself the best chance for success. For more info, take a look at my other post on this topic and how to do it effectively. Essentially, you want to have done your research, be prepared, and set your mind in the right place. Here are a few things you should be doing before every sales call:
- Understand that prejudging is normal. How many times do you find yourself deciding early on that this person cant buy? coming up with possible reasons and objections and then not doing your best work with them. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, so catch it quickly. Give them the opportunity to see the whole show!
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off those buzzes and beeps so you can be totally present
- Set your energy. Get your mind in the right place and be excited to connect with another human
- Prepare to listen. This may sound like common sense, but it is important to focus your mind and be READY to listen. You have to be prepared.
- Lower your expectations and have no attachment to results. Now that you are ready for the cal itself, shift your mindset to one of helping, serving, and connecting. Enjoy the process and just be present. Don’t worry about what happens.
How to open the sales call
Okay, you made it this far. Can you see how much work goes into the call before you even speak with someone? Again, this is all to make your life easier, not more complicated.
Here are a few tips steps you can take to kick it off right:
- Start with a laugh. Not a joke, but you make yourself laugh as you start talking. I’ve been doing this for years and it totally helps get my energy in the right place when I pick up the phone. If you sound like you are having fun, others will pay attention. Everyone likes having fun! So sound cool and interesting, and you are already ahead of the game. Listen to the intro of my podcast as well for an example of how that sounds.
- During the first 30 seconds close your eyes. I didn’t realize I did this until this year, but it is a crazy good tip! When you meet someone face to face, what’s the first thing you do? You make eye contact. Well, on the phone, closing your eyes is essentially my way of creating a more focused connection. You can also do this when they are explaining their challenges or any time you really want to connect with the information they are sharing. Try it…
- Don’t talk about you and your company, talk about them. No one cares if you work with Fortune 100 clients, what awards you won, if you are the top salesperson, or your super-cool-newly-redesigned-proprietary-magic-thing. They care about their problems, ways to solve them, and want insights about their world. Once you get into a real discussion, there are ways to introduce your stuff.
- Have a few basic intro questions prepared. The easiest one is “Why are you interested in this?” You just want to get the conversation started.
- Sound genuinely interested in what they say. It is never what you say or ask – it’s always HOW you say or ask it. You have to sound like you care and are not reading from a script or list.
During the sales conversation:
After the opening, anything can happen, so here’s what you want to remember.
Once you have got the call started, the conversation can go many ways, so part of what you should be building are these roadmaps that anticipate common scenarios, while at the same time, sticking to a specific path. Follow these steps below so that you don’t rush too soon into a pitch or spoil the conversation early:
- Your goal in any sales call is to find the change. Find their STORY.
- What are they currently doing? What is their current reality? Spend time learning about them, their people, and their most pressing projects. Ask for more clarification and really get to the heart of it.
- Where do they want to go? What are their goals? Have they planned for new changes? How are the today issues affecting where they are trying to go? What future reality would they like to create?
- Is there a way you can see yourself helping them? As you go along, you should get to your own excited place where you almost exclaim, “ohhh I get it!!” You must see the change, see a path to change, and understand how you would help facilitate that change. You also must help THEM frame this themselves and resist the urge to jump in and solve.
- Do they feel you are the right person to speak to? As you progress through the conversation, do you demonstrate excellent listening skills, have you shared powerful ideas, have you helped them see the real problems? If you do these things, they will see value in YOU, which is more important than the product or service you sell.
As you can see, none of this has to do with your offer. Your ability to ask questions and share ideas is your most important asset, so don’t rely on gimmicks, pitch decks, or glossy brochures.
What you really want to do is UNDERSTAND. Not diagnose. Not be an interrogator…
Major tip: Be a superstar note taker!
Listening is the one of the best gifts you can give someone else. Taking notes allows you to be present and seek the gold nuggets (bids) they put in front of you. Read my post on listening for the story about the trees. I share it in today’s podcast as well.
Essentially, as they tell you things, you are trying to find what they are saying as well as what they are not saying. Look for words like:
- Looking to change
- Not sure, but
Then, ask questions about what they tell you.
Tip: use paper and pen to take notes. Don’t type. A few reasons for this:
- They can hear you typing and it may put them off. Feels like you are being put on the record or being deposed
- You may be distracted
- You may speak and listen more robotically
Most importantly, when you write, it is far more kinesthetic and you actually connect with your information more effectively. Yale psychologist, Paul Bloom says in this article from the New York Times, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important.”
Stay in a state of sales flow as much as possible
The key to sales call effectiveness is to add value to your potential client’s world. To truly understand what they are trying to do and how you may be able to help them get there. Your goals are to help them see around corners, uncover opportunities, and avoid landmines. If you stick to a predetermined list of questions, don’t acknowledge the things they say, or rush to pitch your offer, you don’t end up serving them at all.
Be 100% okay to stay in the right conversation as long as necessary.
Allow the conversation to be as organic as possible while still controlling the pace and direction
Use simple words –not YOUR words–THEIR words. Speak to them like you would a friend or family member and even think about how you could explain the complex idea in a simple way. Check out my post on the fluency effect that explains this further.
Remember that you can switch between questions, insights, stories, big ideas, or anything interesting. Remember it’s a CONVERSATION and there are TWO people involved.
I like to say that in every sales call there is what I call the LOVE TRIANGLE. It is between you…them…and…the info…
If they fall more in love with the info or you allow them to pay attention to the info too soon, you will lose their attention AND affection. They must buy YOU first.
This is really just scratching the surface of effective selling, but this should give you a but of a framework to open sales calls more effectively. Once you have had these initial conversations, the next step in the is the reframe, recap, or paraphrase. This will be to demonstrate how well you actually understand what you have heard and reduce the chance of making assumptions. I will be covering that in a future post.
I hope that helps you today, and you will go out to make more calls and test this. We have been helping many clients this year build their own conversation roadmaps to allow them to attract and convert customers faster, easier, and way more fun. If you would like to chat about how we can help you or your teams, fill out the contact for here or simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org