MaRS Library Sales calls: A guide to developing high-value sales relationships
The purpose of a sales call is to initiate the sales process with a potential customer. Sales calls provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build rapport with potential clients, and to lay a groundwork of trust and mutual respect which will support a strong sales relationship.
Most importantly, sales calls are a chance for entrepreneurs to learn about potential customers and get agreement from them that the product is a good fit for their needs. These tips will help you conduct successful sales calls.
Seven tips for successful sales calls
1. Seek to understand your potential customer’s needs and wants
The first meeting or call should be less about “pitching” the product and more about developing a better understanding of the potential customer’s wants and needs.
Allow the prospective customer to do about 60% of the talking while you focus on asking questions that will give you a better idea about how to close a sale.
A useful tool for guiding you through the initial discussions with a potential buyer is a “Sales Call Talk Track.” This tool provides a framework for the kinds of questions you need to ask of a potential customer in order to sell effectively by understanding what they value.
2. Demonstrate your familiarity with your potential customer
For initial sales discussions, prepare questions that demonstrate your familiarity with your target customer’s business and current suppliers, as well as his or her role(s) and responsibilities. Here are some good Sales Call Talk Track questions:
- “What is your team currently working on and what are your strategic goals or priorities?”
- “What happens if your group isn’t able to meet these targets?”
- “Are you finding that one of the challenges you are facing is _________?”
- “What if you were able to ___________?”
- “What would be the impact on your business of __________?”
- “How would ________ affect you and your role?”
- “Will you please walk me through the buying process at your company?” (You should focus on finding out: who else is involved; what information they will need; who signs these types of contracts; at what point in the process this key decision maker gets involved; what the timeline is for making a buying decision.)
- “What are some other solutions that you are considering?”
3. Qualifying versus selecting your offering
At the start of the call, try to ascertain whether the potential customer is qualifying your solution for consideration or whether they are in the process of selecting a solution to implement.
Qualifying takes place early in the customer’s buying process and is based on evaluating the seller’s viability both from a business and technology perspective. At the selection stage, the field of contestants is narrower and the focus is on whether the technology can meet specific requirements.
4. Position your product and business
At this early juncture, position your business and your product clearly and succinctly. Avoid wordy illustrations, inappropriate jargon and excessively technical descriptions.
5. Demonstrate your product’s capabilities
Throughout any sales call, entrepreneurs should focus on demonstrating (showing) product capabilities rather than asserting (saying) them. Provide specific examples that highlight how your product has helped other customers solve similar challenges.
6. Seek agreement from potential customers
Your goal should be to get an agreement from your prospective customer that your product is a good fit for their needs. To do this, you need to convey the value that your product brings, and give your potential customer a personal reason to want to engage with your company.
7. Plan your future communication with the potential customer
Lastly, establish a plan for moving forward with the potential customer. Get feedback from your contact about what the next steps should be, when they should take place, what will be involved, and what the expectations are.
These basic pointers will help you conduct initial sales calls with potential customers with a view to developing high-value sales relationships.
Become great at sales. Check out our free Selling for Entrepreneurs online course. It provides over two hours of expert sales instruction designed for startup founders who want to lead sales and accelerate company growth.
Heiman, S. & Sanchez, D. (1998). The New Strategic Selling. New York: Warner Books, Inc.
- Bootstrapping—stretch funding for startups and other ventures.
- Elements of a product’s value proposition: Functional, self-expressive and emotional benefits.
- Sales management for startups: Managing a B2B sales team.
- Sales basics: Nine steps to effective cold calling.
- Sales Call Talk Track: An effective checklist for your sales process.