MaRS Library Sales calls: Tips and techniques for calling potential customers
As an entrepreneur, you must routinely make time in your schedules to engage with potential customers. Once you have identified a potential customer, the following are some key pointers for the sales call.
Tips for sales calling
When calling a potential customer, be pleasant and courteous. Give your contact a good reason to make time to speak with you. You need to sell them on the idea that spending time to learn about your offering is worthwhile.
The more senior the person, the longer it will take to reach them and the more difficult it will be for them to find time for you. Be patient, understanding and persistent.
The general rule of thumb is that you will need to place an average of five calls before being able to get hold of a senior executive. You can expect that an appointment will take at least six weeks from first contact.
Work your way up to the key decision-makers
Some executives only meet with a small number of suppliers. In this case you should expect to have to work your way up the organization. You must prove the value of your technology and win over others at the company who will then recommend you to the key decision-maker.
One tactic used successfully by many entrepreneurs is to develop a relationship with a company insider who can act as a coach. A coach will help you navigate through the organization and find the right people.
Use notes (or a script) to remember key points for the call
When you reach someone with whom you would like to book an appointment, make sure that communication is crystal clear. For the first couple of calls, many entrepreneurs find it helpful to have a script, or a note nearby highlighting the key points they’d like to get across.
A best practice is to provide a clear and concise introduction to your company and your role, the purpose of your call, and a compelling reason why the person on the other end of the line should make time to meet with you or talk to you about your product.
Be creative with scheduling if necessary
If the potential customer agrees to meet with you but has difficulty finding time in his or her schedule, be creative and flexible.
- Suggest a breakfast or lunch appointment
- Ride the elevator with them
- Walk them from their car to their office
You will increase your chance of success by being polite, pleasant and accommodating.
Confirm appointment details immediately
Immediately after it is booked, confirm the details of the appointment by email, and then again the day before the meeting is to take place. If you receive no response to the email confirmation the day before the meeting, follow up by phone.
Mention specific facility or equipment needs for your meeting
If you require specific facilities or equipment for the meeting (for example, a projector), make sure that you mention this in every confirmation email or phone call.
At all costs, you must avoid a situation in which you are unable to proceed with the meeting because some practical detail wasn’t properly arranged.
Prepare for the sales call or meeting
After booking and confirming a meeting, prepare for the sales call. Preparation takes time, so familiarize yourself well in advance with the process and tools we recommend in the following articles:
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.
- Value proposition and Blank’s customer discovery method—Phase 3: Test your product concept.
- Buyer motivation: What moves your target customers to purchase your product?.
- Thought leadership as a tech startup strategy.
- Customer onboarding: Preparing customers to use your product.
- Closing a sale: A natural ending in the sales process.