first-call

The First Call: How to Qualify a New Business Prospect

 

first-call

Thanks to our consistent blogging and optimized calls to action, we get a LOT of leads from our blog. Sadly, not all of them are a good fit for our services, so ensuring that we focus our attention on the right leads is absolutely critical to our success.

call your business prospectTo help us maximize our opportunities, while minimizing the time spent with leads that aren’t a good fit, we have come up with a 3 step sales process that starts with what we call a Connect Call.

The goal of the connect call is to:

  1. Establish if there is a problem we can help solve
  2. Establish that I’m a credible person to help them solve it
  3. Determine if there is motivation to solve this problem or not
  4. Get commitment to proceed with the next call

How to Qualify While Engaging in Conversation

In a call with Pete Caputa, VP Sales at HubSpot, we role played what a connect call might sound like, and discussed the purpose and structure of the call.

The following sample script is what we use (as a guide, not word for word) when we are calling someone who has downloaded one of our eBooks.

Hi, Pete, it’s Trent (Pause long enough to give them a chance to acknowledge that they know me. If they don’t….)

Trent who?

Oh, sorry, I thought you would recognize my name…it’s Trent Dyrsmid – a lot of people that I call know my name already.

If they don’t say “Trent who?” but their voice indicates they are annoyed, say…

Sounds like I caught you at a bad time, Pete?

If they say no, say, Ok, are you sure?

If they ask how long we’ll need, say, I don’t know. You requested some info from my company and I’m calling to see if I can help. I’m an expert at helping companies to improve their results from their blogging efforts and I’ve done a little bit of research on your company. I do see some areas where we might be able to help you with things, but I don’t know if it’s a priority for you or not?

They will likely ask what I found in the research that you did.

I see that you downloaded an ebook on blogging and then I checked out your blog and didn’t see a whole lot of activity, so I was wondering if you are considering doing more with your blog, and if so, if there is stuff that you are still trying to learn by downloading our ebook?

They are probably going to tell you that their blog isn’t working at this point.

I was going to say that (your blog sucks), but I didn’t want to be so forward. It sounds like you know that your blog isn’t doing what you need it to and you know that you are not doing it well. Is it a priority to do it better?

Now the prospect is probably going to open up enough to uncover the real problem: lead generation.

So you’ve done enough research to know that blogging could attract prospects to you and ultimate deliver leads to your sales team? But you haven’t been able to figure out how to do it yourself?

They will likely make a statement to agree.

And then you mentioned that you have a sales team cold calling and that you’ve had some attrition, um, so it’s important, it sounds like, not so much to figure out how to do blogging, but how to get leads for the sales team? Is that right?

They will likely answer affirmatively and expand on the problem somewhat.

I’m a big advocate of proactive selling, however you probably have read that inbound leads typically close at a higher rate with lower sales effort so, while I don’t like to feed lazy salespeople, I certainly like more productive salespeople. (pause)

They will probably make another affirmation and add more commentary.

So, I’ve worked with many companies and helped them figure out, not just how to do blogging, but to help them figure out really how to build a sales funnel from their marketing efforts. If that is a priority for you, is that something you’d be interested in having a longer conversation about? Typically what we’d talk about is what you are doing now, what you are not doing, a little bit about your marketing efforts as well as your sales efforts…as in I can walk you through some of the ways that we might be able to help, and if that is something that you think is still a priority, and you believe that I might be able to help you we can go from there and figure out what next steps makes sense. Would you like to have a longer conversation about that?

They are probably going to say that they are open to the idea, but….they are also going to express some reservations (other people have promised this before and not delivered, etc…)

Ok, I’m not committing to helping you with anything yet…and I’m not certain that I can help you either. There is certain things that we would need to agree upon before we even consider entering into an engagement together. We can go two routes. One is maybe we share some of the problems you have and what you’ve tried with other people and I can maybe point out where you might have gone wrong, and we can discuss those and I can talk to you about how I avoid those, or….

Remember Your Goals

Remember, the goal of the Connect Call isn’t to try and sell them on anything more than investing the time to have a more in depth conversation about their needs; assuming that you have determined that they are a good prospect, that is.

Questions to Establish If There is a Problem

I have provided you with the the conversation above as an example of how you want to talk with a new prospect. As every prospect isn’t going to be the same as the next, below are some additional questions that you will want to weave into your conversation.

  • What are you doing to generate new business today?
  • Where do you get leads from? How is that working?
  • Is your website an important part of your lead generation strategy?
  • Have you considered blogging? (or blogging more)
  • How many leads do you need?
  • What are some of the activities that you have considered starting?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • Do you know what type of traffic you are getting now and where they are coming from?
  • Do you know which sources of traffic and producing the most engaged visitors?
  • Do you know which sites are referring you the most / best traffic?

Closing for the Appointment (for the 2nd call)

Your Connect Call should last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how interested they are, and how interested you are in them.

exploratory call

Set yourself up for the Second Call.

Once you have established that there is a need, and you believe they are qualified enough to justify your investing another hour of your time, you should close for the 2nd appointment (the Exploratory Call).

To do that, you should say something along the lines of…

If this is a priority for you, typically what I would propose for the next step is that we would have a longer dialogue and I would share with you some of the ways that I might be able to help you, or how I have helped companies like yours, uh, and we can talk through potentially putting a plan together where we can help you to move forward.

Common Objections

#1 Send me a proposal.

If you have done a good job with the Connect Call, it’s not uncommon to have a prospect ask you for a proposal.

If they do ask, DO NOT AGREE TO SEND THEM ONE!

Sending a proposal at this stage in the conversation is the kiss of death. If they do ask you for one, here’s what you can say…

Ok, Dave, it sounds like we have identified that there are some things that you are interested in; some of the things that we talked about must have resonated with you. It seems like this is a priority for you, is that right?

Ah..yes it is.

So, um…unfortunately, I don’t feel I’m capable of writing the right proposal for you yet. Ummm, we’ve talked about a few things, but I don’t feel like I know enough about where you’re trying to take the business. Uh, and I don’t have a good enough feel for what you are and aren’t d0ing now both in your sales and in your marketing to really figure out exactly what it is that is going to get you to where you want to go.

Typically what I would propose, if this is still a priority and I have established the fact that I think I can help you with this, is that we’d have another conversation where it would probably be a bit more structured, and I’d ask you a lot more questions about your business… I can certainly answer any questions that you might have about how we work or what we do…and at the end of that, I’d have a much better feel for exactly what it is that I think can do in order to maximize our chances of really doing a great job for you and helping you to get where you want to go.

Is that something that you’d be interested in doing?

If they agree, book it. If not, ask  why not?

#2 They think they have it all figured out

Everyone has problems with sales and marketing; however, if they don’t yet trust you, it’s not uncommon for people to be unwilling to admit that they have any problems that you might be able to help them with.

If you find that no matter what you ask them about, they say some version of “we’ve got that handled”, then you might try saying something along the lines of this…

Well, it seems to me, although I see areas for improvement, you believe your doing it in a way that is getting the best returns and results for you, um, so…. if that’s the case, I don’t want to continue to pester you with questions….so maybe this just wouldn’t be a good fit?

If they keep telling me that they have everything covered, I might try to lighten the mood by saying…

It seems like I’ve caught you on a really bad day. I’ve never talked with anyone who had no problems in any of these areas, um….is that the case?

Conclusion

  • A multi-part sales process can help you maximize your opportunities, while minimizing the time spent with leads that aren’t a good fit.
  • The goal of your first call is to:
    • Establish if there is a problem we can help solve
    • Establish that you are a credible person to help them solve it
    • Determine if there is motivation to solve this problem or not
    • Get commitment to proceed with the next call
  • Every prospect isn’t the same as the next. You need to be prepared with additional questions to establish if they have a problem you can solve.
  • The first call should be brief. Once you have established that there is a need, and you believe they are qualified enough to justify your investing another hour of your time, you should close for the 2nd appointment.
  • Prospects may ask you to send them a proposal, DON’T!

What Comes Next?

Now that we have covered how to qualify a new business prospect, we need to move on to step 2: the Exploratory Call, which we’ll cover in an upcoming post. If you have questions about this post, please leave them in the comments below.

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