Market research done? Check. Prospects qualified? Check.
Looks like you’re ready to make a sales call.
This isn’t just a quick pitch, however. The most successful sales calls include tailored presentations and focus on building trust with prospects by addressing their unique pain points.
As celebrated entrepreneur Siva Devaki noted, “Sales is not about selling, but about building trust and educating.”
To ensure you lead a successful sales call, we’ve curated expert tips and techniques below, including guidance on how to prepare. Ready? Set? Sell!
What you’ll learn:
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Wait, what is a sales call?
A sales call is a conversation between a salesperson and a prospect about the purchase of a product or service. These calls — most often conducted either in-person or via video — involve multiple parts, including initial agenda-setting by the rep, the product pitch, a demo, prospect objections and rep responses, negotiation, and outlining of next steps. Ideally, a rep closes a sales call with a verbal agreement from the prospect to make a purchase.
How do you prepare for a sales call?
In a typical sales process, much of the preparation, including prospect research and qualification, occurs days or weeks before the sales call is even scheduled. The tasks explained below are specific to the call itself.
1. Set sales call expectations before the actual call
Before you make the call, determine your prospect’s needs and pain points. This avoids any surprises during the call itself, as you’ve already established alignment with product solutions and set expectations of what’s to come.
“Tell them what you’ll cover in the call, but specifically, share a short value proposition of how you can potentially help them,” advises Marcus Chan, sales coach and president of Venli Consulting Group.
This is also an opportunity to tactfully ask who else needs to be involved in the decision-making process before the purchase can be finalized. For larger companies, this often includes legal teams and high-level company executives. Send an advance copy of the contract or a prepared quote so all decision-makers can review sales details before the call.
2. Create a tailored presentation
Our State of Sales report shows that 87% of business buyers expect sales reps to act as trusted advisors, taking on early product research before ever getting on a call. This means you’re dealing with informed buyers, and you’ll need to know your prospects’ needs inside and out to prove value. Without that knowledge, you risk a generic sales pitch that doesn’t frame the product as a solution to unique prospect problems.
Conduct research that offers guidance around which products will solve your buyer’s challenges. Then create a slide deck or presentation specifically addressing those needs.
Also, keep your prospect’s communication and engagement preferences in mind as you prepare your pitch. Some prefer standard slides while others may enjoy video or interactive content.
3. Prep a demo
Talking about your product as a solution only goes so far. To ensure you’re delivering what the prospect needs, consider presenting a video or interactive demo during the sales call. Keep it to no more than 10 minutes and, if needed, prep the person leading the demo so they know to highlight specific features that meet the prospect’s needs.
4. Determine likely objections and responses
Expect objections to the sale — even if you’ve done your homework and mapped out the perfect product solution for the prospect. To prepare for this inevitability, outline the sales objections your prospect is likely to have, along with responses. Use this as a reference during the sales call.
How to start a sales call
When you nail the start of your first call, you’ve got a better chance of making a connection and a sale. Follow these four steps:
1. Do your homework
Research is key when making a cold call or when reaching out to a warm opportunity. You can use AI and other sales tools to help figure out the best prospects out there. Automated lead scoring in Sales Cloud, for example, is an excellent tool that can bring you one step closer to making a sale.
2. Show immediate value
You’ll want to intrigue your prospect right out of the gate with proof that you’re able to help. John Barrows, CEO and founder of JB Sales, encourages reps to let previous success in a similar industry speak for itself. He suggests leading with a compelling proof point from a customer case study where you’ve delivered solid results. Your message could look something like this:
“We showed XYZ company in your industry how to drive (results) using our solution” or “We’re working with other (executive title) in your industry to help them address their (X) priority by….”
Barrows says this message should be quick — 15 seconds or less — and focused on soliciting a response like “How do you do that?”
3. Be clear with your ask
The more specific you are with your call to action, the better results you’ll get from the call. You need to let prospects know right away why you’re calling, and that’s something you should map out ahead of time. Are you asking for a referral? A meeting? If so, with whom? Be direct with your ask from the jump.
4. Confirm your prospect’s challenge
Instead of launching into your sales pitch right away, start with questions. Ask what your prospect needs most so you can address those needs throughout the sales call. Open-ended qualifying questions are a good place to start.
How to close a sales call
Think about the last time you had an excellent sales experience. How did the salesperson end your time together? A good sales call ends with these steps:
- Recap with a sincere thank you. Thank your prospect for their time, attention, and letting you help them solve their problems. This is a good time to summarize their challenges and how you can help. That recap can show someone you’ve actively listened and also gives you another chance to ensure you’re on the same page.
- Confirm next steps. Do you owe the prospect a spec sheet or a price quote? Are you going to meet again to discuss things? This is where you’d clearly lay out what each party owes the other and when each is due. Make sure you mention the day and date as well as the method you’ll use to follow up.
- Close with contact confirmation and a call to action. Now that you know the next steps, it’s a good time to confirm contact information such as physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, as well as name spelling. (Pro tip: Make sure all this data goes into your company’s CRM.) Then, close with a call to action. Sending out a meeting invite, emailing a link so they can download information or watch a webinar, or setting up another call all qualify and can help you move to the next step in the sales funnel.
13 tips for making a successful sales call
Veteran sales reps will tell you: There’s no magic formula for the perfect sales call. That said, you can still make sure you’re addressing prospect needs and moving things closer to a sale. The tips below, sourced from sales experts, are a good place to start.
1. Record and review your call
According to our State of Sales report, sales professionals largely agree they get valuable coaching from their manager, but only 26% say it occurs weekly. This results in a lot of missed opportunities and, in some cases, botched deals.
To ensure you have the insights needed to master sales calls, make sure each one is recorded on your phone or videoconferencing platform. When calls are complete, review them. Find objections you might have missed or insights you could have added. Tools like Einstein Conversation Insights can even help you analyze commonly used keywords and your listen/talk ratio. You can also share calls with your manager or colleagues for feedback. Remember: Each call is an opportunity to learn, improve, and boost sales.
2. Start with a friendly greeting — but not too friendly
Many reps make the mistake of launching into their sales pitch too soon. You want to build rapport and comfort with your prospect, and that starts with a friendly greeting — maybe even chitchat.
Chan cautions reps not to get super chummy, though. “You don’t want to be too chatty,” he says. “That can get cheesy very quickly and prospects see right through it.” Keep the greeting to just a few minutes, then move on.
3. Make sure nothing has changed since the last communication
Business moves fast, which means change is constant. To be sure you’re not wasting your carefully prepared pitch on a prospect whose needs have shifted, preface your agenda-setting with a simple question: “Has anything changed since the last time we talked?” This allows you to adjust your talking points to meet their needs in the moment or, if needed, reschedule the call so you have time to prepare a new pitch.
4. Set call agenda and expectations
After confirming that the prospect’s circumstances haven’t significantly changed, spell out the agenda for the call. This may change slightly as the call progresses, but it’s key that you set expectations so the prospect is not caught unaware. This agenda should align with expectations set at the end of the discovery call and be as straightforward as possible.
Below is what a typical sales call agenda might look like. Some of these items are for your eyes only. The items in bold should be discussed with the prospect.
- Welcome: Greet and review prospect’s situation
- Agenda: Outline the meeting
- Review prospect needs: Confirm pain points
- Product overview: Introduce product features and functions
- Product solutions: Explain how your product addresses pain points
- Demo: Showcase product and highlight problem-solving features
- Questions: Offer additional information (as needed) and address objections
- Next steps: Outline action items and a timeline for closing the deal
5. Reiterate pain points
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Reiterate your prospect’s pain points during the call. This accomplishes two key things. It shows that you listened and are putting their needs front and center, and it sets the stage for presenting your product solution.
6. Talk about product value, not features
As you work your way through your sales pitch, lean heavily on language that favors value and problem-solving. How are you attempting to make your prospect’s life easier or better? Be specific and, if possible, show measurable improvements.
As Chan frames it, there are two emotional levers you want to pull: pain and pleasure. Show the prospect how you can take away their pain while also adding pleasure. Always connect these solutions to your product.
Let’s say you sell travel insurance and are talking to a prospect about insuring an upcoming trip to Europe. You can reference the peace of mind your prospect would feel knowing their investment in plane tickets and hotel reservations is fully refundable if their destination city shuts down due to inclement weather. Even better, you can let them know about special discounts or gifts they would enjoy with the purchase of an insurance plan. Pain removed, pleasure gained.
7. Reference your unique differentiator
Most products have a healthy helping of competitors in the market. While you may make a compelling case for solving your prospect’s problems, competing products frequently offer similar solutions. To avoid being outshone by other companies, research your competitors in advance and articulate differentiators that clearly elevate your product above others.
If a prospect mentions a specific competitor, ask if that competitor can offer the full breadth of your product’s features. This nudges the prospect to articulate your product’s value for themselves.
8. Use positive language
What you say matters, but how you say it matters more. This is especially true in sales. In fact, leaning on empathetic, value-based, and positive language is critical to earning prospects’ trust and emotional buy-in. Once these are in place, closing a sale is relatively easy.
For example, instead of using terms like “payment,” which implies debt, use a word like “investment,” which implies ownership and opportunity. Other positive terms like “benefit,” “guarantee,” and “easy” are effective ways of securing buy-in during a sales call.
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9. Respond to objections with questions to fully understand each concern
New sales reps often react defensively when prospects object to a sale — even when the objection is valid. While it’s good to have some responses in the bag to underscore your product’s value, the goal in objection handling is not to fire back with counterpoints.
Chan advises listening more than talking in these situations. “Focus on understanding the objection,” he says. “Follow up with questions, ask them where their concerns are coming from. Often, these concerns are symptoms of a bigger problem. That’s what you need to understand before you can respond with anything of value.”
Here’s an example of how this might play out in a sales call:
I just don’t think I’m ready to buy yet. The contract period is pretty long.
I hear you, but can you help me understand why the length is a problem for you?
I just worry our needs will change in three months, four months — heck, even a few weeks in. Then we’re stuck with it.
So if I understand you right, you’re worried that if your needs change — whether it’s a few weeks in or a few months in — you’ll be stuck with what we’ve chosen today. Is that right?
So that aside, is there any other reason holding you back from working together?
Nope, that’s pretty much it.
And if that weren’t a concern, you’d feel comfortable moving forward?
Yeah, I think so.
I understand. I’ve heard similar concerns from others. But let me put your mind at ease. If you don’t see a use for our product after a few months, we can talk about early cancellation or switch you to a different product that would better suit your needs. Would that work for you?
Yeah, actually that would help a lot. So tell me about these other options …
10. Actively listen
Sales reps are often dinged for talking too much in sales calls. The goal during these calls is to provide value and solutions for the prospect while making them feel heard. This requires more listening than talking; a 60/40 listen-talk ratio is often favored by sales experts.
Focus on being genuinely interested. If you are going to talk, spend most of your time asking questions.
11. Balance statistics with stories
When prospects ask about the effectiveness of your product, it’s common for reps to respond with stats. These can be compelling, but they can also lead to glassy-eyed stares.
As an alternative, Stanford Marketing Professor Jennifer Aaker suggests using stories to grab attention and secure buy-in: “Research shows … our brains are wired to understand and retain stories. A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey, they feel different. The result is persuasion and, sometimes, action.”
Chan throws in one caveat, however. If you find that your decision maker is analytical in nature, they’re likely to value clear-cut statistics that validate your product as the best solution to their problem. Keep this in mind and use relevant metrics to support your compelling stories.
Harry Kurland, director of sales at Object First, ties this together neatly: “Ask [your prospect] to share specific examples as it pertains to challenges they are having. Do they tell a full story? How quantitative do they get in their reasoning? People tend to speak how they like being spoken to, so mirror your prospect.”
12. Don’t leave the call without a “yes”
One of the biggest mistakes new reps make is leaving sales calls open-ended. Prospects frequently respond to pitches with a casual, “I’ll think about it.” New reps, aiming to please, agree to give them space for deliberation. Inevitably, however, prospects are caught up in other responsibilities and forget about the sale.
To avoid this, close the call with a couple of direct questions/comments:
- “You’ve highlighted X and Y as problems for your business. We’ve just taken a look at the product and how it can solve those problems. Do you agree it’s a good solution for you?”
- “Great. It sounds like we’re on the same page. To take care of your problems ASAP with the solution we’ve discussed, all we need to do is take care of some easy paperwork and we’ll get you onboarded immediately. Sound good?”
If a prospect waffles, make use of what Chan calls the “cost of inaction.” Explain the cost in time, money, and labor if they wait to make a purchase decision. When they recognize the consequences of waiting, securing a “yes” to the sale becomes easier.
13. Close with next steps, including a timeline for follow-up
After you receive your “yes,” clearly outline what will happen after the call. This includes action items for you, the prospect, and any other decision makers or stakeholders, as well as clear deadlines for each action item. Ask for agreement to this schedule, and then follow up with an email summarizing your call. With a clearly outlined task list, closing a deal becomes simply a matter of keeping the prospect on schedule.
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