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Your only vehicle for creating and winning deals is the sales conversation, which comprises several sales calls. The better you perform on a sales call, the better your results.

This guide on how to improve at sales calls will use a modern sales approach. There is no reason to follow practices that no longer work in B2B sales. The more outdated your approach, the more difficult it will be to win more deals.

The Starting Line

Before you start cold calling potential customers, you need to have something to offer them that will provide you an advantage in a discovery call. Effectiveness in B2B sales requires you already know why your prospect is experiencing poor results. Without a theory about the improvement your prospective client needs, you will start the conversation by talking about your company, your clients, and your products and services. Then, you will ask the prospect what their problem is, revealing that you don’t really understand their industry or business.

To have better sales calls, you need to deliver value in the first meeting. To do this, you need to help your client understand why their results aren't what they need, and explain the forces and factors that are the root cause of their results.

The best way to do this is to create an executive briefing that positions you as an authority and an expert. When your client is learning something that will help them improve the decision they are making, you are scoring points.

If you don't provide your client with something of value during the first meeting, you likely will not be able to secure a follow-up meeting. This can be accomplished by engaging in meaningful conversations, offering valuable insights, and providing clear next steps. If you can do this, then you improve your client's willingness to have a second meeting with you.

Research Your Contacts and Their Business

The amateur doesn't take the time to prepare. The sales professional researches their contacts and the companies where they work. Start by downloading your contacts’ LinkedIn profiles to get a sense of their background and what kind of work they've done, and look for clues about how the decision-maker thinks about their business.

Read as much as you can about the company. By doing your homework and reading the company's website and other articles about the company and its leaders, you can ask questions that other salespeople will never think to ask. You never want to ask questions you could have easily discovered with a search of the company's name. You will not have a successful sales conversation if you aren't prepared for the first meeting.


Prepare a Set of Discovery Questions

Most sales teams ask weak questions because they are stuck in a legacy mindset. In a modern sales approach, there are two types of questions to ask. The first are the open-ended questions that allow you to learn what you need to know to help your contacts. The second are questions that cause the client to learn something about themselves and their business.

Here is an example of the first type, the kind that allows you to learn something that will help you help your prospective client: "What have you tried in the past and what was the result?" By considering what they have tried, you can better understand what they will need to do to improve their results.

Here is an example of the second question in a discovery call, the kind that allows your client to learn from you: "What strategic changes have you made over the last six months?" This question helps the contact recognize they need to change. When they say they have done nothing, you can create value for them by telling them what other companies have done, what's working, and what isn't.

Executing the First Meeting

There are many things you don't want to do in a first meeting. It’s important to eliminate these behaviors before you work on adopting new ones to replace them. If you avoid these negative behaviors, you will automatically improve your sales call:

  1. Trying to build personal rapport instead of business rapport: Your contact will like you better if you create business rapport. They want a potential trusted advisor, not a new best friend.
  2. Talking about your company and its history or leadership: Your contacts are concerned about the success of their company. They didn't agree to a meeting so you could give them a history lesson on your company.
  3. Talking about your company's existing clients: Your contacts care about one logo, theirs. The slide with the logos is like going on a first date and sharing pictures of your past relationships.
  4. Talking about your products and services: Talking about your products and services early in the stages of sales feels like a sales pitch, one delivered way too soon.
  5. Asking questions about the client's pain points: It's not that you can't ask questions about the pain points, but you need to dig deeper than many salespeople. You asked them for a meeting, so you should know their big-picture problem before you get there.

Once those bad techniques are gone, you can add the behaviors and techniques that provide you with a better conversation. A better sales call process would include:

  1. An executive briefing: The briefing helps the client learn about the forces and factors that cause poor results and allows them to explore change. It's even better if your executive briefing compels change.
  2. Asking questions to learn: It's often best to ask questions so you have the context you need to help your contacts make a good decision, one that results in the better results they need by solving their problems.
  3. Asking questions to cause the client to discover: In the legacy approach, outdated discovery is designed for the salesperson to learn. In the modern approach, both the salesperson and their contacts are learning.
  4. Establishing next steps: If you will ever close a deal, you first need to link together a series of sales calls that move the conversation forward. You are leading the buyer's journey, including helping your contacts build consensus. This will improve your sales cycle.

B2B Sales Is Continually Evolving

B2B sales are continually evolving to meet the needs of customers, clients, and companies. The most important element of success in a sales call is the ability to use a set of value-creation strategies that clients find helpful. The more you approach the sales call as a consultation, the better your results. You need to provide counsel, advice, and recommendations.

As the legacy approach continues to cause sales reps to acquire a first meeting and fail to get a second meeting, the modern approach continues to provide a better sales experience. It also provides a sustainable competitive advantage. Use this guide to plan, execute, and win more deals.

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 14, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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