The next time you are preparing to make a sales call, take some time to think about the interaction from the customer’s perspective. For an average B2B buyer, you might just be one of dozens of sales professionals that will contact them during the purchasing process. Now, consider how many of those conversations are going to take a remarkably similar path, leaving the customer with a series of monotonous sales presentations that they endure only out of obligation. Imagine how refreshing it would be for them to have an interesting conversation with a sales representative that actually addresses the needs of their company and satisfies their human need for social connection.
Even the most charismatic and knowledgeable salesperson can fall prey to boring sales calls if they are approaching them in the wrong fashion. Every form of interpersonal communication has some sort of objective, even if it is just to find out how your friend’s day was. A sales call is similar to any interpersonal communication, and your objective is to arrive at a mutual understanding of why your product is the best choice for their needs. By following the same guidelines that lead to any fruitful human interaction, such as understanding your audience, listening intently and avoiding monopolizing the conversation, you can have your clients feeling hopeful rather than dreadful when they see your name on their caller ID.
Get to know a little bit about them beforehand
Just as if you were preparing for a job interview, you will certainly want to thoroughly research your client’s company so that you have baseline understanding of their business that can be further built upon during the sales call. But if you want to add an extra layer of preparedness, look for creative ways to learn some things about the client’s professional and personal life as well. It should go without saying that this does not mean being sneaky or unethical. However, there is nothing wrong with perusing their LinkedIn page to see if you have any mutual connections, or if they have previous experience at an organization you are familiar with. Small details tend to steer conversations in unexpected directions, so it is great to have some on hand in case the call veers towards the rote.
Listen carefully to enhance the flow of conversation
If there is a single thing that most people could do to improve their conversation skills, it is to be a better listener. Of course, everyone hears this advice, yet far too few people know how to put it into practice. Active listening does not mean giving your conversational partner chances to speak and then continuing with your predetermined agenda. The best practitioners of active listening use the information they learn throughout the dialogue to steer the conversation in new directions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for a successful sales call, and your customer may introduce a new element that you had not planned for. Without active listening you will have no choice but to fall back on a pre-planned script and grind the conversation to a halt.
Focus on how to help them with their problems
Anyone who has tried to resolve a billing problem with their mobile carrier will probably tell you that plenty of consumer-facing companies manage to survive these days without putting the customer first. As B2B salespeople, you must understand that you do not have that same luxury; it is always about your customer and not your product. They are granting you their time because they have a specific pain point they need resolved, and sales calls will reach much deeper levels of engagement if you spend some time digging down to the root of their problem in search of a solution.
Talk to them about their industry
So many companies still insist on employing a product-driven sales strategy, where the conversation is typically dominated by the salesperson rattling off an impressive list of features in hopes of generating excitement. In most cases, the client probably does not know that much about your business, so it is not going to be that exciting for them to listen to. People like to talk about things they know, so spend some time asking them questions about their industry. This is another area where advanced research can make a big impact, since you can bring up various points about the state of their industry and allow them to expound on these topics with their expertise.
Follow up after the call to build additional rapport
Almost every sales representative is trained to send a communication following a sales call, but unless further action is warranted this is often where the dialogue ends. Instead of a boilerplate email, you can use the principles of social selling to remain engaged with your client, even if you are unlikely to close a deal with them at this time. One method of this is to connect with them on social media and share stories with them that are relevant to their industry. You can also coordinate with them to attend a virtual conference together. These efforts demonstrate that you are dedicated to nurturing a substantive relationship rather than a transactional one.