There’s no way around it: Sales calls can be uncomfortable. The prospect may be peripherally interested in your product, but they also may be dreading the call, thinking that it will go the same way all sales calls do. If they’ve had enough recently, they may even know the traditional process of the calls, down to the questions that you’ll ask. Sales consulting firm Brevet reports that only 13% of customers believe a salesperson understands their needs. Reasons for this differ, but it’s often due to the salesperson not effectively communicating their comprehension of a prospect’s pain points and how their product or service can solve it.
So, how does one pleasantly surprise a prospect on an initial sales call? Given that 60% of buyers want to discuss pricing on the first call and 50% of buyers want to see how a product works on the first call, transparency is key. But beyond sharing all information, there are a few extra lengths a salesperson can take to establish a connection with the prospect and leave them pleasantly surprised.
1. Do your research ahead of time
First, even if they are, prospects don’t want to feel like just another number on your call sheet. They may be your 17th call of the day, but they shouldn’t feel this way. To take a beat between calls and seek to establish a genuine connection with the prospect, research them or their company ahead of time. Maybe they recently got some press, so you can mention the article they were featured in. Or maybe their social media accounts shows they recently went on a cruise in Alaska (though best to stick to professional pages or accounts clearly intended for public consumption; mentioning someone’s personal social media can come across as creepy). However you can prove to them that you took the time to learn about them ahead of time, that will make them feel like they matter as a potential prospect to you.
There’s a balance to strike between being friendly and professional, but even though you’re on the phone, remember to follow proper business etiquette and put a smile on your face. Wearing a genuine smile affects your tone, making it sound more positive and chipper.
2. Show that you’re human
When a sales leader is training a sales team, they almost always use sales scripts. Then, after ample practice, that script feels like second nature. The problem with reciting the same scripts over and over again is that the words lose their meaning to the salesperson, so they’re just reciting the words instead of actively communicating. It makes matters worse when many prospects are used to getting on calls with sales people who have that perfectly rehearsed sales script. Avoid this at all costs. Behaviors you wouldn’t normally considered positives in public speaking — like saying, “um” or hesitating before you speak — can actually help the phone call feel more real, and like you haven’t said the exact sales script over one hundred times in the past few weeks.
One helpful tip here is to imagine that you’re talking to a friend. If a friend was interested in your product or service, you likely wouldn’t jump into your usual script. You’d talk with them more in a more casual, ‘human’ way. Talking this way to prospects helps them feel like you’re talking to them, rather than at them.
3. Share stories
One way to break from the routine of a script is to incorporate stories into the sales call. It may be a personal story, or the story of another client or customer who used your product or service. Stories are usually told a bit differently every time, so it will give you a chance to break out of the mundane rehearsal and make authentic human connections.
The cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner famously said that we are 22 times more likely to remember facts when presented in stories. So not only are prospects more likely to remember facts about your company when they’re presented in a narrative, but it also gives you an opportunity to colorfully illustrate your company’s purpose and ethos. A strong story walks the prospect through another customer’s journey: The problem they had initially, how the product or service solved that problem, and where they are now. It helps the prospect imagine themselves walking through the same journey. It’s also a good idea to have a few stories on hand, depending on the type of customer or client you were working with. Prospects want to hear about how you’ve helped people like them.
The goal is to pleasantly surprise the prospect by making it clear that you understand what they need, and that you have the right product or service to meet that need. Establishing a human connection and expressing genuine interest takes just a few tweaks to strategy and an extra few minutes to research the prospect, but can make all the difference. It’s the pleasantly surprised prospects that turn into leads, and then turn into customers or clients.