Which stage of the sales cycle matters most?
The close seems to get all the attention because that’s where all the action is, but think carefully about how you got there. Take a look at your last success and evaluate how crucial the discovery call and other early sales meetings were in setting expectations and proving your value to the prospect right out of the gate.
The discovery call sets the course for the entire adventure to come. The better your preparation here, the fewer surprises you and your prospect will encounter in future conversations along the customer journey.
To prepare for sales meetings that will help you engage your prospects, follow the four steps in the discovery call checklist below -- these strategies will help you gain a bird’s eye view of your prospect’s pain points and roadblocks. The information you collect at this stage lets you know where you’ll need to allocate resources on the way to the close. Best practices in the sales discovery call will keep your prospect on the right path to becoming the happy customer at the end of the rainbow.
Step 1: Stay Balanced
No matter how much you have to say during your first sales meeting with a prospect, strive to listen just a bit more than you talk. Data from Gong found that top-performing reps spoke 46 percent of the time and listened 54 percent of the time. Average reps had a talk-listen ratio of 68-32, and the lowest performers tended towards monologues with a 72-28 talk-listen ratio. You also don’t want to flip the tables too far in the other direction - if your prospect is the only one doing the talking, how will they learn about your company? Like any good conversation, balance is key here.
Another conversation metric to consider is the “speaker switch” rate, as you and customer take turns discussing issues. The more frequent speaker switches there are, the more likely it is that you have an engaging conversation and a good match with your prospect.
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Step 2. Nail Down Your Goals Prior to the Call
Research the account you’re targeting well enough to understand what the goals of this sales meeting should be. You want to understand the problems they’re looking to solve as much as possible before you speak, as well as understand the gaps in your knowledge about them so you know what questions to ask.
For example, if your prospect’s company just reduced headcount, will they have the budget for your tool? By knowing this news about their company you can show you’re serious about helping them, and be thoughtful about how to flip a negative into a positive. For instance, with lower headcount, now is the perfect time for your prospect to invest in tools that will increase productivity on their smaller team.
However, in addition to selling your prospect on your solution, you need to use this call to qualify them! Be sure to get the low-hanging qualifiers out of the way before either of you invests too much time in the conversation. In the tech industry, a top concern is is your solution will work with their existing or imminent tech stack. Get practical considerations out of the way early to avoid big problems later on.
Step 3. Practice Active Listening
While most people can listen to around 125-250 words per minute, we tend to think at around 1000-3000 words per minute. That’s a huge discrepancy between what the person on the other end of the line is saying and where your mind is wandering off to! On both sides of the conversation, people tend to fill up the extra microseconds by thinking about what they are going to say next. That’s why so much important information is lost or misunderstood on discovery calls.
Train yourself to quiet your thoughts and really listen to what the prospect is saying. Less than 2 percent of the population have had any formal training in listening, so this is one skill area where you can easily secure a competitive advantage over the other reps at competing companies.
Additionally, scripts are very helpful but don't just respond to questions or objections with your go to response - actually listen to what your prospect is saying! Understand their objections on a deeper level. Ask follow up questions. You'll learn more about your customer and be better prepared to help them.
Step 4. Agree on Your Next Steps
You just had a great call - now what? Save the last 5 minutes to summarize what you discussed, make sure your thoughts are in alignment, and agree on the next step. Refer back to the checklist of items or questions that you wanted to cover and ensure that everything was covered. Based on the outcome of your call, you’ll know whether your prospect is not qualified at the moment or whether you’re moving forward. Most importantly, use the right sales meeting follow up tactics to ensure your next steps actually happen.
The Age of Discovery
Every sales rep in the world has 24 hours in a day. Leading sales reps are simply investing these hours more wisely by qualifying their leads early on and spending more time with prospects that convert. The discovery call can serve as your staging area where you determine which prospects should be your priorities and what they are likely to need throughout each step in the pipeline. Use these four tactics to elevate your sales meetings and discover your best prospects for the road ahead.
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