The Secret to a Successful Initial Call
The initial call is one of the most exciting and challenging experiences that salespeople encounter. For many, it can also be very intimidating. You never know what might happen when you meet a prospective client for the first time, and that uncertainty can lead to anxiety. We can make initial calls more comfortable by adding some clarity to the process as a whole:
Before the Initial Call
Do your research– Few things can derail a promising meeting faster than an unprepared salesperson. Do some digging on the client well before the call and decide on everything you want to cover with them. What questions do you want to ask? What objections, if any, do you anticipate? This is the time to set yourself up for success.
Confirm the details…twice– It’s important to send the client a short confirmation letter or email at least a week before the call. In it, you should review the logistics (time, place, etc.), encourage the client to invite anyone else who might benefit from the meeting, let them know who’s joining you (if that’s the case), and review the agenda. And be appreciative and gracious.
Some salespeople send the client a brief email the day before the meeting, just to confirm everything one more time. There are a couple ways this practice could go, as it does make it easier for the client to cancel the meeting last-minute. Nevertheless, we believe it is absolutely necessary, particularly since so many people seem to forget about appointments these days.
During the Initial Call
Position the meeting– The initial call is all about making a great first impression, starting the process of building a relationship, and learning as much as you can about the client. That’s why the first thing you should do on the day of the call is position the meeting. Let the client know what you want to accomplish and then conduct a round of introductions, asking each person to express what they would like to get out of the meeting. And, of course, confirm the time contract.
Ask questions with care– Let the client know why you are asking each question, preferably with a benefit (“Since this is our first meeting, I would like to ask some questions to clearly understand what you would like to accomplish…”). Use pre-question or pre-cluster statements as necessary to keep the meeting from feeling like a Q&A session or interrogation.
Know when to stop questioning– After your first few questions, ask the client if it is okay to continue asking. Too many questions can easily make an initial call become uncomfortable, and you just need enough information to keep the process moving forward.
Don’t worry about presenting– In general, you should not expect to have to give a presentation or elevator pitch. The time to sell will come later – initial calls are just for needs determination. If the client insists on your presenting, go for it – sometimes clients need an overview of who you are and what you do. But this has to be generic in nature.
Conclude with tact– Once you feel you have all the information you need, begin to wind down the call by reviewing your understanding of the client’s needs and seeking commitment. Before leaving, get the client to agree to at least three specific next steps with deliverables – these will make a world of difference in improving the outcome of the call.
After the Initial Call
Send a thank-you note– This is one of the most important post-meeting practices. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – just thank the client for the meeting, review the next steps, let them know how much you would enjoy working together, and assure them you will follow through. If possible, include an article or white paper that may be of interest to them.
An initial call can be intimidating, but the beauty of it is that in most cases, you are starting with a clean slate. You’re at the beginning of a timeline, and it’s all ahead of you. You just need to make sure your calls are conducted distinctly and professionally. That will lead to positive beginnings to new relationships and eventually, more closed deals.