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Best Ways to Start Sales Conversations with Your Prospects and Build Relationships

Last updated: December 10th, 2019

You most probably agree that sales conversations can be rather tricky. The main reason why they are frowned upon by so many customers is that some salespeople simply lack the necessary skills or are ready to go too far to sell a product or service.

Here are some statistics that support this statement:

  • Buyers rate only 18% of B2B salespeople as trusted and respected advisors.
  • 66% of salespeople are regarded as being average or poor.
  • Only 31% of B2B salespeople have effective conversations with senior executives.

Apparently, this leaves a lot of room for improvement. Instead of blatantly pitching your offer and focusing on your company, you need to take a radical shift and show that you truly care about your prospects.

The tips below will help you master sales conversations and change the way your prospects see you, which will very likely improve your outbound sales process and increase your sales efficiency.

1. Prepare for Starting the Sales Conversation

You need to give before you get. In other words, before trying to sell, you need to start a conversation by creating value in your prospect’s eyes.

The best way to do this is to show them that you are familiar with their industry and their challenges. 

Know their market. Sharing the patterns you have observed in their industry is probably the best way to start a call or email. 

When they realize that you are knowledgeable about their marketplace and that you are willing to share some valuable insights with them, they will think “Hey, let’s hear what this person has to say”.

Know their pain points. Now that you have gained their attention, try to list a couple of challenges that similar companies are facing in their marketplace.

Make sure it’s something that is truly relevant to them and start using it as an ice-breaker in your sales conversations. This will turn you from a random person who just wants to pitch an offer to an expert who is willing to help them solve their problems.

2. Personalize by Using Notes from Past Interactions

preparing for sales conversations

As a salesperson, you probably don’t like taking notes. Still, you need to be aware of how powerful sales notes can be. They are a great resource that helps you, your entire team, and your whole company achieves better results. 

The first benefit of sales notes – and most relevant to this topic – is that they can be of great help when it comes to personalizing your emails and calls.

Below are a few tips that will make you a true master at taking notes.

  • Make sure that the prospect is comfortable with you taking notes.
  • Write down keywords, not everything they say. Focus on important, actionable, and insightful.
  • Polish your notes after the conversation.
  • During a face-to-face conversation, don’t spend too much time looking at the notes. Instead, maximize eye contact.
  • Know when to put the pen down.

Taking notes will prepare you for your future interactions by helping you in many ways:

  • Focusing your conversations when the prospect goes off-topic.
  • Asking meaningful questions when it’s appropriate.
  • Following up without constant reminders from clients or teammates.
  • Having an easier time doing your job thanks to the easy access to information.
  • Building stronger customer relationships by remembering details about your clients and thus creating more personalized interactions.

3. Don’t Sell Your Product, Sell Yourself

People buy from people they like, not from someone who is there just to push a product or service. With this in mind, it is crucial to know how to sell yourself before trying to sell what your company offers.

Here are a few ways to sell yourself:

Know your strengths. You need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses at any time. This will help you double down on your strengths and increase your confidence, which will result in better conversations and more conversions.

Tell a story. People love stories, they have been listening to them since the dawn of civilization. So, include a short story in your sales conversations, something that your prospects can relate to.

Ask questions. During the call, the person on the other end will sooner or later tell you something that you can use to ask them questions. By asking the right questions, you will not only find out more about them but also show that you care, which will make your conversation more personal.

By selling yourself first, that is, making the prospect like you, you add value for your customer and to the interaction.

4. Be Straightforward

Sure, you don’t want your first sentence to be a pitch, but you also don’t want to beat around the bush for too long. Most prospects want a salesperson to be a straight shooter, someone who will be clear about what they are selling.

But how exactly can you be straightforward while talking to prospects without being too pushy?

Stop trying to please everyone. Maybe your product doesn’t fit your prospect’s needs, they are not qualified as a true prospect, or perhaps they just don’t like you as a person.

Whatever the reason, don’t take it personally. Instead, have confidence in what you do and sell, as well as the value you bring. Build a strong relationship with your prospects by giving straightforward advice.

Tell them what you sell. If the prospect has to ask several questions to figure out what you’re trying to sell, this can be quite frustrating. Don’t avoid being direct just because you don’t want to be rejected. Instead, make your pitch easy to understand and right to the point.

Know when to walk away. Now, this is a real gem. Telling your prospect or customer that your product is not the best solution for them is something they will really appreciate. 

Instead of insisting on them buying from you, you can recommend a competitor’s product or another company that will solve their problem in a better way. This way, the customer will take your advice without hesitation and often refer you to some of their contacts, which is the best possible introduction.

Ask a provocative question. This kind of question pinpoints your customer’s problem. It is a question that addresses an issue that is important to the other person or is related to a core challenge that you help your clients with.

Examples of provocative questions: 

  • How do you feel about your business? 
  • Do you think you could improve something about it?

5. Be Human

To be human is to be personal. To be precise, you need to personalize every single thing when starting sales conversations. This includes both written conversations and cold calling.

It takes time, but it pays off. True, bots may be taking over some segments of the digital world; however, being a human is something that is always warmly welcomed.

So, forget your generic templates and try to approach each prospect in a personal way. This goes both for writing a cold email and starting a call.

Email/LinkedIn message

Subject line. Your subject line should be short and enticing, piquing the interest of your reader.

  • Example: Peter recommended I send you an email.

Opening line. Instead of introducing yourself, start with something that will have more impact.

  • Example: I couldn’t help but notice…

Copy. In the body copy, you need to convey value by connecting your company to your prospect. Ask questions that are relevant to your prospect’s goals.

  • Example: How would you like to improve your strategy?

Closing. Without a strong close, your recipient will be left in the dark regarding what to do. Always include a clear path to action in the close.

  • Example: Do you have five minutes to catch up tomorrow?

SIgnature. Keep the signature, short, simple, professional, and on-brand. Always include information like your phone number and a link to one of your online profiles (e.g. LinkedIn).

Cold calling

What is the primary goal of your opening? To get the prospect into a receptive frame of mind and make it easy for them to make a positive decision.

Here are some great openers that can make your prospects never want to hang up on you:

  • From my research, I have noticed that your company…

This opener clearly shows that you have done your homework and found a good reason for calling them.

  • One of my clients [Name] at [Company X] told me that you may be a good fit for …

Mutual connections will give you credibility and gauge the prospect’s interest.

  • We have experience working with similar companies in your industry who are experiencing these major problems: [Problem 1] and [Problem 2]. Is this the case with your company too?

This will leave them wondering if they are facing these challenges too, and how you could help solve them.

  • Having read your annual report on your website, it looks like you’re about to…

This reveals your genuine interest in their company, also implying that your recommendations may be of help.

Try posing your introduction as a question, with your tone of voice implying that you are already more than familiar with their company. The listed openings will highlight the prospect’s business before you actually make a pitch.

By including these in your cold calls, you will demonstrate professionalism, expertise, and credibility.

Conclusion

In the age when everyone is trying to sell something, people are simply fed up with all kinds of sales pitches. The oversaturation in all industries has become a major obstacle to selling a product or service, especially in the B2B sector.

If you follow the tips listed above, your emails and calls will become different and make your sales conversations stand out from the rest. So, do your research, personalize, be human, and never fear to be straightforward with your prospects. This will prove that you want to connect with them on a deeper level before trying to make a pitch.

Marketing Manager @ TaskDrive Actively participating in the digital marketing world more than 5 years. Currently making sure that our website content is up-to-date and our blog is filled with easy and useful sales and marketing guides. Very passionate about dogs, topics on spirituality and Unicorns.

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