January 23, 2015

Telephone Prospecting Tip: Sell the Meeting Not Your Solution

It’s been encouraging to see the phone making a comeback as a new business development tool. More and more sellers are getting serious about generating their own leads as they’ve realized that, in spite of the social selling “experts” dangerous preaching that everything has changed, prospecting is not dead at all. In fact, it may be more necessary than ever now that salespeople have awaken to the fact that sitting on their butts waiting for their social media efforts to create a legitimate sales opportunity probably isn’t the best method to fill their pipeline or earn a living.

At the end of last year, the good folks at Open View Labs put together a great post asking Top B2B Sales Influencers to name their favorite sales tools for 2015. There were more than few chuckles when, without hesitation, I boldly declared The Telephone my favorite tool!

Just this week a salesperson wrote me asking to point him to some of my favorite articles about using the phone to prospect. His request caused me to realize how l’ve gotten away from writing about the phone. There’s this classic old post from my early blogging days, and the piece I wrote for Tibor Shanto’s great blog called Winning with Voicemail. When asked for a book recommendation I immediate point people to Art Sobczak’s Smart Calling. It’s a favorite of mine and I have purchased more copies than I can count for client sales teams (you are welcome, Art!). And, of course, Chapter 9 in New Sales. Simplified. has some of my very best tips for using the phone to score that meeting with a target prospect.

I commit to mixing in more posts with prospecting tips over the next few months, and will kick it off today with this very simple admonition: Sell the discovery meeting, not your solution.

My theory is that for almost every prospecting call, we should have a single primary objective. Sure there are some secondary objectives that we may have to settle for, but both my personal experience and that of my clients convinces me that when we pick up that phone, we are most effective when laser-focused on one goal: Getting the meeting!

I know that many will disagree and offer various perspectives. Some will tell us that we must qualify prospects before trying to secure the meeting. I’ll tackle that specific issue again in the future, but here’s a link to a few posts where I caution against over-qualifying too soon in the sales process. Others will make the case that we want to learn as much about the prospect as we can so the phone call should be more about discovery than trying to secure a future meeting. And finally, there are those who think the goal of the prospecting call is to begin selling their actual solution/service/product.

Sell the discovery meeting. Your one objective for the prospecting call is get the prospect to agree to the next step in your sales process – which for most of us is a scheduled discovery meeting. If you’re in Inside Sales, that discovery meeting will most likely happen via the phone, too. If you’re an outside salesperson that meeting typically takes place at the prospect’s place of business.

You will face obstacles trying to set this meeting. Your call is an unexpected interruption. Prospects hide behind voicemail. If you do get someone live, their auto-reflex response is to resist you because other idiot salespeople have poisoned the waters by wasting their time – among other sales sins. Be prepared to ask three different times for the meeting. And each time you ask, my coaching is to remember your goal: Sell the meeting. Don’t start selling your solution. Sell the value they’ll receive from spending just a little bit of time with you. Let the prospect know that along with learning more about their situation, you’ll share how you are helping other people like him or organizations like his. Make it abundantly clear to the prospect that whether or not there is a next step or a fit, he will leave that discovery meeting challenged by what you share and with fresh perspective and ideas. I coach salespeople to approach the call believing that the prospect would be a fool not to want to visit with them.

Are you making the kind of calls that would compel the prospect to spend more time with you and open a dialogue? That’s the type of prospecting call that earns you the discovery meeting.