There are all kinds of ideas about how you should open a sales call. Some people believe that you need to build rapport before you focus on the purpose of your call. Others believe that you should save the rapport building until the end of the sales call, after you have completed your business agenda (I have seen both methods produce great outcomes and I have seen both result in the sales call careening off the proverbial road into the proverbial telephone pole).
Here are the four items you need to put in your opening script (that’s right, you should script it) for every sales call.
You have asked for and have been given your dream client’s most precious commodity: their time. They have turned down countless salespeople in your industry before you, and you were good enough to differentiate yourself and gain their attention.
Thank them for their time. Do it sincerely. You show your respect for having been given their time by not wasting it.
Share Your Agenda
More than likely, you called your dream client to schedule this appointment. Surely you have thought about what you would want to accomplish were you to obtain the appointment. Your dream client is counting on you to have a well thought agenda.
Sharing your agenda is evidence that you are disciplined in your thoughts and your actions and that you are outcome oriented. It shows that you have experience and that you have a plan.
More than anything else, sharing your agenda sets the table for you to make your sales call and achieve its objectives, preventing you from wandering aimlessly and hoping to bump into something that your dream client might be interested in talking about.
When you share your agenda, you share with your dream client how accomplishing your agenda will create value for them. This improves their engagement, it gives them a vision of what can be created on the call, and it helps in obtaining future commitments by demonstrating that doing so will be a valuable experience for them.
Build in the Close or Advance
Too many salespeople make sales calls without a predefined outcome for the sales call. This is why, more often than not, their opportunities stall early in the sales process. You need a defined outcome for every sales call, and it need to include either a closing statement that asks for the business or a closing statement for a commitment that advances the sale.
Professional, successful salespeople build this future commitment into their opening statement. They share with their dream client what they hope to do next, should they succeed in achieving the objectives of this sales call.
This isn’t a close. It isn’t even a test close. It is a simple statement of how the process of working together might be accomplished. Making this statement demonstrates that you understand how to create value for your dream client, and it is evidence that you have a plan for doing so.
Invite Collaboration on the Agenda
After you have made the above three statements, you have to invite your dream client to collaborate on your agenda. This is a simple invitation to add their thoughts to what else they might like to talk about.
Much of the time, they will go with your agenda. Sometimes they will ask for the opportunity to ask you questions about something that is important to their business, and sometimes they will ask for a chance to better understand what you do (be careful, if it’s a needs analysis, you don’t want to turn the call into a presentation, do you?).
On one sales call I made, when asked for additional agenda items, my dream client said: “Yeah. I was hoping when we were done talking, I could give you these orders that I need help with.” Sometimes their additions to the agenda make things a whole lot more interesting.
You only have one chance to make a first impression. How you open your sales call is every bit as important as how you close it. Use these guidelines to write an opening script that defines you as a professional, outcome-achieving salesperson.
Do you search for ways to build rapport at the beginning of your sales calls because you don’t have a stronger, business-oriented opening?
How does your opening define you? What does it say about you as a salesperson and a business professional?
Does your opening guide your dream client through what you hope to accomplish and give them a vision of how they will benefit from spending their time with you?
Does your opening suggest how you and your client will proceed through your sales process together, as well as how value might be created at every step?
Does your opening invite your dream client’s participation in shaping your agenda? Is it collaborative, engaging them in the sales process with you?
Are you really just winging it?
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