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How To Conduct Your First Inbound Sales Call

Written by Fes Askari

Jun 8 2016

how to conduct your first inbound sales call

What topics should be explored on that first Inbound sales discovery call? We explore what buyers and sales staff want to discuss.

What Should You Discuss In Inbound Sales Calls?

Once sales reps have identified a good-fit MQL (marketing qualified lead), enriched the lead profile with as much data as possible, and have reached a stage in the lead relationship where a conversation would be appropriate and add value, it’s time to pick up the phone.

In your first Inbound sales call, the purpose is discovery. You want to add value, and explore deeper challenges to ensure a prospect is still a good-fit. So how should you structure that first sales call? What should you say (and avoid saying) to build trust, explore qualifying detail and add value for the prospect? We reviewed a Hubspot Sales Perception study (from Q1 2016) on this topic, which surveyed a total of 505 Global Consumers and 115 Global sales professionals to find out:

inbound sales call disconnect chart

9 Inbound Sales Call Considerations

Remember, your first sales conversation above all should be based around discovery; exploring the pain that the lead is experiencing (not hard selling!), and finding out more on their business and goals.

1. Explore the Reason the Buyer’s Company Needs to Make the Purchase

Only 37% of buyers wanted to discuss the reason their company needs to make the purchase in the first sales call, but 63% of salespeople planned to discuss it.

According to the stats, not all buyers will be prepared to divulge the reasons they are considering purchasing on the first call - but remember - your call is trying to further explore the buyer’s challenge. Providing value back to the buyer is important when raising this point; concentrate on fleshing out business pain in order to advance further conversations around solutions.

Good questions to ask:

  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Are you having problems in [area as relates to the product]?
  • What’s the source of that problem?
  • Why is it a priority today?

2. Discuss the Buyer’s Company’s Overall Goals

Only 32% of buyers wanted to discuss their organisation’s overall goals in the first sales call, but 61% of salespeople planned to discuss it.

If this lead converts, will they deliver long term customer value? Discussing overall business goals may not always be a priority for the buyer on the end of the phone, but for the sales person, it’s wise to establish how their services fit into the bigger business picture in order to add more detail to the lead profile and qualify further.

Good questions to ask:

  • Tell me about your goals (financial, customer-related, operational etc).
  • When do you need to achieve these goals by?

3. Cover What the Buyer’s Company Wants to Achieve

47% of buyers wanted to discuss what their company wanted to achieve with the purchase in the first sales call, and 65% of salespeople planned to discuss it.

You should always be looking to demonstrate your value in relation to the lead’s unique situation. By the time you make that first discovery call, you should have a basic idea of the pain your leads want to address. But it is still essential to explore further into what the lead wants to achieve, to ensure you can offer the right solution and to further qualify the lead as a good fit. According to this post, top, successful, salespeople are the ones who consistently ask more targeted, relevant questions. 

Good questions to ask:

  • What do you think could be a potential solution to your problem? Why?
  • What would a successful outcome look like long term?
  • If you didn’t choose a product, do you have a plan in place to address the problem?

4. Explore Budget, and Who Has Purchase Authority

Only 24% of buyers wanted to discuss budget authority in the first sales call, but 33% of salespeople planned to discuss it.

This is something that is very important and that sales teams need to know - in time. On your first call (unless the buyer specifically wants to discuss in-depth) it’s wise to keep budget discussions light. Before you explore the details of pricing (in later conversations) first explore who will have eventual purchase authority - and if they’re not yet involved in the conversation, find out how to include them.  

Good questions to ask:

  • Tell me about your role. What do you do day-to-day?
  • What metrics are you responsible for?
  • Whose budget does the funding come out of?
  • Is the budget owner an “executive sponsor”?
  • Have you purchased a similar product before?

5. Explore Purchase Timelines

Only 24% of buyers wanted to discuss their timeline for purchase in the first sales call, but 42% of salespeople planned to discuss it.

Establishing basing timelines is a wise qualifying move, even if only 24% of buyers are typically prepared to discuss it. Remember, unlike legacy sales, the Inbound Sales Methodology adapts to suit the buyer’s timescale; it doesn’t force buyers to rush into something they are not ready for. When exploring timeframes, aim to identify any possible roadblocks, and areas in the sales process that may need extra attention.

Good questions to ask:

  • What’s your timeline for implementation?
  • What are your primary roadblocks to implementing this plan?
  • What’s the process for actually purchasing the product once you decide on it? Are there legal or procurement reviews?
  • What are potential curve balls?

6. Discuss Who Is Responsible For Purchasing

Only 15% of buyers wanted to discuss who was responsible for purchase in the first sales call, but 42% of salespeople planned to discuss it.

Like point 4 above, you will of course need to know if your lead is the one with the final purchase authority, or if they are an influencer. As only 15% of buyers are prepared to discuss this however, tread carefully. If you can provide influencers with enough information about the value of your product in relation to solving business pain - decision makers are sure to appear.

Good questions to ask:

  • Who else will be involved in choosing a vendor?
  • Do you have written decision criteria for choosing a vendor? Who compiled these criteria?

7. Consider Offering Case Example Advice

44% of buyers wanted advice on how similar organisations have used the product successfully in the first sales call, but only 33% of salespeople planned to discuss it.

Case studies are a good consideration rather than discovery discussion, but can add value to initial conversations. According to HubSpot, 44% of buyers want to know how similar organisations have used a product on that first sales call. So while it’s not always relevant for that first call, make sure all sales reps have access to a good range of case study resources in order to demonstrate examples if needed.

8. Consider Discussing Pricing

58% of buyers wanted to discuss product pricing in the first sales call, but only 23% of salespeople planned to discuss it.  

According to the survey, it’s wise not to shy away from this question, and be prepared, though pricing is typically a later stage conversation. Different prospects will have differing requirements, so before mentioning it, always determine first whether or not a pricing conversation will be be appropriate.

9. Consider Detailing How the Product Works

54% of buyer’s wanted to discuss how the product works in the first sales call, but only 23% of salespeople planned to discuss it.  

Before setting that first discovery call you should have a general idea (based on your lead’s interaction history with your site, and marketing communications with you) of the basic challenges your prospect has.

Depending on how educated the prospect is around their challenge and potential solutions, they may want to explore in more detail how your product works. If so, be sure to keep this relevant to the lead’s particular challenges and purchasing stage - and be sure to set a next call to explore the product in more detail.

Making The Call

Considering the Inbound sales methodology, remember; in your first discovery conversation, the last thing you want to do (and the last thing your buyer wants) is to jump right in and hard sell. In any inbound marketing campaign your prospect needs to be nurtured through to sales ready qualification, and be educated on all the pros and cons of your solution before they know if it’s the product for them.

Every call, and every buyer you speak to will be unique. So be prepared to adapt your calls to suit; research the individual business pain of the person on the end of the phone, and consider the topics they’re likely to discuss in order to get that conversation right.

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