July 08, 2009

Tips on Using Conference Calls To Advance Leads and Prospects

It is early in what could be a promising sales cycle, but before the buyer commits to engage, a teleconference call is arranged so as to determine if the sellers proposition is worth exploring.

The Temptation is to Tell and Sell.

Now, you could consider this to be just like any other telephone call and because you know your product inside out you don't see the call as presenting an unique challenges.

However, conveying all the hope and promise of your solution in a 30-40 minute call, when you don't know the people on the other end, or their needs, does require considerable communication skills and prepration.

In many ways a teleconference can be more demanding than a face to face sales call – the level of interaction is limited, communication is more difficult and it’s not so easy to gauge reactions. The temptation is to do a tell and sell on your product, expounding its features and benefits. However, take care - is that really what will compel the prospect to the take the next step in engagement, or allow you to gauge their sales potential.

Some Tips To Guide You.

Here is a checklist to help you ensure the success of teleconferences with sales prospects. It includes items of preparation for; Before, During and After the call.

A. Before the call

  1. Confirm the meeting/teleconference/webinar and who is attending, if it has not been done already. It is useful to send reminders in advance of the session.
  1. Do your research in advance so that you can tailor your solution to the audience, or the company. In the case of the latter it makes sense to do some web research to avoid spending a lot of time asking basic questions about the company.
  1. Discuss the call with your technical, or pre-sales colleagues. If necessary, rehearse the call in advance and prior to its commencement envision a successful outcome. Allow sufficient time before the call to prepare.
  1. Decide what you want the participants to remember when the call is over. That is the key message(s) you want to communicate. Ensure it relates to the major benefits of your solution.
  1. Set an objective for the call – to get a clearer understanding of the potential need (and pre-qualify the opportunity), to secure an opportunity to explore the potential opportunity (in a subsequent call, or meeting)
  1. Prepare in advance for any objections, or barriers you may encounter. Also decide what, if anything, you plan to send to participants after the call.
  1. Have a clear next step in mind, should the opportunity prove worth advancing.
  1. Decide if you are going to incorporate a slide show, or online demo as part of the teleconference by using a tool, such as; Go To Meeting, or Bright Talk.

B. During the call

  1. Thank the participants for the teleconference. Agree in advance the objectives of the teleconference call.
  1. Do more listening than talking.Listen to find out if the customer has any needs/problems and how your solution can meet them.
  1. Make it clear that you are not selling, but rather inviting the prospect to explore if/how your product/solution can be of benefit to his/her company.

  1. Make sure you create the impression of a successful, professional, established, and confident company. You may need to overcompensate for issues, such as; size, track-record, etc.
  1. Don’t sell on the call, instead exchange information, explore the prospects need and how your solution might fit it. Don’t pressurise the prospect – give him/her space to think.
  1. Tell stories of how your other customers have benefited from your solutions. Demonstrate credibility by highlighting recent projects, client successes, etc. Tangibilise the benefits of your solution and offer examples, or proof.
  1. Demonstrate a genuine interest in the prospect's business by asking questions and showing that you have taken the time to gather some information on their company.
  1. Be polite, friendly and highly respectful. Establish a rapport. Be careful not to come across as a know it all. Inject some enthusiasm and personality into the call - most calls are dull.
  1. Speak slowly and in a pronounced fashion – this is important because we all have an accent even if we are not aware of it.
  1. Manage the level of detail you want to get into with the prospect, avoiding too much detail at the outset and taking care to save something for later. The objective is not to thoroughly educate the customer, rather it is to tease and tantalise.
  1. Agree a next step (send something, do something, etc.) and make the next step easy (without too much commitment on the part of the prospect).
  1. Use Go To Meeting, Bright Talk or another tool, so that the prospect can view information online, if needed. Remember a picture tells a thousand words.
  1. Have your list of questions to both engage and prequalify those participating.
  1. At the end of the call summarise/recap on the discussion so as to confirm your understanding and clarify the next steps.

C. After the call

  1. Record the essentials of the call in your prospect database.
  1. Create an opportunity (in the database), if relevant, detailing the potential value, level of potential, etc.
  1. Create a follow-up task (to send something, make a follow-up call, etc.) and set a date for its completion.
  1. Enthusiastically follow through on the next action (documentation, webinar, meeting, technical assessment, etc.).
  1. Keep in touch with the prospect regardless of the potential (things change within companies so even if there is no opportunity today, they maybe in the future).
  1. Pass it back to presales if the opportunity dwindles.

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