“I can get potential clients to have a conversation with me, but those conversations don’t lead to anything!” Sound familiar? Sometimes the problem isn’t with the client—it’s with us. We’re taking perfectly good opportunities and breaking them by having the wrong conversation. Instead of turning prospects into clients, we’re turning them away.
So what is the right conversation? How do you structure a sales call that actually results in sales?
In this video I’ll show you how to design conversations around the needs of your prospective clients to increase your chances of developing a long-term working relationship. First we’ll walk through an example of how not to structure a B2B sales call and talk about why it doesn’t work. Then we’ll look at a consulting meeting agenda template that benefits both you and your prospective clients, helping you move from conversation to conversion.
Today I'm reflecting on a story that I think will be beneficial to you. The moral of the story is that this is how we break everyday conversations. We screw it up as the experts. We make the mistakes as the experts. Here's an example.
This gentlemen and I were having a conversation. We're colleagues; we know each other because we're in the same professional circle, and we were just chit-chatting back and forth online. I brought up an issue I was having in my business, and he reflected that he may have a solution. He offered to help. And so I said, "Sure, let's have that conversation."
So it was two people on the phone having a conversation, but I was coming to him for help. I thought he could help me. And so here's how the conversation unfolded.
The B2B Sales Call Script You Do NOT Want to Follow
We began with everyday pleasantries: "How are you? How's the day? How are your kids? How was the weekend?" Everyday pleasantries, right? Totally, totally appropriate.
Then he asks a question. He says, "Alzay, what should we talk about today?"
Now, here's what's important before I go a little deeper here. Before we actually got on the call, we already had a short conversation via online methods, and before we actually had our live call, I sent him some information: "Hey, here's what I'm going through. Here's where I am. Here's what's happening with me." So he already had some context to this conversation that we're having now live.
So when he asks me this question, I'm initially irritated. Immediately. I'm thinking to myself, "Did you watch what I sent you? Did you read what I sent you? Did you process what I sent you? Because you already know what we're talking about today."
What this does is put the onus back on me to frame the conversation now. Remember, I'm coming to him for help. So now I’ve got to find the best way to articulate this problem that I'm having that I'm not quite sure how to express, because right now I'm the guy that's in trouble. But I do my best. And so I express, “Here's what I'm dealing with. One, two, three.” So I answered this.
Then he begins to go through a series of points. He begins to tell me about what he was going to tell me anyway, because he did look at the information before, but he'd already figured out what he was going to tell me. So he started to explain some things to me. He said, "Hey Alzay, you should do these things. You should do XY and Z because you have to understand A B and C."
Now while he's going through all of this, let me tell you what I'm thinking internally. I'm thinking, "I already did these things”--because I did. He thinks he's telling me, "Already you should know these things." I know them. I know these things already, so this was less helpful to me. So while he's going through XY and Z and AB and C, I have to hold on. "Okay, I hear you. But you know..." Right?
Then at some point, I have to redirect our conversation. So I say to him, "How do I apply what you're saying?" And at that point, our conversation shifted. At that point, our conversation improved, because now he was talking to me.
So what's the value to you here?
Who’s Directing Your B2B Sales Call Agenda?
I bet you've done this. You start the conversation when someone comes to you and you go, "Well, hey, how are you doing? Everybody's okay? So what are we going to talk about today? What should we discuss today?" And you leave that open-ended question to your prospective client, to your fellow colleague, to this person you're trying to help.
Now remember, they're coming to you with the stomach ache. They're coming to you with the pain, discomfort, and uncertainty. They don't know how to frame this. And even if they did know what to say, they wouldn't know how to say it the right way, because they're the ones going through the mental challenges, right? They're not clear enough.
So you've left it to them. You've left the conversation up to them to get confused. You've given control of the conversation back to the person who's not the expert. You've given it away. Bad deal.
But we get through that. Then we go here where you just talk about what you know. So now you're explaining to the other person why the problem exists, what it's all about, the background, the theory, the context. And yes, all of that has some value. But is that really about helping them or is that about you explaining what you want to explain?
Have you done this? I've done this. Have you done this?
So then what happens down here at the bottom [“How do I apply what you are saying?”] when it's time to do something? Do you ever make this transition?
As a fellow expert in this particular situation, I at least know what I'm trying to get done. I know to ask this question and I have the tact and the professionalism to ask this question appropriately without being rude. But does your client know, does your prospect know, does your colleague know that? The person who comes to you for help, are they aware enough of all of these issues to redirect the conversation appropriately?
Or does the conversation just fizzle out and die? And then you hang up the phone and you go, "Well I talked to a guy today." But did you ever get to a place of actual movement or momentum?
How to Structure a Sales Call: It’s All About the Client
Now let's compare. Let's use a different note. How could this conversation have flowed differently?
- Exchange pleasantries. These are exactly the same, clearly. I believe in being pleasant. Absolutely.
- Frame the problem. Here's what should have happened in the very beginning of the conversation: some version of, "Alzay, I understand your problem to be X. Is that right?"
- Ask for more details. "Alzay, tell me more about it. Tell me more about what you've been doing. Tell me more about what makes it uncomfortable. Tell me why you haven't done what you know you should do. Tell me more about this problem."
- Discuss the next step. Then when we get down here to the end of the conversation, now it's about the next step: "Okay, Alzay, so what next step should you take?"
Now, you can look at these conversations and compare them. Here's what I would say to you is the difference:
When you begin the conversation this way, there are two crucial things that have happened. One is obvious, one is less obvious.
- You’ve focused the conversation. The obvious thing you've done is you've given the conversation immediate agenda. You have as the expert. "Hey, I understand that we're here today to talk about blank. Is that true?" Your job is to focus the conversation. That is your job as the leader in the room.
That's the obvious part. Here's the un-obvious part:
- You’ve communicated that you’re paying attention. What you communicate to me when you say this to me is, "Alzay, I've reviewed what you've shown me. I have a sense of where you're coming from. And so I want to make sure that before we go too far, too fast, that we're going in the right direction. Alzay, I acknowledge your situation. I understand your situation. Alzay, I was listening, paying attention, watching, reading you."
Both of those things are mandatory because now that I know that you paid attention to me, I'm more likely to pay attention to you. You've leaned in, now I can lean in.
That's what happens here. Really silent. No one talks about it, but it's something we practice a lot. That simple statement does two things, and those two things combined greatly speed up the conversation.
Now I'm more forthcoming with what I have to say, what's going on, yada, yada, yada, yada; you get a whole lot more detail from me. So then when we power through this and get to the end, the next step, now we have a better sense of what to do.
Will the whole thing be solved in one conversation? Probably not, probably not. But the insight here is very different from the insight in the previous conversation, because this took a whole 15 minutes. It took 15 minutes before I was able to redirect the other conversation. With this conversation, in 15 minutes we're talking about next steps.
A Good Client Meeting Conversation Starts With the Design
Which consultant would you like to be? How would you like to be seen?
The point here, the bottom line, is that you have to design this conversation. That colleague of mine is a smart gentleman, but we're not talking about who's smarter than who. What happened is that he under-designed the conversation. He didn't design it well enough. And I'm arguing that you should be designing your conversations differently.
As consultants, we have all kinds of conversations, but it's your job to be the most prepared person in that room. Get the information you need and drive that conversation from the very beginning. That's where your premium is.