How Throwing Out the Rulebook Can Lead to More Sales Call Success
Type "best ways to approach a sales call" into Google. You'll find hundreds of articles written by newbies and experts alike, each with strong ideas about the delicate science of selling on the phone.
As a sales manager, establishing a set of guidelines for sales calls should be a cornerstone of your sales process.
But, as with any other field or practice, sometimes you need to think outside the box to come out on top. Knowing the rules for a sales call is vital; so is knowing when to break those rules.
Our research has revealed that employing a number of unexpected, even counterintuitive, selling techniques can actually increase your chances of winding up with a closed-won deal.
Incorporating these proceeding breaks from tradition into your sales call strategy can help you to build up a priceless advantage over your competitors.
1. Mention Pricing on Cold Calls
We can already see your carefully honed management sensibilities bristling: Sales managers tend to train sales reps to avoid mentioning pricing on an initial approach call! And yet, our research has shown that pricing is mentioned one to two times on cold calls that lead to closed-won deals.
The reason this conventional sales wisdom doesn't apply as much to SaaS selling is due to the relative expertise of your customers. Because SaaS purchases represent significant investments, not just one-off purchases, diligent buyers have likely done their research.
In fact, a more purchase-ready prospect is likely to know more about the variety of products on the market. They may even ask about pricing themselves during the initial call. Differentiating your product early through your pricing points is, therefore, an approach with a high likelihood of payoff.
If you're cutting bigger deals, your prospects are even more likely to bring up pricing on a call.
The data shows that enterprise buyers with bigger budgets are also the most cost-sensitive.
They tend to bring up pricing two or three times in a cold call. Those enterprise buyers may not have heard of you or your product before, and pricing is top of mind, which is why they are likely to bring up pricing on a cold call.
Well-educated prospects are also more likely to mention pricing first. If they don't, and if your prospect has shown interest, you may want to gently broach pricing toward the end of your initial sales call by offering to go over some initial pricing options.
Mentioning pricing early in the sales process can make things go faster. Still, tread carefully — don't force the issue if your prospects are still assessing their options.
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2. Talk About the Competition
You know that your product is a cut above your competition, and yet traditional sales wisdom is that you should keep mentions of direct competitors to a minimum.
Talk about your competitors. We've found that providing and taking charge of your competitive story can lead to selling success.
In fact, the more that competitors are mentioned more in discovery meetings, the more often those meetings result in closed-won deals.
You read that right. Here are the numbers:
- In closed-won deals: competitors are mentioned five to six times in discovery meetings.
- In closed-lost deals: competitors are mentioned only three times in discovery meetings.
You can see how the data doesn't support the traditional assumption.
And it makes sense. Educated, purchase-ready prospects are more likely to bring up competitors, just as they're more likely to inquire about pricing.
Of course, talking about your competition is a delicate science. Your reps must be careful not to badmouth competitors while still making it clear that your product has the edge. Incorporate extensive study of competing products into your sales management strategy. Learn their price points and what they're bringing to the table.
If you have the bandwidth to do so, get your reps to use their product and familiarize themselves with the pros and cons. Your reps should be able to talk fluidly about the advantage your product has over theirs. Isolate the specific areas in which your product performs better.
Does your product have a better feature range? Better data return? Easier onboarding? Better value for money? Whatever your edge is, emphasize those points during the sales call.
3. Prepare for the “Discount Talk”
You might consider discounting as more of a late-stage concern, but it can often rear its head earlier in the sales process.
We've found that prospects mention discounts in 50% of discovery meetings.
Discounts can lead to a win but they can quickly become a crutch, leading to bad habits. A hurried reply from your rep can result in making promises that are hard to keep. A too-firm response can lead to a loss of momentum as you move toward a deal. Ideally, you will prepare your reps for the “discount talk” as part of your general sales call coaching.
The best way to prepare for this is to deal with it head-on. Coach how to speak to a prospect's discount question in a way that preserves both the profit of a deal and the likelihood of closed-won success. Partner with your finance department and C-suite to develop a discount range that your reps can quickly resort to, if need be.
To avoid undercutting your product, base these on the price points of your competitors (and, if available, their average discount). Sales management should be data-driven, and nowhere is that more important than with getting discounts right.
Train your reps to see discounts more as an opportunity for negotiation with a prospect. And because SaaS subscriptions are based on long-term relationships, you are within rights to request one or more of the following in return for a discount:
- A higher advance payment from your prospect
- A longer contract
- A publicity push from your client's website — a glowing content piece about your new partnership together, or a customer success story that you can add to your site
- A referral to other companies in your prospect's network
Being clear on the terms of your discount is critical. When handled well, your reps can turn it into a real relationship sweetener, and it’s an excellent way to get you and your new customer off on the right foot.
Remember, it’s better to negotiate than discount!
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4. Master the Sales Call Monologue
Sales calls are based on shared, engaging moments — especially during the discovery phase. But your sales management should encourage your reps to give as good as they get and not be afraid of sharing their enthusiasm.
The data shows that your reps should be able to deliver several monologues lasting one to two minutes during an hour-long sales call. We found that the average sales rep will monologue for an average of 1.5 minutes at a time. Even better, monologues lasting over two minutes are more common in closed-won deals.
Why is monologuing so important? Shouldn’t sales calls be an interactive experience?
It's all a question of engagement.
Engaging moments help your client understand how your product can improve their business. Closed-won deals have 50% more engaging moments in their discovery calls than those in closed-lost!
Well-delivered monologues, given at the right time, are an excellent way to ensure that you create these moments.
Of course, it's not just a case of droning on and listing every product feature. The most effective way to seamlessly incorporate high-value monologues into a call is to coach your reps to share relevant customer stories.
Your reps can base these on the following:
- Customer success stories with your product — especially useful if your prospect is familiar with one of the companies in question.
- Comparisons with competitors that leave a flattering impression of your product's performance and value.
- A vision of your prospect's company after your product has improved it: How much more engagement can they look forward to? How much red tape and how many useless admin tasks will they no longer have to worry about?
Your reps should base monologues on big, clear data points that give an objective view of why your product is worth the investment.
What not to do:
- Be careful about how much data you include. Unless you're giving a video presentation, your prospect will be able to keep track of only so many figures.
- Avoid monologues that are excessively technical. Unless you’re talking to a relevant specialist at your prospect company, and your product's main appeal is its technological pedigree, a broader approach is more effective.
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Respect the Unexpected on a Sales Call
It takes a sales manager with nerve, experience, and a lot of expertise to go up against best practices.
Sales as a field often becomes tied to what's traditional and scripted — the result being that all reps sound the same on the phone, the tactical repertoire becomes stale, and your closed-won prospects are reduced.
That's what makes the data so compelling. A few unexpected facts go a long way when you can use them to effectively influence (and improve) your sales strategy.
Pricing, competition, discounts — all of these things can complicate calls and potentially send deals off the rails if you don't approach them right. But if you're able to coach your reps to approach those things with confidence, you'll find the rest of the pack's disadvantages turned to your very real advantage.