First Sales Conversations, Discovery Calls, Demos and Meetings: Do You Qualify, Close or Runaway?

There is a first substantive interaction to every multi-step sales process. Whether you label it a first sales meeting, discovery call or demo, the first interaction may be the biggest influence on whether you close a deal or not. That’s right; it’s not the magic words you try to come up with when a deal is slipping from your grasp that matters most, it is how you laid the proper foundation for the close that matters most. Do the right things in the beginning and you don’t have to grasp at straws at the end.

The first interaction clarifies your strengths and creates a solid foundation and springboard toward a close. Or, can be a great opportunity lost because your prospect didn’t grasp your value and enough reason to move forward.

Conduct future sales calls with a plan that communicates your value, positions you favorably against competitors and gains commitment for the next step in the sales process.

Here are some key concepts.

Closes hinge on the 2% difference. Your first meetings and discovery calls extract that 2% difference.

You win or lose most accounts by a hair. You need to be just a bit better than others to win, a 2% difference. It is in the earliest stages of your interactions that you extract and clarify that 2% difference so that when push comes to shove at the very end, you have the substance and specifics to nose out the competition.

Proposals should be confirmations, not explorations.

Think very carefully about this. Are your proposals explorations or confirmations? Proposals that end up closing are much more confirmations of concerns & terms already discussed, than fishing expeditions hoping to land the big one.

If you think of proposals as confirmations, then you must discuss the core components of your proposal to resolve differences or concerns. If you are collecting just enough basic information to deliver a pretty much standard boilerplate proposal, thinking you will find out what they think and adjust from there, your closing percentage is nowhere near where it could be.

Top producers and closers prepare questions; the rest prepare presentations

If you believe, and I think you should, that closes hinge on the 2% difference. And, that proposals should be confirmations, not explorations, then you will have to decide how best to find out what the 2% difference is in the mind of your buyers and have an actual conversation to confirm the major points of your proposal. Prepared presentations do not lead to that.

There shall be no proposal before its time

Like a fine wine, there should be no proposals before their time. Too many companies and individuals seem to think that making proposals is a goal. It’s a numbers game the knucklehead’s shout. But if the proposal is built on sand because the proper work hasn’t been done to include the things or confirm the things that would make it acceptable, it’s not a proposal; it is a waste of time.

You sell by appealing to actual needs and wants. Not by discussing what you think they need, not by trying to convince them of anything, but by drawing out issues that make the eyes of your prospects light up. Good questions, preparation, and practice make that possible.

Will the juice be worth the squeeze. What would it take for your prospect to buy? To change vendors?

You might think having a better widget or providing superior service is enough. That, if the prospect concludes that you are “better,” that you will get the deal. Nope.

Your prospect may conclude that you are a superior vendor, that you are worth the time, but many times, that is not enough. Your decision-maker has many many demands on their time. You might be “better” and yet not be more important than the other 25 demands on their time.

You might win the battle of “being better” yet lose the war if that difference is not more important than all the other demands on time and resources.

If there is no 2nd meeting, there will be no check

Virtually all of my clients have a multi-step sales process. There are typically multiple meetings/interactions before a deal is finalized. If it typically takes 5 meetings/interactions to close a deal, and you don’t earn the 2nd meeting, there will be no check.

During the discovery call or first sales meeting, you are not trying to make a sale so much as you are trying to lay a foundation for a sale. That foundation includes additional interactions. You had to “sell” the first meeting, and you also have to sell the 2nd and 3rd to make sure it happens.

Break the discovery call into three parts: The commercial, the questions, confirming the next step.

The Commercial

After very brief pleasantries you need to start working on your meeting objectives. You want to frame the discussion, orient to your strengths, relate credibility and minimize your weaknesses.

You might get down to business by saying something like this. “Would it help if I took a minute to review my background and why people choose to work with me?” The answer is always “Yes.”

I might say something like this. “Almost all of my clients, start their sales process with a face to face meeting or discovery call. When they get in the door at the right level, they can close, but if they are not at the right door at the right time, their competitors get the account. I have done work for recognizable names such as Wells Fargo that sent me into every one of the sales territories years ago and Jan-Pro, which is the #1 franchisor in the country and venture-backed startups, but most of my work is mid-size or emerging companies that need a process that works to get in the door. Have written two books on the topic and my scripting book was on Amazon’s list of top sales and selling books for more than three years. Every project is a bit unique, but the common themes are getting to the right people, scripting, communicating value, objections and follow-up. The most common comment I get from clients is “wish we had done this earlier.” Most of the quantum leaps come from organization, focus and consistently implementing the basics well rather than the latest greatest strategy of the month. Many companies who use me to get meetings, ask me to help them to convert those initial meetings to solid 2nd and 3rd steps. People seem to like that I actually did this before teaching it, set more than 2,000 C-Level appointments and is based on real world experiences rather than a standardized course. So that is a little about me, tell me about your situation and what you are trying to achieve.”

Notice in that spiel that I was trying to set the agenda, relate credibility and expertise and highlight the issues that are typical client hot buttons or play to my strengths. You should be doing the same.

The middle, questioning stage of the first sales conversation

You will sell and close based upon what people tell you matters to them.

At this stage, big picture, you are trying to…

– earn a commitment for the best next step you can get

– uncover specifics that motivate the buyers

– crystallize the options and consequences

– rub salt in the wounds.

Remember, the clock is ticking

First sales conversations have a time limit. It might be 30-60 minutes, maybe more, maybe less. But the bottom line is that you must flush out things sufficiently so that you can close on a solid next step that could lead to a close. You must make sure there is enough time left at the end for you to secure the next step.

“Oops, times up, got to go.” “I’ll be in touch, send me something, or my people will be in touch with your people,” often leads to the prospect never talking to you again.

“Great meetings,” after which the prospect vaporizes, were not that great.

How often has it happened? You sweat and with tremendous effort gain a commitment for a discovery call or first sales meeting. The meeting goes great, you are superior to their current situation, the pricing is right, and then they vaporize. You call and call to touch base again and hear nothing but crickets. Happens all the time.

You must properly choreograph your discovery calls or those “great meetings” will vaporize

Remember, if you don’t secure the 2nd or 3rd interaction, there is usually no deal. Your early interactions, particularly the first interaction is where you lay the foundation for the next meeting on the way to the close.

If your first meetings or discovery calls need to convert at a higher level, contact us to discuss.