Every sales conversation starts with an initial connection. More often than not it takes the form of a Connect Call: a short conversation where both parties consider if they should work together in the near future. The goal is to book a follow-up conversation if the answer to that question is ‘maybe’.

While the glory of sales comes in the close, the power lies in the Connect Call. First impressions really do matter, so you’ll want this experience to paint you and your business in the best possible light. As with everything inbound, the key lies in being helpful.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the four elements of the perfect Connect Call and how you can book more Explore Calls, leading to more new business.

1: do your research

'Connect’ is not the first stage of the inbound sales methodology. That honour goes to 'Identify’. In other words, don't waste your time and squander your company's reputation with cold calls.

When identifying your prospects, you should be looking for people who match your customer persona and companies that form your ideal buyer profile. In our social media-driven culture, there's no excuse for calling a company that's a bad fit for your business.

Before you even think about picking up the phone, you should review the company’s website, find a named individual who matches your persona and look at both the company and individual on LinkedIn. What have they published that shows they're a great fit for your product or service? How could you help them out? What challenges are they talking about that you're experienced at solving?

Vitally, ensure you understand what the company does and what their outlook is. Make sure you're prepared if the prospect asks what you know about their company.

Sure, this preparation takes longer than just dialling the first number in the phonebook. It's harder than letting an auto-dialer queue up your calls. But it's a lot more effective and makes sure that you're wasting neither your time not your prospect’s.

2: be helpful in the first 60 seconds

This is one that I learnt during Dan Tyre's Pipeline Generation Bootcamp. People will make a decision about the value of your call very, very quickly. Be on the right side of that by being helpful in 60 seconds or less.

It sounds like a tall order but this is an opportunity to make use of the knowledge you uncovered in your research. What did you notice that could be a quick, self-service win?

If you offer legal services, could something change in their privacy policy? If you're a telecoms provider, was the menu of options easy to navigate to find the right contact? If you offer HR services, did you see a way to improve job adverts?

You don't have to provide the ultimate solution to every problem they'll ever have. Just offer one simple tip that they can implement on their own.

If you make their job easier in the first 60 seconds, then why wouldn't they want to talk to you some more?

3: Continue to be helpful throughout the call

When you decide to make a Connect Call, what’s your goal? You’re looking to build a rapport with a potential customer but you’re also looking to establish if you’re a good fit for working together. To achieve this goal, you need to ask plenty of questions. To get honest answers, you’ll need to build trust.

Your first act of being helpful with that initial free tip was a good start; you showed them you’re different to other sales people. You haven’t cold called, you’ve warm called. You’ve shown that you’ve taken the time to learn about their business and have a genuine interest in building a partnership. But you’ve already been rewarded for that help – they agreed to continue the call.

It’s time to establish BANT – budget, authority, need and time. This involves asking a series of questions:

  • Ask about their challenges
  • Find out who would be involved in making a decision
  • Ask how much they’re willing to invest in meeting their goals
  • Discover when they’re looking to get started.

However, it’s a lot to ask from someone who you’re speaking to for the first time.

Look at this as a series of transactions: give before you ask to get anything. For every bit of information you want, you pay for it by offering useful tips and advice that will be useful, whether or not you work together in future. You’re swapping your consulting time for insights into their business and how you can help.

This is where your listening skills need to be exceptional. You don’t want to churn out the same set of tips for every prospect. Whenever they tell you something, listen to what they’re telling you and put yourself in their shoes. How would you overcome that challenge? What would you do? What experience do you have to fall back on that would help them make meaningful progress?

Wherever possible, you should look to segue that advice into a question that benefits your reason for being on the call.

“You know what, Mr Prospect, if I were you, I’d solve that problem by giving free Mars Bars to your team. What is it about this issue that makes finding a solution so important?” In one simple question, you’ve given your potential customer an opportunity to explain ‘N’ - need. (Hopefully, however, your advice will be more constructive than distributing free chocolate.)

Take notes during the call and use your CRM to record any points that are particularly relevant. Be sure to have custom properties created for key facts, like the timeline, or categories of challenge that fit with your service/product offerings.

4: Set a date for your Explore Call

You’ve identified a person and company you can help. You dialled their number, offered help and got permission to ask a few more questions. You’ve established BANT and you know that you can help this person to achieve their goals. Now’s the time to book the Explore Call.

Don’t settle for a vague timeframe. Establish the specific date and time for looking at the prospect’s GCP – goals, challenges and plans. If you’ve been helpful enough on the Connect Call, then it should be easy to fix a date for another call. Make sure to build on the authority you established in BANT – is there anyone else who should be invited to that call?

Once the date is confirmed, it’s time to ask your prospect to demonstrate their commitment; they need to do some homework. I spent 10 years as a secondary school teacher, so I’ve set a lot of homework over the years. Good homework is specific, builds on what was covered previously, identifies areas for further exploration, and is valuable to the learner themselves. It’s the same when setting homework for your prospects.

What activity would help to sift out the ‘tyre kickers’ from people genuinely interested in overcoming their challenges? It could be a simple survey using Typeform, providing you with some key data, or a simple Word document to fill in. Just make sure that it’s specific, related to what you discussed during the Connect Call, leaves questions for the Explore Call and provides some sort of value to the prospect.

How effective are your Connect Calls?

If you’re looking to improve your sales process, then identifying how many Connect Calls turn into Explore Calls is a great way to start. The tips in this article will help you improve that conversion rate but are you tracking it? We recommend using HubSpot’s free CRM to track the efficacy of your sales calls.

Already using HubSpot? Then why not have a free consultation call with a member of our team who will help you find ways to improve your sales and marketing efforts using the tools already at your disposal?