On the surface, the answer to our article title is an obvious one. Scripts are for actors, right? In other words, people talking at you use scripts. People talking with you use conversation.
In the B2B and Medtech sales world, conversation builds trust, rapport, reliability, education, and awareness about your product or service.
If you’re a business development professional, though, sometimes it’s intimidating to confront a sales prospect knowing that you’ll eventually ask them for a purchase. Below, we’ll share a few tips for building a conversation with your prospects that helps you close more sales.
Make sure to speak to the right person first
Before embarking on any sales or prospecting conversations, make sure you’re speaking to the person who can eventually give you a “yes.”
If you don’t know your target audience, you may as well be selling the newest cell phone to your neighbor’s dog. If that sounds absurd, you’re right.
However, trying to sell your service or product to the first person who picks up the phone on a cold call is just as misguided. It’s much easier to define the title or role of the person who can decide to purchase and then ask for that person from the first call.
For example, on your next call, you might begin with: “Hi there! I’m looking to connect with John Smith, the Operations Director for your Midwest Region.”
If you don’t know the name of the person holding your target title, simply ask, and then request to be directed to him or her.
Befriend the gatekeeper
If you don’t get a direct line to the decision-maker in your prospect company, you’ll need to use your conversation skills to grease the wheels with any gatekeepers between you and your potential customer.
You can begin doing this by using a rapport-building question and then asking for permission to connect with your target at a later time.
Try something like this:
“Hi, Matt. How’s your day going there in Maryland so far? (Pause, wait for a reply) I’m Susie with XYZ benefits…would you be willing to connect me with your HR director? I’ve been doing a little research online, and I notice that you currently use ABCD as your benefits provider. I have a few questions about your experience with them so far.” You want to value Matt’s time, but also gain access to the decision-maker.
Even better, if you do your research in advance, you may be able to discover who the decision-maker is and connect with them through social media or ask for a referral from a mutual connection.
Ask “pain-point” questions, and then listen closely
Once you gain access to a decision-maker, you’ll want to have a plan for how to stay engaged while not overstepping your welcome. Mining for pain-points in a conversational tone can help you qualify your prospect into a lead.
Begin by asking the client how they approach a problem that your product typically solves. Follow by asking what they want to improve or achieve in a defined timeframe, regarding that problem.
You want to find out about their current systems and practices, so later you can detail how your product might help them achieve an objective.
“So, John, how does your department market your medical devices to doctors and patients alike? Are you happy with your current results? What’s the biggest challenge you’re currently facing with your marketing effectiveness?”
You’ll pause between each question and allow space for John to think about and speak his answers. Likely, he’ll mention a nugget that will prompt you into a response.
As long as you’re still respecting John’s time limitations, another conversational skill to master is to ask your prospect to tell you more about their challenges.
The more you know about their problems and the consequences, the better you’re able to suggest how your service can make John’s life easier, his department more profitable, and his status in the company rises.
Wait your turn, and then offer only relevant responses with empathy
John has just shared some issues, which means he’s introduced some vulnerability into your conversation. It’s critical to empathize with his position before launching into a description of every product you have.
Instead, focus on one key area where what you offer could help John and his department this week, month, or quarter to tangibly improve his situation. Remember, you’re a collaborator in a discussion, not a salesperson trying to close at this moment.
Define next steps
Once you’ve suggested a few ways your company might partner with John to improve his systems, quality, output, or revenue, find out what the next step in the process is.
There may be other stakeholders who must buy into a purchase decision, or a contract process to define, etc. Define that next step, and then ask for it to happen within a reasonable timeframe. Sometimes, this is an immediate sales closure, and other times, you’ll need to follow up at several intervals to ensure the sale proceeds.
Conversational Guidelines vs. Scripts
When you’re working on new prospects, you may need to write down a few conversational prompts to help you remember your talking (and listening!) points during your sales call. That’s perfectly fine.
As you practice, you’ll be conversing and collaborating like the pro you are in no time. Your sales conversations will begin to unfold more readily as you trust your ability to engage with each prospect naturally.
Not every communication will result in a sale or even a qualified lead. But, all of them are effective at helping you master the art of conversation, so you’ll never need a script again.