It was very poor experience and they had absolutely no control on those calls. They’d get immediately put on the ropes during those calls and I’d hear them trying to diagnose issues and give specific recommendations two minutes in on the relationship, or they’d try to either answer or dodge questions by saying something like:
- “Oh, your account executive will be the best to answer that.”
- “Well, who’s the account executive? Can I speak with him? Or her?”
- “I don’t know who that is yet,” they’d say, while looking at maps and rosters while trying to figure it out.
When I heard the potential clients on the recordings, I could almost always sense the frustration in their tonality, and for good reason.
I have this theory that when people need help, they actually like being told what to do – but only if they feel like they’re dealing with an expert. And those calls were not handled by experts. They were chaotic and this was the experience provided at the very top of the sales funnel. This poor experience was literally sabotaging the organization’s efforts to sell.
So anyways, 8 to 10 minutes, tops, for an initial interaction. That’s your sweet spot.
Gathering and sharing high-level qualification information is surface level, too. What’s going on under the surface is you’re psychologically driving the potential client’s decision-making process by getting them to chill out, relax, and open up, which they’ll do if they feel like they’re dealing with experts.
By following the P.L.A.T.E. Framework and all the communicative methods laid out throughout all of this, you’re strategically NOT giving them a reason to not want to go for a second date.
Towards the end of the call, if everything is a good fit, end it by clearly articulating what they can expect next. Strategically use this initial interaction to set up the next step in the process (the second date), and then make it happen.
For the second date, the discovery / needs analysis call, reserve 30 minutes for this (and of course schedule it), but have a plan to be finished in closer to 20 minutes. There’s nothing worse than expecting something to take 30 minutes and it winds up being 47. It’s unprofessional and it makes it seem like they’re dealing with novices.
Casually mention the reservation of 30 minutes, but get done in 22, and what happens is, is you’ll under-promise and over-deliver, and it will make the potential client feel good because it will reinforce the perception set on the initial call that they’re working with pros.
While on the call, if everything is a good fit so far, use this touchpoint to schedule the demo or proposal presentation. Whether it’s an on-site visit next or a webinar, clearly articulate what the potential client can expect next and make it happen!
Something I think that is very important to mention, too, is that if you really want the communicative methods of the First :28 Seconds to take root in your organization, you must have alignment from rep to rep and team to team.
Think about it: the “subconscious threat alarm buttons” in your potential clients’ minds get reset every time they speak with someone new because it’s the way that we’re wired.
So if you have a two-stage sales operation where rep 1 handles the initial interaction, follows the P.L.A.T.E Framework, sets amazing first impressions and then sets up the next step in the process and then rep 2 gets on the phone and just wings it, then you will have opportunities that get blown on a regular basis.
Same thing if you have rep 2 using these methods but rep 1 isn’t; but when there is alignment with how your reps communicate with your potential clients from team to team, you will maximize opportunities and close more deals with shorter, more streamlined sales cycles.
And of course, this also applies to dealing with clients in the post-sale relationship. Think of the handoff from sales to account management; it makes no sense to do all the work it takes to get married and then just stop caring once you’ve exchanged vows, right? That’s a recipe for failure that I know all too well, ha ha!
Anyway, when scheduling anything (even initial calls), I recommend using calendar invites.
Make sure they’re typo-free and clearly state what is coming up next, even if it’s just a few bullet points. Accepted meeting invites are a conversion metric – I have a folder in my inbox set up specifically for accepted calendar invites. When you get an accepted meeting invite, you can almost always count on the potential client being available for the next step with the appropriate amount of time set aside. This is very professional and it makes them take you seriously.
This contact and engagement strategy eliminates a lot of the runaround associated with sales as far as all the phone tag and email tag goes. It’s very professional and potential clients love this type of experience because it makes them feel like they’re being taken seriously and that they’re being looked out for (because they are).
This strategy makes it where you can go from first contact to second contact to demo presentation to closed deal in a very streamlined and cohesive manner with no pressure, no games, no gimmicks (like the case study with the potential client and account executive in New England).
When each touchpoint strategically sets up the next step in the process, it creates the ideal, optimal orchestrated experience for your potential clients because, get this: it’s impressive – especially when they’re dealing with more than one person (like the two-stage sales operations).
By the time your potential clients reach the end of this strategy, they will have interacted with your organization at least three separate times. This gives them plenty of time and space so they’re not feeling rushed or pressured, and by this point, they should have all the information they need to be able to make a very well-informed and comfortable YES or NO decision.
If it’s a YES, then awesome! If it’s a NO? Then so be it – but don’t lose deals over something that you can, in fact, directly control: the experience you provide!