In the first part of my series, “Believing in the Sales Lifecycle,” I discussed the Pre-Work and Pre-Discovery stages, including understanding your product/service and pinpointing and building your client potential. If you missed these crucial steps, take time to review them first, here.
Once you have completed the pre-work and identified and researched your potential client list, it’s time to move on to the most important stage: The Connection.
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear from the start: at no point during the Connection Phase are you focused on solutioning to the client. This is the #1 mistake that sales professionals make.
After you have built out your potential client list, you will need to move on to initial client connections. Many people dread this “cold calling” stage as it can be awkward, feel unnatural, and be filled with rejection. Most of the time, these feelings stem from approaching the Connection Phase incorrectly and with the wrong mindset. So, let’s talk through the best approach.
1. Your First-Connect Pitch
Whether you are cold calling a prospect on the phone or sending a connection email or request in LinkedIn, you should have a quick and simple first-connect “pitch.” Your pitch should:
- Focus message on your prospect
- Mention some commonality or knowledge of their organization
- Leverage a mutual connection as a referral
- Gain commitment for first-meet
The goal is to catch the attention of your prospect so that they are willing to engage in conversation. You are not trying to engage in discovery or solution at this time.
First-Pitch Example: “Mr. Smith, I recently read that Widgetgram is launching a new product line focused on emerging alternate fuel technology. I would love to connect and better understand Widgetgram and how I can support your success. Do you have time in the next couple of weeks when we can speak?”
In this example, you can see that the entire request to connect is focused on the prospect and how I could support them, and showed knowledge of what is going on in their organization. I urge you to practice creating first-pitch examples and role play with others so this feels natural.
2. Your First-Meet
It is imperative that in this phase you continue to focus exclusively on the client. We are in the primary discovery phase and everything we learn here can be applied in future parts of the lifecycle. Key points to keep in mind:
- Keep the focus on them: if they ask about your product/solution, redirect them back to focusing on themselves and their business.
- What problems (if any) are they facing?
- What internal challenges may be holding them back?
- What are the consequences to not fixing their problems and challenges?
- What solutions have they tried in the past?
Most of the questions you ask should be open-ended. You want the client to share as much as possible with you. Starting with words like “How…” “Describe…” “Tell me…” “Elaborate…” will give the client space to share the answers you are seeking. Refrain from trying to fill the silence or adding leading answers to your questions. The goal is to let the client speak freely while you take copious notes!
Ideally, the Connection Phase is the longest part of the Sales Lifecycle. The first thing you are attempting to understand is if you can possibly help them. Think of this as the dating phase! You are trying to discover if you are compatible and can fill in the gaps. Further, you are also looking to discover all the pain points, possible obstacles to purchase, and any supporting information. This will be invaluable as you build and present your solutions to the client.
Spend quality time in this phase and remember…you are not solutioning!
In the final article of this series, we will talk about building and presenting your solutions, overcoming buying reticence, and gaining the buy. This part of the Sales Lifecycle is the most exciting and if you have done all the prior steps properly, the easiest!