Published on May 22nd, 2018
Have you ever felt uncomfortable getting on the phone and talking with someone?
How about setting the tone as the first point of contact for the sales process, and running connect calls with potential leads?
When first joining the IMPACT Sales team, the connect call was always a huge hurdle I felt I would never be able to get over. I was comfortable speaking with people in person, but it did not resonate over the telephone.
I stumbled through conversations, had noisy backgrounds, started calls completely unprepared and, needless to say, the calls were ineffective and my confidence level just kept plummeting.
I needed to find a repeatable call structure that I could use to truly qualify prospects and set our team up for good conversations.
Hi! My name is Shandia and I am the Sales Operation Specialist here at IMPACT. My role consists of being the main point of contact for the sales team.
A lot of this involves proactively identifying bottlenecks in the sales process and finding ways to reduce them to make the sales machine go faster.
Prior to that, my role was the Business Development Representative (BDR for short).
I was the first point of contact for new leads that came in and my job was to connect with them through a brief connect call, about 10-15 minutes long.
In that time frame, my goal was to get questions answered that would help qualify or disqualify them for the next stage, which is an Exploratory call with a Client Success Manager.
What is a Connect Call?
The purpose of the connect call is to find out key pieces of information about a prospect in order to move them on to the next steps in your sales process.
For IMPACT, the connect call aims to capture 5 high-level items that help us understand if a prospect is sales qualified:
- Gathering information about the company, the industry, and who their target audience is
- Marketing and sales needs
- Budget, and most importantly
- Good fit.
In my role as the BDR, I ran more than 100 connect calls, and of course, made a few mistakes along the way.
In the end, however, those mistakes turned into lessons for the next call, and the next, and the next thereafter.
As I took the time to listen to the recordings, I noticed the conversations started to change.
The confidence I once lacked was starting to show and I became more and more effective each time I picked up the phone.
While the connect call is relatively short, don’t be deceived. It may seem like it’s too quick to learn everything you need to know to qualify someone, but it’s not.
You need to be strategic with your time and questions in order to get all this information, and in the past few months, I’ve gotten this down to a science, with the help of Hubspot’s Pipeline Generation Bootcamp facilitated by Dan Tyre.
So, without further delay, here are my top 10 tips for running an effective connect call.
1. Do Research Before You Get on the Call
Before getting on a call, it is always a good idea to do a little background research on the organization and person you are talking with, taking into consideration how you can align that with your service or product.
For example, I find it’s most effective to look at (if it’s available) a LinkedIn profile; this tells you more about how the person communicates and what they do in their job so you have a better idea of how to frame the conversation.
It’s also always a good idea to be able to have a visual image of the person you are talking to.
In addition to LinkedIn, I look at their website to see what industry the company is in and also use tools like Datanyze to see what software it’s built on (which is helpful for website design needs).
Once you have this information, you’ll have a better idea of how you can approach the prospect, sounding more informed and less like a stranger.
The time you've spent researching and getting to know the prospect before hand helps immensely when building rapport.
In Dan Tyre’s HSPG Bootcamp, he mentions that effective rapport is not in asking “How’s the weather” or “How is your day going?”
Those conversation starters are too generic.
Instead, take a second look at your prospect’s LinkedIn profile or even Twitter or Facebook.
What are they in to? Are they sports fans? Do they have a loveable Yorkie? How about if they love Bacon?
These are topics that resonate close to home and start meaningful conversations. You can check out more of Dan Tyre’s tips on building rapport here.
3. Remember to Pause.
“Knock, Knock….Who’s there?...Interrupting Cow….Interrupting Cow wh...MOOOOOO!!!”
I was that “Interrupting Cow” on many of my early connect calls; Not letting the person on the other end finish their sentence.
I thought by butting in and dropping “nuggets of information” throughout the call, I was being more helpful.
Boy, was I wrong.
In fact, by interrupting, I was limiting the amount of vital information the prospect shared with me.
From some great coaching, I learned how crucial pausing in a conversation really is.
On connect calls (or any conversation really) always pause to ensure the other person has completed their thought before responding.
When you give the other person your full attention, without interruption, you’re more likely to get all the information you need without having to ask multiple questions.
4. Listen, Actively.
Now that I was able to identify “the Interrupting Cow” in the room (me. womp), I was able to sit back and not just listen, but actively listen to what the prospect was trying to say.
Simply put ‘active listening' means fully concentrating on what is being said and aiming to give it meaning, rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker.
In a nutshell, this really means understanding what the prospect is conveying; their pain points, their goals, etc.
A way to actively listen, is by repeating back to the prospect what was conveyed in intervals.
This can help in two major ways:
- This can assure the prospect that you are really in tune to the conversation
- This helps you as the BDR keep track of the conversation.
5. Ask Clarifying Questions
When running a connect call, it’s always wise to have an agenda of what needs to be discussed in order to steer the conversation in the right direction and make good use of yours as well as the prospect’s time.
Earlier, I mentioned before the five areas we like to cover at IMPACT, but let’s discuss those a bit more in depth:
- About the prospect and the company.
I noticed your company is a Human Resource software platform, Can you tell me a bit more about that?
What is your role at the company and what does your team look like?
This is the starting point.
At this time, the research has been done on my end, but there is still a lot to be learned. The prospect is more versed on who they are as well as what their company is all about. You want to ask questions that may fill in any gaps.
This is the primary reason the prospect reached out to us for help - They have a need, a challenge or an issue that needs to be solved.
One way to best uncover those needs are by asking a questions such as:
You mentioned you were looking for help on a marketing strategy. What goals have you identified that determines success?
Questions like these help the prospect articulate their need with more clarity, allowing us to guide the conversation in a more contextual way.
When do you want to get started?
Everyone’s timeline is always “last week,” or “yesterday.” This question is important as it identifies urgency for the prospect.
What budget have you identified for this project?
This was by far the hardest question to ask. Who is really comfortable with asking how much money someone has to spend? Not this BDR. However, this is one of the most important questions because aligning budgets and cost benefits both parties and sets the stage for a more transparent conversation.
- Good fit
All of these questions and their answers determine the last (silent) question. Are we a good fit for each other?
6. Be Clear with Your Positioning Statement
When I first began in the BDR role, the importance of “good fit clients” never really resonated with me until I started having conversation where I had to actually disqualify prospects.
As much as we may want to be everything to everybody, that is just not how a good relationship with IMPACT works.
The positioning statement should be solely focused on the prospect, the type of pains you solve, and the type of companies you help.
You should always have a few outlined that can help guide the conversation around the specific pains the prospect may be having and aligning with the services that we provide.
An example of a good positioning statement can be:
Every day I speak with folks who do not know how to strengthen their marketing efforts. They know they want to start getting more visitors to their website and generating leads online but aren’t exactly sure how to go about it. Does that resonate with you?
And then tie-in how we here at IMPACT can help:
We’ve led hundreds of growth-focused businesses and organizations like yours to success by helping them solve their most pressing marketing and sales problems. We empower them to achieve their most aggressive marketing and sales goals through agile digital marketing services and solutions.
If the positioning statement does not resonate with the prospect, then we are able to identify whether or not we are the best agency for the prospects needs.
7. Take Effective Notes
Good note taking is a result of being an active listener and is key to transitioning information over to the rest of your team.
Once I started taking notes, I was able to get the most accurate information in real-time.
What really helped take my note taking skills to the next level was recording my connect calls.
By recording the calls, I could ensure that I had all the pieces of the conversation that needed to be highlighted and summarized in the follow up email.
Vital information is relayed efficiently that benefit the prospect as well as the Client Success Manager in their next interaction.
8. Have Confidence!
CONFIDENCE; the one thing that I still struggle with to this very day.
However, I have built it up more and more over time.
Keeping in mind all the things mentioned above, I was far more comfortable picking up the phone. I felt ready and more prepared; I was able to build rapport and start the conversation on the right foot as well as gather all of the information the team needed.
I was turning once awkward connect calls into valuable conversations.
9. Always Keep Helpfulness in Mind
It may seem like the connect call is only intended to qualify or disqualify a prospect, but what it is really intended to do is help.
Whether IMPACT would be a good fit or not for a prospect, we always make sure to go back to our core value of helpfulness.
Being helpful is the main priority on the call.
That can even mean sharing a blog article that pertains to one or more of their pain points or even referring them to an agency that can be a better fit.
My goal at the end of each call is to leave a prospect feeling a bit more fulfilled and knowledgeable than before they got on the call.
10. Learning Through Failure
To the sum this all up, I want to make it very clear that my tips are not the Bible truth.
They are more of my way of creating structure in the midst of what was a chaotic start to my role. I was able to identify these things only by failing at it first and learning along the way.
Regardless of your industry, I am hoping that this can be helpful for other BDRs that may have or have the had the same complications that I have encountered.
HAPPY CONNECT CALLING!