30-Second Steps That Make Sales Conversations Better

Would you rather go into a sales call totally blind, or well-prepared?

Let me rephrase. Do you think your prospects have better experiences on sales calls with reps who didn’t prepare at all, or ones that researched them and their company ahead of time?

I’ve heard the argument that not preparing for a sales call makes the conversation more client-focused because you aren’t reading canned responses or getting distracted by notes. Instead, you can listen better and have more genuine discussions with your prospects. There is some truth here: you should never read off your notes during the call, and you can’t assume you know your prospect’s business problems before the call even starts. But that doesn’t mean you should skip preparation altogether.

Buyers can tell when sales reps haven’t prepared at all for the call. The quality of the conversation significantly decreases when reps haven’t done their homework. It’s the difference between the questions “How well do the sales and marketing teams align at your company?” and “I saw your CMO’s blog post on the initiatives you’ve taken for sales and marketing alignment. Are those still in effect? How have you felt about them lately?” It’s obvious which of those questions are far more impressive and engaging for your prospect.

To make your sales conversations engaging, reps need to be proactive. Luckily for sales reps everywhere, each step on this list can take as little as 30 seconds.

How to prepare for a sales call

  1. Look at the prospect’s company website to get a feel for their industry, mission, goals, and culture.

  1. Check out third party sites like Crunchbase (if you’re in software) to see who the company’s investors are, who their CEO is, how many employees they have, what their business model is, and so on.

  1. Read their recent Press Releases. Have they celebrated any recent milestones, like a new round of funding? What new product did they just roll out? You can use drop information like this in the conversation to sound knowledgable and more credible.

  1. Skim a few posts from their company blog, or at least read the headlines for a few pages of posts. This will give you an idea of their business values, and sometimes even a sneak peek into their systems and processes.

  1. Look at their “brag page,” i.e. the page on their website where they feature the customers their proudest of. What kinds of companies do they sell to? What are they saying, and not saying, in the quotes section?

  1. Find out who their competitors are to get a sense of the landscape. Are any of their competitors customers of yours?

  1. Read the LinkedIn profile of the contact you’re about to call. Did you go to the same college as her? Is she a candidate for an MBA? Look for mutual connections, things you have in common, or other characteristics you can use anecdotally to build a relationship. Take note of her office’s location and whether it’s the same as the company headquarters.

  1. Find the names and titles of decision-makers at the company. If your call is with a manager but you usually sell to CFOs, find out who the CFO is and look at their LinkedIn profile, too.

  1. Review your value propositions if needed, keeping in mind possible business needs and pain points this particular prospect might have.

Knowing your prospect’s business a little bit, having these anecdotes on hand, and anticipating business needs can radically increase your chances of building rapport and actually adding value during the conversation.

What else do you do to prepare for sales calls?