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5 Important Answers to Understand Before Contacting a New Prospect

Image of Michelle Farnsworth
Michelle Farnsworth


Before ever reaching for the phone to make an initial contact call, you must  decide if the person or company you are calling fits nicely within your ideal prospect profile. To know this, you must first understand the ins and outs of what makes your company valuable to others.

It is nearly impossible to sell a product that you don’t believe in or fully understand yourself. Every single day thousands of salespeople attempt to start a business relationship via the telephone, yet most aren’t taking the time to find answers to some very important questions.

It is not enough to just fully understand your product, you must also understand your prospects business and subsequent needs. You need to learn their background and discover what it is that makes them tick. You have to gather a good amount of information before ever picking up that phone.

To put it simply, you should know the answer to these 5 important questions before navigating the world of a new sales prospect:

1. What role does your prospect play within the company?

A. What is their seniority?

Begin by asking this question to give yourself a lay of the land: How senior is your prospect? What role do they play within the company? How long have they held their position? It is meaningless to know a prospect’s title and company name unless you know their specific job requirements and business details with some insight and clarity. It would not be worthwhile to spend a large amount of time engaging with someone who does not possess an adequate amount of authority to consider your product, or to at least pass it along to someone who does.

The easiest way to answer these questions is to visit the company homepage, or their LinkedIn page, which may offer a more broad and understandable description of various company positions.

B. Who do they generally report to?

Do you have to get a prospects approval and their manager approval? It is extremely important to engage all relevant stakeholders from the beginning of the sales process. If you need help figuring out who the stakeholders are, ask a few questions while you are actually on the line with your prospect to reveal all company stakeholders:

  • “You seem to be an ideal fit for our product/company/service. Is there anyone else who needs to be involved in evaluating our solution?”
  • “We generally like to schedule a consultative team conversation to get all stakeholders on the same page. Do you have access to your colleagues’ calendars so we could set one up?”

C. Are they the ultimate sale?

Does your contact actually manage the company’s budget, or are they a stepping stone to getting in contact with the person who controls the purse strings? If they are not the final decision maker, can they act as an internal champion for you and your product or service? This simply means that your contact strongly believes in what you have to offer and will assist you in figuring out the internal rhythm of their company’s decision making process in order to help you succeed. Obviously, having a champion on your side is an extremely valuable asset. If you are speaking directly to the decision maker you will want to position yourself differently than if you are warming up an influencer.

2. What are your goals in making contact?

Sales conversations will take very different courses depending on what your ultimate goal for the call is. Never pick up the phone until you have clearly established your goal. Possible questions to ask yourself while figuring out your goal may be:

  • Is this a “discovery” call to get to know each other and build rapport in order to learn how I might be best able to help them?
  • Am I trying to supplant a competitor?
  • Am I directly selling to my prospect or trying to get my foot in the door?

3. What do you hope happens as a result of your initial contact?

This question seems so elementary, yet many experienced sales professionals overlook their answers. If you do not know ahead of time what you want to get out of your encounter, then you are not ready to make contact. Seem a bit harsh? It’s better than sounding ill prepared on the phone with a potentially new (and interested) client. Give yourself plenty of time in the sales call planning process to investigate just what this outcome should be.

4. What are your strengths?

Even if you feel like you have all the answers to the previously mentioned questions, ask yourself this: “Why would this person take time out of their busy day to speak to me?” Make sure you know exactly what it is that puts you above the rest. Will your product make their job easier, save the company money, drive efficiency, help them get promoted, etc.?

To gauge a company’s current gaps and trouble spots, review their job postings. This is where companies will generally offer more insight into position description which can provide you with useful information, including types of employees and the skill sets they must possess. Tie your product back to their problems, challenges, or needs, which will make them more compelled to buy or at least  willing to investigate further.

Establishing common interests is vital to getting the conversation past your initial pitch and into an area where you can specifically demonstrate your value to a potential buyer. And remember, it is very difficult to sell a product that you don’t fully understand or truly believe in yourself.

5. What are your vulnerabilities?

Now that you have established how you could be their ultimate hero (give yourself a pat on the back), it’s time to make sure you are fully aware of your own kryptonite. This does not mean you need to advertise your weaknesses for all to see but to simply be aware that they do exist. Do you have less experience than your competition? Are you typically at the higher-end of the fee scale? Why is that and what makes the additional cost more beneficial? Knowing what your competitors have to offer will help you figure out where your company may possibly fall short, but also what aspects make it all the better.

By knowing your vulnerabilities you will be prepared in advance to transform them into advantages, or at least diminish the blow of such shortcomings. With a little preparation and thought you can have your response to prospect objections and difficult questions at the ready when you need them, instead of floundering for a good reply in the heat of the moment. If you do not completely understand your company, both its weaknesses and assets, your prospect will know the second you open your mouth.

The point?

Sales calls are far from a new and innovative way to generate leads, yet many salespeople are still overlooking key details that can help make their first call more effective. Take the time to research background, needs, and the general market of your contact and it will pay off in the end. By not rushing into a call you will be able to transform your initial conversation into a more meaningful and relevant interaction.

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