Challenge: In B2B lead prospecting, how should you design your follow-up calls to quickly assess the prospect and maximize progress on the call?
Every B2B sales process is unique. However, there are many common elements that provide a common approach to designing your lead follow-up strategy by your lead development representatives. You cannot assume that, left to their own methods, they will find the optimal structure. You need to get feedback from your reps, design a call flow, enforce usage, and then assess the feedback to optimize the structure. Following are a few common elements that will help script an initial follow-up call. Let’s assume that the rep is calling a new prospect that has entered your system from a marketing program – a tradeshow, a whitepaper download, a channel partner registration, a website visit, etc.
Step One: Opening
Make sure your prospect is shown all necessary respect by telling them who you are, and why you are calling and most importantly, keep it shortA pretty standard opening would be: “Hi, my name is Larry Stein with ABC Corp., and I’m following up on your recent download of the XYZ whitepaper from our website.” Don’t add words that diminish your value (e.g. ‘I am just calling you…’) – there’s never a need to apologize for your call. You are calling to help them. You may choose to add a few more words if your company/brand is not well known, in order to help them remember their interaction with your company: “Hi, my name is Larry Stein with ABC Corp. We make the ABC product called the Widget, and I’m following up on your recent download of the XYZ whitepaper from our website.”
Step Two: Initial Question
You want to stop talking quickly and get them talking. So get to the first open-ended question. My favorite is: “Can you tell me more about your interest in ABC Product/Area?” We don’t care if they read the whitepaper or liked your tradeshow demo. We don’t care how they’re feeling today (let’s face it). This person acted on their own to interact with your company and we want to learn why. There is some business reason that drove them to show up as a lead in your system (remember, we’re not addressing cold calls here). It could be that their boss directed them to look at your product. It could be that they are researching options to solve a problem. You may also find that the person wants to learn more so they can make a job transition or other personal reasons. That’s fine – but let’s get around to understanding this quickly so we can disqualify this lead.
Step Three: Probing Questions to Identify Pain
You may get useful information from your first question – but they may side step the answer initially. That’s OK, in just 2-3 sentences and in less than 30 seconds you have now introduced yourself, your company and why you are calling. Game on! Now you can ask them some initial questions to help guide your qualification. Without identifying a pain point, you cannot sell them anything. Your questions need to get at this area quickly. These will vary – but common questions are:
- What products or services are you using today to address PRODUCT AREA?
- If they don’t know the answer, you are likely speaking to the wrong person.
- What are the primary challenges you face in PRODUCT AREA?
- If you can’t identify pain points, then the prospect likely needs more time/development.
- Do you have an IMPENDING EVENT coming up in the near future?
- Is there something coming up that’s a good target point for you to start a sales engagement? E.g., Office move, acquisition, planned upgrade, etc.
You get the idea. You need to have a few (3-4) well-crafted questions to really probe for pain points or impending events that will enable you to deliver a solution for the prospect.
At some point in this process you can insert your value proposition. When they describe their current solutions or issues they face, you can then respond with a quick, 3-sentence solution overview. This builds on the short introduction you gave to your company and starts to embed the nature of your solution and why you are calling. Keep it short – you have not yet earned the right for a monologue.
Step Four: Seeing is Believing
If the call is going well and worthy of deeper investment of time, now is the time you should get your product in front of your prospect. A picture is truly worth a thousand words. This could be a 5-minute web demonstration via phone, a canned video or some other tool that will make your solution come alive for the customer. Given that this will frequently extend the call by 3-10 minutes, this step should only be taken with qualified prospects. The objective of this demonstration is to solidify their interest. Ideally you want to get them to experience a ‘goose-bump moment.’ This is the moment when a prospect clearly understands how your product would make their life easier/better. Make it personal and visceral.
Step Five: Next Steps:
So now you’ve learned about their needs and gauged their interest in your solution. Next, set the hook for their next call to action. You need to get your prospect to commit to a next step in the sales process. They need to actively take steps to evaluate and learn about your solution. By taking an action, your prospect will become more positively disposed to your solution (see the blog post “Power of Persuasion”). This could be to attend a one-hour web demonstration, to have an onsite visit/demo, to gather data and send back to you, or other important steps. You must close the prospect for this step and schedule the timeframe. Set a date and time for this action and set a follow-up discussion date/time. You are now off to the races!
Lesson: While the wording does not have to be exact, the call architecture above will quickly get to the key data points you need to put the prospect down the right lead qualification or sales path.