The Anatomy of a Successful Sales Call

What makes for a successful sales call? Here are four characteristics of sales discovery calls that move prospects to the next stage, backed by research.

August 21, 2017

  • sales-calls

As we gain access to more and more data, we can dissect conversations at a very granular level to determine the specific elements of an effective sales call. That’s just what the fine folks at Gong – who provide a conversation intelligence platform – do on a regular basis.

Gong’s analysis of over 500,000 discovery sales calls surfaced insights you can put to use right away. Read on for four sales call best practices that separate top sales reps from their lagging peers.

Balance the Listening-to-Talking Ratio

A primary goal of a discovery call is to start building rapport with your sales prospect. Rapport happens naturally when you engage in a two-way conversation of giving and taking. If you pepper the prospect with questions left and right, it’s going to feel more like an interrogation. According to researchers at Gong, top sales performers strike a roughly equal listening-to-talking ratio. This allows the prospect time to respond to your questions, and allows the back-and-forth discussion to carry the call in a natural way.

Ask Prospect-Specific “Problem Questions”

The researchers also found that it’s important to ask an ample amount of problem-related questions on a discovery call. In fact, it found top salespeople ask 10.1 "problem questions" per hour, while average performers only ask 6.3.

We’re not talking about any old question, like, “How’s the weather out there?” We’re talking about targeted, relevant questions specific to the buyer’s business issues, challenges, goals and concerns. Gong characterizes this as aiming for “more big talk, less small talk.”

Limit Your Talking Points to 3 or 4 Issues

It goes without saying that a discovery call should zero in on the prospect’s concerns, challenges, and goals, but discuss too many topics and the call can lose a sense of structure. Jumping from topic to topic to topic can leave your buyer feeling overwhelmed. In fact, the truly major issues might get lost in the shuffle, causing the buyer to downgrade their importance and urgency.

Gong found that the top-performing sales professionals guide buyers to pinpoint the three or four most pressing ones. By doing so, they show value in their ability to help the prospect gain clarity and focus, which in turn helps streamline the overall research and buying process.

Manage Your Time Effectively

While it’s important to hit the right points during your discovery calls, it’s just as important that you manage the timing and cadence. Gong’s researchers discovered that the most effective discovery call is split into three parts:

  • First 25%: building rapport
  • Middle 50%: thorough discovery of 3-4 business issues
  • Final 25%: logistics and next steps

Here’s how this breaks down for a 30-minute call:

  • 7.5 minutes breaking the ice and establishing a connection
  • 15 minutes focused on discovery
  • 7.5 minutes wrapping up

Whenever possible, schedule your sales calls for Monday and Wednesday mornings. Prospects are less likely to show up for the call on Fridays and afternoons in general.

Checklist for Success

  • Here’s a handy summary of these guidelines and suggestions:
  • Schedule calls for Monday and Wednesday mornings
  • Do your homework and be prepared to ask targeted questions
  • Aim for a balanced two-way dialogue
  • Spread your questions evenly throughout the call
  • Focus on the top 3 or 4 buyer concerns, challenges and goals
  • Break your call up by the 25/50/25 rule (build rapport/discover issues/wrap up)

Follow these research-backed sales call tips and you should see your discovery call success rates rising in no time.

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