Welcome to "The Pipeline" — a weekly column from HubSpot, featuring actionable advice and insight from real sales leaders.
Today's buyers are busier than ever before. So for a sales rep to connect with a prospect, they must supersede all the other tasks, priorities, emails, meetings, and notifications the prospect has on their plate at that very minute. They have to convince the buyer to put everything else down and listen to them.
Sounds like a Herculean task. And it is … if you take the same approach as every other rep. Most reps go into prospecting calls projecting an air of authority and credibility. After all, why would a buyer listen to someone who doesn‘t know what they’re talking about?
But there‘s a critical difference between coming off as amateurish vs. curious. When reps take the role of a curious student rather than an informed expert, buyers are much more inclined to engage. Most initial sales calls last about 30 to 40 seconds. So, how do you get someone’s attention in that incredibly brief span of time?
The Best Attention Grabbing Techniques
1. Use your time wisely.
Your first call with a prospect isn‘t likely to be a long one, and that’s okay. Instead of trying to cram in everything you want to say before the buyer hangs up, tailor your message for the allotted time. I recommend that reps come to connect calls with a topic that can be easily explained in 30 seconds.
Every good sales call includes an ask. Does this mean you should use your 30 seconds to ask for a meeting? No — that's not enough time. Instead, ask for another two to three minutes to talk and then use that longer amount of time to request a meeting. You just lengthened your conversation by 300%!
2. Start with them.
Reps are dying to deliver their pitches, but you‘d be wise to start your conversations with something about the prospect. Kicking off the call this way helps to interrupt the buyer’s flow and get them to focus on you.
However, there's a caveat here. Make sure that your customized question or observation is totally independent of you.
Here's what I mean:
Bad: “I saw your company does X, and that's great because I can help you … "
Good: “How does your company do X?"
If a buyer senses your sales pitch coming, they'll tune you out right away. Leave yourself out of the conversation (at least in the beginning) to hold their attention.
3. Be curious.
As I mentioned above, curiosity trumps credibility when it comes to sales calls. Why? Well, if the rep approaches the buyer like a student, the buyer is likely to assume the role of a teacher. And how do teachers instruct their students? They're calm, patient, kind, and forthcoming — exactly how sales reps would like their prospects to treat them.
On the other hand, what happens when a rep takes on the role of an expert-turned-teacher? The buyer tunes out immediately. If the salesperson knows everything, the prospect has nothing to contribute.
No contribution, no engagement, no sale.
Playing up curiosity over credibility can be scary for reps. But if you maintain confidence and courage alongside your curiosity, I guarantee you will grab and hold your buyer's attention.
Here are some fantastic conversation starters that are borne of curiosity:
- I really don't understand what your company does. Could you explain Y?
- I was on your website and I'm confused about ...
- This is my first time calling your company and I don't know who I should speak with.
4. Embrace the silence.
At some point during the call, you'll ask a question. The best thing you can do afterward? Stop talking.
The longer the silence on a first call, the better. If a prospect falls silent after you pose your query, it means they‘re thinking. Clearly, they’re interested in the conversation and getting you the best response. So whatever you do, don't interrupt the silence.
Remember that this prospect likely wasn‘t ready for or expecting your call. You need to allow them time to catch up with you and really consider what you’re asking them. Interrupting their thought process with another question or an explanation breaks their engagement and shoots you in the foot. Don't do it.
5. Use one close per attempt.
When reaching out, limit yourself to a single close. It's important that this close gets the prospect engaged, rather than being a deal advancer. Here are a few example closes you could use.
- What's the easiest way for me to learn more about your organization?
- Do vendors need to be approved by your finance department?
- What do you do/what is your role?
- I just read your article on X topic ...
- Where can I get a copy of your slide deck from the presentation you gave last month at X event?
When you‘re trying to capture the prospect’s attention, it's more important to engage them in a conversation than to move the deal forward.
6. Have a cadence plan.
Before you attempt a phone call, you should have a clear plan for the cadence of your outreach. You should know how many calls you'll make and how much time will lapse between your outreach attempts.
If you make a decision about outreach cadence after the initial call, you‘ll undercut yourself. For example, if you leave a voicemail about a close, the prospect doesn’t respond, and you didn‘t create a cadence plan, you’ll get discouraged and drag your feet on following up again.
But, if you prepare beforehand and the prospect doesn‘t respond, that initial attempt won’t be life or death. Let‘s say you settled on making four attempts with this prospect. The plan you created ensures you’re committed to those close attempts. And it will be less discouraging if the contact doesn't respond after your first call.
Attention is an incredibly valuable commodity in sales. Use these six steps to earn and keep it in a very short period of time.