Prospecting small talk

Quit the jibber jabber and get to the point! How NOT to start a sales call

We all get them and for many of us starting in business we have to make them which can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience.

What I’m talking about is picking up the phone and making a sales call.

With this in mind it’s understandable that we try to make the task pleasant for ourselves by attempting to befriend the person on the other end. It’s here you get the typical pleasantries and small talk that is delivered under the guise of building rapport but it actually serves to deviate from what we’re trying to achieve which is to engage with the prospect and identify if there’s an opportunity to make a sale.

It’s at this point I want to share that inane small talk is a pet peeve of mine. From my perspective as a recipient of these types of calls it’s incredibly annoying getting asked, “how are you?” from a stranger who is obviously trying to sell me something - it simply comes across as insincere. I know I’m not alone in my frustrations given the conversations I’ve had recently where this topic has come up.

So what does it look like?

It’s throwaway questions or statements that do not add value to the conversation. It typically manifests itself as; “how are you?” (as if that will elicit a genuine response). Any mentions of the weather or anything else equally innocuous - I’m sure you get the point and have examples of your own.

And why do we do it?

My reasoning is twofold:

1. Like I’ve mentioned previously, many of us feel uncomfortable picking up the phone for the purpose of making the sale so in order to get through the ordeal we try to be as affable as possible. We look to get the call recipient on side so that we can seemingly raise the matter of what we sell and hope that the person we are speaking with is charmed into submission.

Naturally many of us experience anxiety when it comes to rejection which is why we often deviate from the task. This is perfectly natural yet it is counterproductive as chances are you are likely to irritate the person you are speaking with who will be in a rush to get you off the phone. This could result in the prospect giving you into a false sense of security by agreeing to your request for them to ghost you from that point onwards or they could even hang up on you.

2. Because we’ve subscribed to the outdated notion of rapport building.

This stems from all those sales training sessions we’ve attended where emphasis has been placed on building rapport by deploying ice breaker questions. These are typically meaningless comments that bring nothing to the relationship. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t attempt to build rapport but do it in a meaningful way. Put it this way, the quality of your conversation openers could signal the quality of your product or service in the mind of your prospect. From experience I am far more receptive to an assured sales person than I am with someone trying to be my mate.

So what’s a better way?

That’s simple - just be frank, open and honest - which is always a good way to start a relationship. Remember that this is an unsolicited call, your prospect is busy and you are interrupting their daily flow so acknowledge it. Thank them for taking the call, state you will be brief in your introduction then be brief.

If you have positioned your offer well and done some rudimentary research on your prospect and their business then they may well be open to continuing the conversation. That said, they may not and in which case you withdraw from the conversation politely and move on to the next call whereby this person may be more receptive to your offer.

In essence business development is a matter of delivering the right message to the right person at the right time however this all starts with initiating the sales conversation.

If you take the time to be thoughtful in terms of your approach rather than regurgitating meaningless phrases you might get further with your prospect but if not then at least you won’t be wasting your time on conversations that don’t go anywhere!

I would love to know your thoughts on the topic or if you have any pet peeves when it comes to sales.

Thanks for reading!