Making a sales call in the age of assignment selling
The relationship between a company and its customers continues to shift. Customers now peruse websites to learn about products, services, and company culture rather than waiting to learn all those things from a sales rep before they buy.
Increasingly, sales and marketing teams are assisting prospective customers in educating themselves by way of helpful content on company websites before jumping on the phone/web conference — something we call assignment selling.
When done well, this has the ability to drastically shorten the would-be customer’s learning curve, shorten the sales process, help qualify leads, and make sure everyone’s time shopping, selling, and buying is better spent than in the past.
For IMPACT, this shift in how customers and sellers share information starts before the first sales call — and even before the first contact. The discovery process begins when a visitor comes to our website.
From the first piece of content a visitor encounters, we are listening and learning about their fit for us, while at the same time building the trust necessary for a good relationship.
By the time our sales department reaches out to a potential client, we should have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for by noting what content they consume and any information they've shared.
The difference between a sales ‘connect call’ and a ‘exploratory call’
For us at IMPACT, if a prospect has expressed a certain level of interest on our website (perhaps they have downloaded a resource or engaged in a chat), we begin that direct dialogue with a connect call. A connect call sets a process in motion.
At this point, the idea is just to figure out what existing resources would be helpful for our visitor. The script for a connect call usually is as simple as, “Hello, I noticed you recently downloaded our free guide, and I am reaching out to see if you had any questions?”
From there, the visitor will usually share enough information to qualify if they are indeed a good fit. Perhaps they may just be interested in our free resources. Or, perhaps they would be a better fit for another agency. In these cases, we try to be as honest and upfront as possible We don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
If, as a result of this brief connect conversation, we do indeed connect the visitor to a sales rep, the contact is marked as a good fit lead and the relationship progresses to an exploratory call (sometimes also referred to as a ‘discovery call’), which is handled by senior reps in our sales department.
In some cases, this deeper-dive meeting can be scheduled to take place as soon as later the same day.
Usually, it is desired by all parties to meet as soon as possible. ‘Time kills all deals’ is still a relevant expression, especially in this age of rapid-fire information exchange.
Whenever we get the call scheduled, we work hard to make sure that the handoff is smooth between the connect call and the sales department. This is crucial to making the customer feel valued and listened to. We want them to know we’re paying attention to the details that ensure an excellent customer experience.
What happens between the first and second call is what has changed so much for us. Let’s break down what happens next for sales reps using assignment selling.
Before the exploratory call
In the assignment selling world, the exploratory call process begins as soon as a sales rep knows they’ve got the call scheduled. We access all of the lead intelligence that is available to get a sense of who the prospect is are and where they are in their journey to buy. In HubSpot, we compile notes from the marketing team and other information.
We’re able to see what articles a person has read and what their interests are. We also have demographic data to help round out a profile.
It is a good policy for a salesperson to know as much about the potential customer as possible, and to use this to determine what other resources the prospect needs.
When a sales rep reaches out to the prospect, instead of just saying, “looking forward to speaking with you and learning more about your needs,” we leverage what we know about this visitor and assign some relevant resources to address their questions, concerns, hopes, fears, or desires.
Having been through the sales process before, our reps can guess what will be most helpful, and we ask the prospect to review this information prior to moving forward.
This is the power of assignment selling. It represents another way to educate and qualify a potential lead — all while showing them the transparency and candor that is so vital to successful digital sales and marketing.
If we can determine that a prospect is a good fit AND is eager to learn about our company, then the subsequent sales call will be more productive and genuine.
If the prospect is not opening, watching, reading, clicking, or interacting with any of the personalized set of resources we assign to them ahead of our meeting, our experience has shown they’re probably not very close to making a deal.
Before the call happens, IMPACT’s sales reps will reach out again to make sure the person has taken the time to review the resources we've shared. We want to know that they’re prepared for the call. If not, we may need to reschedule.
To begin the call
We want to honor the fact that they bothered to consume the content we’ve sent them: If they watched a video, if they read an article from us, they invested their time. Our sales reps want to build on whatever they have read.
A call should be more about listening than speaking. We can open the conversation and say, "What do you think this call is about? What do you feel like you know about us and what do you not yet know about what we do?"
Then, after a good dose of active listening, we share what insights we already discovered from what they've shared with us. We make sure that we have the complete picture.
No matter what combination of questions reps may use, if we can begin with asking the person what they want and need, we can start our exploratory calls from a place of shared understanding, appreciation, and transparency.
To end the call
Before you wrap up a discovery call, make sure you have aligned the customer’s needs with your offerings.
If you’ve used assignment selling to shorten the sales process, by this point the prospect has consumed information and shared details about their needs. Thus, the exploratory call is a time to move a sale dramatically further ahead than ever before.
Ask what further resources they need — or what person you need to connect them with — in order to have all the information gaps filled and, thus, to be able to confidently move forward.
Perhaps it is a request to see a detailed breakdown of the service or the product being offered. Perhaps they want to speak to a reference. Perhaps they may want to see some success stories. Perhaps they want to speak to a specific team member.
This is where you can add an additional layer of intimacy, value, and trust.
However, before you hang up the phone to follow through, do make sure to be clear about one thing:
Is there a mutual understanding that if you can connect them with that requested resource, that they would buy from you?
By the end of the call, the answer should be a resounding “yes.”
If companies can really understand how people buy today and take the time to create a digitized version of their sales process, then prospects can consume that content on-demand.
In turn, our role as sales reps can fundamentally shift. We are no longer just an information deliverer. We are now educators — a sort of concierge who helps a person find the information that is right for them.
Sales reps need to be okay with that change. The sales process is now dramatically shorter than ever before, and it is driven far more by your website and your digital assets. Your job is to make sure you match the right assets to the right person at the right time.
If you’re doing They Ask, You Answer properly, most of the questions asked in the sales process have already been answered on your website. Your content should be informed by all of the questions and all of the sales that have come before this one. Thus, your sales calls will become less about you and your company, and more about the customer and their needs.
If your sales process is not getting shorter — if you’re finding that you haven’t built trust with your prospects before a call even happens, then you need to look closely at your website. It should be the greatest tool your sales team has to work with.
Wondering where to begin?