B2B Sales 101 - How to start a conversation with a prospect

Leanne Clegg

Sep 23, 2020 • 7 min read

Reaching out to a prospect for the first time can be a daunting task.

Particularly if you’re in a new sales role.

You’re probably worried about how the sales pitch is going to be taken. If you’ll even get past the gatekeeper (if you choose to call). And whether you’re going to be able to hit your targets.

The fear of rejection is high.

But it doesn’t need to be.

As long as you’re well equipped to have a productive conversation, are prepared for rejection from some prospects and never forget perseverance is key, things will be much easier.

It often takes an average of eight cold call attempts to actually reach a prospect. So you should never give up after attempting outreach after the first time.

Reaching out to prospects for the first time

Before even picking up the phone or writing the first email to a lead, there’s some preparation work needed to make the most out of your time and the lead’s time.

1. Do your research

Ever been given a list of leads to call one after the other and as you’ve spoken to them you’ve realised you know nothing about them and the sales script you prepared just doesn’t work?

That’s because you’ve treated that first call, like so many other salespeople. Like it’s not important and all you aim to do is tell them about your product.

If you want to succeed at sales prospecting, you have to do your research and make the call about them, not you.

Before even thinking about reaching out, you should seek to understand some basics on the following:

You should also try and figure out how your product or service will fit into their business model and what benefits it will bring them.

Speak to your marketing team too - so you understand what interaction they’ve had with your brand so far (if reaching out to inbound leads).

Having this background knowledge will make that first call so much easier. You’ll have the confidence you need to make the conversation worthwhile and the knowledge to build trust with the lead.

Don’t forget you only have the first minute or two to prove your value to the lead before they make a decision on whether to carry on the conversation or not so the more prepared you are the better.

Ricochet makes sales research 60% faster

Install Ricochet for free
  1. Decide who to reach out to

You need to know who the best person is to speak to at the business you’re contacting. You may want to look in places like LinkedIn and their own Team pages on their website to find out who is likely to benefit from your product or service the most and have some decision-making power to sign off on your offer.

  1. Prioritise you leads

To make the most of your outreach time, you should prioritise your leads so you’re not only contacting people at the right time depending on their needs and likeliness to convert but also so that you can have similar conversations in one day.

We’ve written a guide that will help you to prioritise your leads to make your time as productive as possible.

  1. Prepare your questions

The first outreach should always be about understanding more about your lead. It should never just be you dumping loads of information on them and expecting them to figure out whether their product or service is right for them.

You should join the conversation armed with questions you need to know that will help solidify whether the lead is a good fit for your business.

Those questions might include:

Asking them open ended questions about their business gives them the opportunity to talk and tell their story without feeling like they’re just being given a sales pitch, and allows you to gather details that answer whether they’d benefit from your product or service.

The earlier you do this, the sooner you develop a good rapport with the lead to gain trust and can also decide whether this lead is a good fit to move them along the sales pipeline.

  1. Write your sales pitch

As we’ve said before, you should not lead with a sales pitch in your first call or email. You need to warm your leads up first. That few minutes should all be about them.

However, as the conversation progresses you will want to have a pitch prepared. This pitch should not be a one-size-fits-all presentation of every single feature your product offers.

It should be a more tailored plan on the benefits that particular lead will get from your product.

You should look to only highlight key features that are of relevance to them specifically based on the research you’ve done before making the outreach and, if possible, tying in some of the details they’ve given you earlier on in the conversation.

By changing your mindset from giving features and selling your product directly, to giving benefits and selling a solution to their problem, you’ll be surprised by how much more receptive leads are to hear more and consider/evaluate your product or service.

By putting all of these things into action, you should feel prepared to start your next sales conversation with confidence and positivity.

Types of outreach

The way you initially reach out to a prospect may differ from person to person depending on their previous interaction with your brand.

Email

It’s often recommended by sales experts to start outreach to a lead with an email.

An email allows you to sum up the value you can bring to your lead and introduce your business in a no-obligation way.

It means the person you’re sending the email to has a chance to read the information ahead of time, rather than being caught off-guard on an unexpected call.

Email is also a good idea to start with as it gives you a reason to give them a call a few days later if you do not receive a reply.

Email-first works for the majority of use cases when doing outbound outreach. But there are sometimes opportunities where calling first is better.

Calling

Calling straight away may be better under these two circumstances:

  1. If the lead has had some previous interaction with your brand (and therefore knows who you are).
  2. If your brand is already well established and known in the industry.

Although the lead will know who you are and what you do in this case, you still can’t assume that you can just give them a generic sales pitch detailing the features of your product.

You should still be prepared to help them understand how valuable your product or service will be to their business.

Social media

One thing that many people forget about when making initial outreach is social media. It can be just as powerful, if not more so, than calling or email initially.

Look on all of the social channels to see if you have any connections with the person you’re trying to reach out to.

You should utilise these connections to make introductions and help form a relationship.

Salespeople who actively seek out and exploit referrals earn 4 to 5 times more than those who don’t.

In summary

Reaching out to a prospect for the first time can be difficult.

As long as you remember these things, your job success and motivation levels will be as high as possible:

That’s it, if you’ve done all of the above steps, you should feel ready to make your first (or next) sales call with ease and confidence.

At Ricochet we understand the importance of that first sales call but understand how time-consuming preparation can be.

That’s why we built Ricochet Chrome Extension.

Our free browser extension for busy sales takes care of the initial prep work you need to do before making a call. In the click of a button while browsing a prospect’s website, Ricochet will give you all of the business information you need to pre-qualify them and start the outreach.

Get the latest Ricochet updates in your inbox