Sales calls can be nerve-wracking. But with a little preparation, you can master them and close more sales.

You’ve mastered Account-Based targeting using Sales Navigator, crafted very advanced Linkedin + Email sequences, leveraged brand strategies, and tweaked your copywriting to ever fine-tune it to your audience. You’re booking qualified meetings, but you don’t reach that +30% closing rate post calls. It’s a high goal, but then again, the average conversion rate in SaaS is only 22%. And if you’re reading this, it’s because you don’t want to be average!

What may be the root cause? If your segmentation and copywriting are right, then it’s probably because your call structure is terrible. Whether it’s inbound or outbound, if your ICP agreed to a call, you should reach a +30% conversion rate.

Failure to do so often relates to bad call structure. Ask any great salesperson you know: though it feels like it, a great sales call is not a “wing it” moment – it’s a well-scripted situation you play out with the prospect. A theatrical dialogue, though carefully written, that feels very natural, very “in the moment”, because of one simple thing: call structure.

And if you’re a great actor, you can even play on flow, intonation, volume & accentuation!

Looking to improve your call booked to closed-won conversion rate? Read-on!

Why does call structure matter?

Let’s make one thing straight: you cannot wing a sales call!

All details matter and a great call structure will allow you to control every detail of the calls.

To make a call work:

  1. You need to understand what are your prospect’s current problems.

    Your solutions may have multiple use-cases – you need to understand which is the one your prospect is coming for.

    DO NOT pitch features. EVER! Listen carefully to the issue at hand, and show how you can solve it!

    If you’re pitching features, this is what you’ll sound like to your prospect – very technical but it makes no sense!
  2. Once you’ve understood that, you need to be able to present clearly how you can solve that problem for him.

    Sometimes, it may just be 20% of what your product can do. But this 20% is what the prospect wants. And needs to hear from! Only this! Not every else as well!

    If you’re mentioning all the rest, your message will be diluted. Stick to solving the main problem and delivering simple & straightforward value!
  3. If all of that works, then you’ll need to set up concrete next steps and get a timeline.

    This is often something that is done wrong: people shy away from being blunt and honest. We’ll see later how to mark pause to get the actual response or interest or not.

    If interest is validated, you must get out of that meeting a timeline. People have their own agenda – a hot issue may need a solution now, but they might now have the bandwidth at the moment.

    Get the info and build your next steps around it.
  4. All while building the foundation of a great relationship: trust and an easy-going relationship.

    People buy not only a product/service but a relationship to that product/service.

    If you have a great brand and communication, this will drive their relationship to your product/service.

    If you’re a young company, your sales team is the starter point of that relationship. This means they not only buy the product, but the people selling it. Trust is key!

That’s a lot to work on a single first call, and can only be achieved if you have a clear call structure. Here’s a recommended one for a 45min first call:

  • First 30sec – Building instantly a connection.

    Probably the single most important step of the call. Fail at it, and you won’t get the information you need to build value. Succeed at it, and the rest will flow!
  • 1-15min mark – Discovery time: no product demo, no shared screen, just drill down questions to understand what is the problem they need you to solve.

    One marker to know if you’re doing it right: your prospect should be talking three times as much as you!

    He complains, you listen and take notes!
  • 15-35min mark – Now that you’ve understood what they need to solve, explain how you’ll solve their issue with your product.

    Make space for questions, don’t speak alone! People have a very low attention span. Speak alone for more than 3min, and they’ll switch tabs!
  • 35-45min mark – Wrap up and establish concrete next steps.

    FIVA is key here to gauge real interest, establish a timeline, and define concrete next steps

Obviously, a great sales call is always followed by a great follow-up email with all the detailed info and next steps!

Before deep-diving into it, let’s talk about one thing: preparation.

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Before the call: do your research!

While too often forgotten, preparation is key. You cannot jump on a call without knowing the basics:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • What is the company doing and its current state?
  • Which ICP/Persona they’ll probably fall into?

There is nothing worst for a prospect to agree to a call and feel the sales rep is not prepared. By doing this, you’re sending bad signals that:

  • You are not a professional
  • Your prospect isn’t worth your time to do research first hands
  • You’re not valuing his time

And will set yourself up for failure during the discovery phase.

Who are you talking to?

To do research on the person you’re talking to check out their LinkedIn profile and look for the key info that will help you under their Authority -i.e. their ability to close the deal-.

  • Understand how long they have been within the company

    A new person in the company might be hired to make a change or solve a specific problem. They could have great pressure into proving their value, and you’ll be their trusted partner. You could use that to your advantage

    A veteran in a company will have a deeper knowledge of the situation and probably have tried other solutions. You’ll be able to get more context into the problems, how they’ve tried to solve them at first, and why they’re looking for another solution.

    Time spent within the company will allow you to assess the level of knowledge they’ll have.
  • Understand their seniority: why are interns not great for sales calls? They probably don’t have authority, budget, or knowledge. You probably shouldn’t even take the call, or at least make sure he’s not alone.

    A Field Manager may not have the authority or budget (their VPs will) but they’ll become your champion within the company as they’re generally the ones handling problems daily.

    VPs will generally have budget and authority, but a lower understanding of the problem or current solution/approach to what has already been tried
    Seniority will allow you to understand the level of the conversation you’ll have: down-to-earth or high-level. As well as authority and budget.

What’s the company doing and current state?

To research the company, LinkedIn is again a great ally. Sales Navigator will provide you with great insights into their recent growth, current hires, and company structure.

It’s a great asset if your team is dedicated to a specific department (sales, marketing, etc…) to map out the main actors as well as project deal value!

Learn about their employee growth:

Current Openings:

Or employee distribution:

When well-configured, LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be surprisingly precise in its ability to spot the right leads and help you do account mapping

All of this information should help you understand their current need, but also their organization. If you’re selling sales automation tools such as LaGrowthMachine, having an understanding of their sales team size will help you estimate deal value and budget, as well as quickly glancing at recommended leads will help you understand if you’re talking to the right person or might have to set up another call at the end of this one (Next Steps).

Define your qualification metrics and looks for these insights.

Spoiler alert: LaGrowthMachine is the perfect tool to automate all those pesky, repetitive tasks so you can focus on what’s important – your business.

Here’s an example of a sequence you could envision:

LaGrowthMachine: A sequence example

Google News is great to check their later PR. It can be a great conversation starter if they’ve shared recent information. It may seem obvious, yet so few people do that kind of research that are great conversation starters

If you’re targeting startups that tend to fundraise, have a look a Crunchbase to check their later date of funding.

Last but not least, visit their website and understand what they do.

It seems so obvious, yet few take the necessary time to do it. If you can’t sum up in 30sec what they do before the call, you’re off to a terrible start!

A piece of good advice there: if you didn’t understand their value proposition, let them know. Better be honest and truly care about details than risk being off point.

“I was checking out your company – I’m not quite sure I understood completely what you do.

It’s important for me to make sure I understand your business to be fully able to help you.

Can we start with a quick intro to what you do?”

Which ICP/Persona they’ll probably fall into?

As you do your research, you’ll be able to build assumptions under which ICP/Persona the prospect might fall into. It’s great for you to get started, but can be a major pitfall: as you assume they should fall in a given category, you will also assume their problems and the value they’re seeking.

This is a very dangerous path as your assumptions will most likely turn out wrong. Resists the temptation of rushing to conclusions and make sure to respect your discovery time in your call structure.

You will be surprised as to how many times your assumptions will turn out wrong!

Building a real connection with the prospect

Company-level information & ICP/Persona will be useful to understand use-cases as well as build trust in the first few minutes of the call.

But doing this isn’t only about preparing your case, it’s also about attempting to build a personal connection with your prospect. As mentioned previously, people don’t only buy a solution, but a relationship with that company.

You’re the embodiment of that relationship. And you need to build it over time. Understand what they like, personally, and see if you have mutual connections. Great sources are:

  • Looking into the content they interact with on LinkedIn. Even better if they post themselves.
  • Same, using Twitter!

Coming prepared will help you with the hardest part of the call – building an instant connection.

First 30sec: why do they make or break your call?

The first 30sec are known to make or break any call! Why? It’s like when you meet somebody, you instantly feel like you will like the guy or not.

  • If you don’t, you will not open up.
  • If you do, you’ll be talkative – and a talkative prospect will give you all the info you need to close the deal!

It’s exactly the same with your prospect. Within the first few seconds, you must:

  • Create an atmosphere of a good time: break down barriers that this is a sales call by breaking the ice fast
  • Build trust immediately that you won’t be wasting their time

Any faux pas and the rest of the call will be a disaster.

The tone is 80% of the work – if you’re grumpy, they won’t open up. You need to convey positive/welcoming energy and overall happiness. Greet them when they join, smile, and crack a joke. Don’t let any awkward silence in the first few seconds or you’ll kill it.

If you need some tips, there are a lot of ways to do this – it varies on if your leads come from Inbound or Outbound as well as what you are the most at ease with.

Here are a few:

  • If it’s an inbound lead, a great approach is to work on a mutual connection or success story.
“Hey {{firstname}} thanks for taking the call! 

I was wondering first, how did you hear about us?”.

While quite direct, they’ll probably name a company/somebody you know and be able to build upon that.

“Oh, you’re coming from {{firstname}}. 

They’ve had good success with us indeed to improve {{XYZ}}.

What did they tell you about us?”

It’s even better if they mention a person.

  • If it’s an outbound lead, this opener works great
“Hey {{firstname}} thanks for taking the call! 

Actually, I was curious at to why you took the call!”

Of course, for this to work, you need to let the prospect talk. Resist the temptation of filling the silence.

There are also generic approaches that work great if you have the right positive energy “Hey {{firstname}}, how are we doing today? Not too many meetings?”.

It’s not about the sentence, but how you say it! I have seen people using these tricks and failing because the tone/attitude was not right. You know how it feels, cringy and a waste of time….

Your research can help you to fall back should you fail to break the ice with these.

Whatever icebreaker you chose, don’t forget the goal: create instant connection and trust that this will not be yet another sales pitch, but a trustworthy and laid-back conversation.

Should you fail to do so, your prospect will not open up, will barely listen nor provide you with the info you need to make your case.

Talking about making your case, let’s deep-dive into discovery

1-15 min. mark – Discovery Time: Don’t talk, listen carefully!

You’ve established a connection and set a positive mood. You feel the prospect is in the right place to open up and provide you with all the information you need to solve whatever problem they may have.

However, you’re still not quite sure what their problem is. You probably have an idea, because they fit within a specific segment/ICP in your market understanding. But don’t forget a golden rule in prospecting: never assume you know – have them tell you.

You might assume they fit into a specific category, or should use the product in a specific way. You might be 80% right, but this won’t be enough. What you want to be able to do is to get verbatim their problem. You want them to say it in their own words, so you can repeat it exactly the same way to focus on how you’ll solve that problem!

And to do so, you need to set the tone for the next 10 minutes!

If it’s an inbound request, they probably did a bit of research so you can start with that:

“Alright, the goal of today’s call is to understand {{companyName}} can help you. 

I could do a generic demo, but I know that if I don’t take the time to understand your needs, it’s boring and useless.

I’d love for us to take the next 5-10minutes to discuss what you’ve been doing so far for {{industry}}?

What worked and didn’t work?

The tools you’ve been using and what you have in mind to do with {{productName}}?

See what I did there?

  • I explain I don’t want to do a generic demo but provide value – nice!
  • I set the subject for the next 5-10minutes
  • To start with, I’m asking open-ended questions.
  • Most importantly, I’m asking what doesn’t work => It’s the most important question. If they’re coming to you, something has been wrong up to this point and this will be the key speech!

From then on, do not interrupt your prospect. Let him speak and listen. Take notes, and then deep dive more into their needs.

When taking notes, it is very important your write verbatim how they formulate their own problems, so you may use them later during the call and in your follow-up email.

If it’s an outbound call, the greatest question you can ask is:

“Why did you take the call?”.

It’s the best way to get the discovery started. Do not ask about business priorities, do not ask about BANT questions. NO – this just sets your prospect into a sales pitch mode, and people are less and less patient with this nonsense.

“Why did you take the call?” is great because it is open-ended! And then, as mentioned above, don’t interrupt, listen, and take notes.

From both approaches, progressively deep-dive into their solution asking “How and Why” questions.

When doing discovery calls for LaGrowthMachine, here’s what we generally lead with:

  • What is the goal of potentially using LaGrowthMachine?

    In LaGrowthMachine’s case, it can be to do outbound, recruit people, automate their inbound, do marketing awareness, etc…
  • What are the people/Company you’re prospecting?

    This will have a great impact on the type of sequence people will build with LaGrowthMachine
  • Have you been using Sales Navigator to source leads before?

    To validate they know Sales Navigator, if not, we’ll have to present it and share educational content.
  • Are you using any CRM? If so, when do you create leads within the CRM? Which info do you synchronize?

    This will allow us to get into CRM features, maybe Zapier features. Or not mention them if it’s not important to them.
  • Are you doing any retargeting?
  • Do you have any idea of the number of leads you need to contact per week?

Generally, we also close the discovery part with a more generic question:

“Anything you had in mind we haven’t talked about but would like to see today?”

This is an important question: the discovery is a question-driven process that may end up funneling you into a single topic – while another thing may need to be mentioned. This question allows you to avoid that pitfall.

Obviously, all discovery sessions are different based on what you do and what you’re selling. The goal is to make sure you have a great understanding of their problem!

15-35min. mark – Solving their problem

If your discovery went well, you know by now what their problem is. You can now start to share your screen and show them in context how you’re going to make their day 100x better!

Your demo needs to be mastered – no hesitation allowed. While every company will have a different way of doing demos, here are fundamental rules:

  • Never talk on your own for more than 2 minutes. People have a very low attention span.

    Show some value for 2 minutes, then pause by asking questions related to what you’ve shown and the problem you’ve identified early.

    Then repeat.

    If you talk alone for more than 2 minutes, you’ll miss important information and probably your prospect will switch tabs and stop listening.

    Pausing regularly is a great way to make sure everyone keeps track, answers questions as they come, and engages with the prospect.
  • Adapt your tour to what you’ve learned during discovery.

    80% of what you’ll show will generally be the same to every prospect but do emphasize the problem you’re solving for them. Adapt obviously to what you’ve learned during the discovery phase. Repeat the verbatim you’re taking notes from them.

    When you showed how you’ll solve one of their specific issues, make sure they have seen the value by asking them before moving on!
“I believe that is one of your key problems. 
Is it clear for you how we’ll solve this for you?”

As you advance, look for the signs:

  • If your prospect is asking questions, that’s great, he’s engaged
  • If he’s stopping you to come back to a previous point or show again, that’s great, he wants to know more

On the contrary, if he’s just nodding and acknowledging everything you’re saying, you’ve probably already lost the deal…

Pay attention to time – you want to have time left to wrap up and set the next steps. You must be the time-keeper.

35-45min. mark – Wrap-up and next step

The last 10 minutes are dedicated to any generic questions that generally arise at the end.

Lead the way, but just like the discovery phase, let him speak and feel the room.

“Alright, we’re done. What do you think?”

Mark a pause – resist the temptation to fill the void – it is very important you do so.

You want him to answer without any risk of bias. The question is open-ended and you have to make it very broad so as to let him speak his mind. If you’re asking more precise questions, you’ll bias his feedback. This may drive additional questions, and honest feedback – you’ll be surprised.

Another great approach if there is no question is:

“How do you see this going?”

Again, mark a pause. Let him suggest the next steps and any objections he may have.

For these two questions, it’s key to mark that pause to force him to intervene without any bias.

If you feel it’s been going great, you can show more forward:

“When do you see yourself implementing {{productName}}? 

What’s your timing on this?”

What you want to get out of these last 10 minutes are:

  • A clear go/no-go
  • The next steps according to BANT.
  • Set a date for the next step – it doesn’t have to be a set call. It can be him doing an intro by next week if you need to talk with another person within the company. But you need clear actions steps

Example of actions:

  • Set a date for another call
  • Have him introduce you to any other potential people you need to talk to
  • Set an implementation timeline
  • Set a date when you’ll come back to him if he needs to “talk internally”. You need to get ahead of things

After that, everybody will have had enough and you’ll say goodbye. But you’re not done yet. A quick follow-up is key!

Post-call: Follow-up within 24h with a concrete summary and next steps!

Just like the preparation, following up is key and yet often done too late.

You want your follow-up to:

  • Happen within 24h after your call.
  • Provide them with all the information they need to proceed forward
  • Reinstate how you’ll solve their problem – use the verbatims
  • Define clear next steps

Obviously, set a reminder in your CRM depending on the next steps.

Below are a few examples of follow-ups we send after an inbound demo:

Too many details you say? Well, that’s all we discussed. And ended up in a 4.400€ LaGrowthMachine membership sales:

Only thing wrong here: the Call to Action is quite weak. I could have set a date immediately after. But I hate to be that pushy, especially when I know the sales call went great!

It’s up to you now!

We’ve shared with you the basics of a first 1st sales call which, when implemented, will greatly impact your closing rate. Use it with the right sequence in LaGrowthMachine and close more deals!

Here’s some additional reading you should look into:

Bonus 1: How to handle a technical question you have no clue how to answer

During your tour, you will probably be asked questions you don’t have the answer to. It’s normal and not a bad thing!

It’s bad though if your reaction is wrong: here’s the greatest way how to handle questions you don’t have the answer to

“Wow, that’s a great question! 

I’ve actually never heard it before, believe it or not.

Let me do this for you, let me write down the question that you just ask and I’m gonna get with somebody that will make absolutely sure to get the right answer for you.

Because what I’d hate for you is guess, and tell you something that’s half right half wrong.

I want to make sure I get the right answer for you!”

A great trick from Troy Barter, it’s great for two reasons:

  • It gets you back to what you were talking about
  • It builds credibility. You weren’t going to answer something untrue. Everything else will look more credible!

Bonus 2: Mastering Flow, Intonation, Volume & Accentuation

This article is providing tips for a great structure. But what’s missing from it is the importance of Flow, Intonation, Volume & Accentuation.

A lot can be conveyed in how you speak and use pauses:

  • Pauses allow you to create a form of tension on an important matter
  • Pauses invite, or sometimes even force, the prospect to participate and share their view. They are your most powerful ally
  • Attitude matters too: if you’re grumpy, they will be too. If you’re smiling, they’ll probably be too. Crack a joke now and then, relax the atmosphere
  • Open-ended questions are great to avoid for them to feel like an interrogation. We all hate to be drill-downed with BANT questions, don’t do this!

There are many examples, and a great master at showing how to Flow and regulating your Tone, Volume & Accentuation can change the perspective of a speech is the man itself: