5 Ways to Make Your Discovery Calls More Effective

Just Like Freaky Friday, I Switched Places With My Clients

Today, I want to share with you some great tips about client experience that I learned in the most unusual way: I switched places with my clients.

Here's what's happening. For the past few weeks, I've been interviewing strategists for a special upcoming project for Greatest Story. More to come on that. :)

Being on the Flip Side of a Sales Conversation
So what this means is I've been having multiple sales conversations (also known as "discovery calls") to meet with all sorts of different small business owners who offer strategy. Everyone has been unique - represents a distinct creative angle to their business - and I've learned a lot from this exercise of being on the OTHER side of the sales conversation.

I saw a lot of great things and a lot of things that made it tough for me to say "yes" to a sale. The entire process is confirming a lot of deeply held beliefs I have about sales conversations and giving me new insights that I will incorporate into my discovery process, our Brand Story Discovery Sessions (check these out if you're a small business owner that is stuck when it comes to your logo, website, or more).

So here we go - I'm going to share my best practice insights with you in the hopes they'll help you improve your own sales conversations with prospective new clients!

Best Practices for One-on-One Sales Conversations or "Discovery Calls" with Prospective Clients

(Note: I'm going to use general examples from a big mix of conversations I've had. I haven't even selected a strategist yet, these are just a few of the insights that had me thinking about best practices, not singling any business owner out. We're all awesome and have our own ways of doing business!)

1. Double-Check Your Calendar and Call on Time
This can happen to anybody, but I did have someone call me 20 minutes early for a conversation and I was in the shower so I missed it. This person left a message like I had missed the appointment - but I had the correct time and they didn't. I ran out of the shower to call the person back and it was a little stressful to feel like I had to apologize for something that wasn't my fault. Obviously an honest mistake - but it's easy enough to make sure you call your prospective clients on time, so do everything you can to get this one right - it helps make sure your first impression is a good one.
Tip: Add calendar notifications if you want to have a back-up!

2. If You do a Video Call, Watch What's Visible in the Background
If you are connecting with a prospective client for a meeting via video, keep in mind what's visible in the background. I've spotted things like a laundry basket or clothes in view - stuff you wouldn't see in an office environment.

Now we all have lives and laundry, right? Even so, having anything in the background that could be distracting and doesn't project you as a business can be potentially harmful and not give you the impression you want to give.

I totally get we're all people. Also, it's not a big thing to me personally and isn't affecting my specific decision making. However, not everybody has that sensibility so I do think it's a best practice to make sure anything that doesn't project you as a pro is kept out of the frame.
Tip: My resident sales genius, Adele Michal (we just launched her coming soon pagehere!), uses a shower curtain and tension rod as a swanky background! Easy, inexpensive, and effective - even in a makeshift office environment. Scope it out in her latest videohere

3. Do Your Research and Be Ready to Talk About Your Prospective Client's Problems (Listening Part 1)
Listening is critical in a sales conversation. I find it so important being when I'm interviewing someone to hire - I also have found it to be rare in some cases.

Why listening is critical: Listening builds my trust as a consumer and shows me that you care - and that makes me want to invest with you.

The first part of listening effectively to a prospective client begins at the outset. If you've asked your client to fill out a questionnaire and have some information about them, make sure you know as much about them as you can.

I was surprised by how many people asked me to fill out a questionnaire and then never showed me that they read my questionnaire. They'd start the call basically acting as if they knew absolutely nothing - which was a little frustrating after filling out the information in advance.

So no matter what you do, make sure your prospective client knows that you've read what they've shared with you. Show them by teeing up the conversation by sharing your summary of what you've heard from them so far via their questionnaire and other things you've learned (see below).

4. Show Some Interest in Your Prospective Client's Work (Listening Part 2)
Not only did I have to often share all of the detail I previously gave in a questionnaire, more often than not - the person I was interviewing did not indicate they had even looked at my business - let alone have an opinion or perspective on it.

When I'm looking to invest with someone, that's going to mean my money and my time - which is very often more valuable to me than money. So it's been tough to feel like professionals are making the ask of me to invest with them, but haven't shown any interest in my business at all.

Secondly, it also calls into question whether this person truly understands my business and can help -- which is what I'm trying to ascertain through the conversation in the first place.

This leads me to my final and most critical insights I've had about sales conversations...

5. Know When to Sell and When Not To (Listening Part 3)
What? Aren't I supposed to be selling? Isn't this a sales call, Annie?

Yes and no. Your initial sales conversation isn't just about sales, it's about selling to the right ideal clients for your business - not every client.

Not every client is a great fit for what you do, and that's totally okay. Part of the point of an initial conversation is for both parties to connect and figure out if it's a fit. This is where I saw listening really break down in some of the conversations I've had lately.

Listen to What They Need; Don't Just Sell
Because I'm usually on the other side (the seller, not the client), I've made an extra effort to be very clear with anyone I'm interviewing about exactly what I'm looking for and need right now. I know how important it is to communicate that so the other person can know how they can help (or if they can't).

However, when I've shared this clear explanation/desire in a questionnaire, and then I repeat myself in a sales conversation with the business owner - I've gotten a lot of the professional just steering me towards what they do. They talk about what they offer and don't openly acknowledge that their offering doesn't meet the full needs of what I'm asking for or my business needs.

To me, this is a mistake. The reality becomes an elephant in the room, and it puts both of us in an awkward spot. It quickly becomes clear that they aren't the right person for my particular project, but they haven't offered me the relaxed opportunity to say that to them.

The result is that I have to be as kind as I can to somehow say, hey - sounds like you're not really a fit for this particular need, but thanks so much for your time. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings - and I wish the conversation was framed differently so I wasn't in that spot.

So - while you can rely on your prospects to tell you that they're not a fit, keep in mind that they often won't if you don't provide them the space to - because like me - they feel awkward.

What to do Instead - Leave Room for "Fit"
Instead, I hope you do what one of the strategists did. She said at the very beginning of the call that part of our conversation would be to figure out if we're a great fit - and if we're not, to send me a referral to the right person.

I loved this and it's exactly what I try to do with my own Brand Story Discovery Sessions with prospective clients. I believe in it for this exact and very important reason...

...your best sales conversations are the ones where you have your prospective clients' best interests at heart and act accordingly.

Win or lose the deal, it doesn't matter if you're running a business for the long term. You don't win any points with anyone for selling yourself when you're not the right solution.

When it's becoming clear you're not the right person - it's always better to help someone else as best you can, even if that means pointing them in the right direction of another pro. This will give them a great impression of you so they'll come back when it IS the right fit - or they'll send a friend your way who needs exactly what you do!

Don't be afraid to do that, because if it's not a fit - you're not getting the sale either way. And if you do get it, you stand a high chance of having a tough time making that client happy and not being able to deliver what they need.

And of course, if you ARE a good fit - then SHOW them by listening and demonstrating that you are invested in their business and really get how to help them.

Switching Perspectives

I've learned a ton from sitting in a new perspective these past few weeks. It's been great learning about so many new businesses and getting a chance to see what it's like to be the client looking for help. I'm excited to take these experiences to improve my own conversations with prospective clients with our Brand Story Discovery Sessions.

If you have discovery calls or one-on-one sales conversations for your business, what's one best practice you're going to put into action on your next one? Let me know - I'd love to know how it goes!

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