No two organizations have the same sales cycle, which means the types of sales calls and conversations from company to company will vary. Even within companies, the product or service being offered may differ from department to department. If you’re making a career of sales, you should be familiar with the different conversation types you may encounter along the way.
Outbound Sales: Cold Calling/Prospecting
In B2B and some B2C sales, the selling motion typically looks like this:
The prospect is identified by sales or marketing. They are usually cold but may have engaged with your company through a content download, clicking an ad, or visiting your booth at an event.
The rep reaches out to the prospect via phone, email, and/or social media. These touches are always unscheduled and the prospect doesn’t expect to hear from the rep. The sequence on touches is usually defined within a cadence in the selling motion.
Conversations are short, with outbound sales calls lasting between 1-10 minutes. During that interaction, the rep should effectively deliver the sales pitch for your product or service. Some selling motions require these calls to also cover qualifying questions such as team size and technology.
The desired outcome for outbound, unscheduled conversations is a future scheduled conversation such as a discovery call or demo.
Outbound Sales: Inbound Responses/Warm Calling
Another conversation type for outbound selling is responding to inbound requests. These prospects have filled out a form, sent an email to your company, been referred to your team, or otherwise have given you an indication that they want to talk to a salesperson.
These conversations are unscheduled, but the buyer sort of expects the contact, after all, they reached out to you. Calls in this motion can be unpredictable despite the prospect’s hand raise–you might catch them at a bad time or be unable to reach them.
Inbound Live Conversations
These interactions are sparked by the prospect reaching out to your organization via phone call, chat, or even social media. Something is compelling the prospect to reach out to your organization. It could be a digital marketing campaign, print or direct mail pieces, TV or radio ads, or referrals.
For inbound sales, the buyers want to talk to a sales rep, right now. The conversation will include a lot of back and forth as the buyer and the seller ask and answer questions.
Live, inbound interactions are typically routed to sales reps based on geographic region, ad campaign, product or simply round-robin. Reps may sit in a call or chat queue to respond to inbound queries.
Conversations average between five and twenty minutes. Since the sale is more transactional, it usually closes in one or two conversations. Many organizations choose to create sales scripts for inbound sales for reps to follow to maximize revenue.
Scheduled Conversations for Complex Sales
As the name implies, these scheduled conversations are expected by both the buyer and the sales representative. The call, web conference, or in-person meeting usually lasts between 30-90 minutes.
Commonly, more than one party joins from the buyer and seller side. The sales process for a complex sale generally consists of three or more scheduled calls where buyers and sellers expect long conversations.
The types of calls that comprise a complex sale might be referred to by any of the following:
Discovery or Qualification, where lots of open-ended questions should be asked.
Demo, Group Demo, Solution or Sales Presentation in which the buyer will be shown your product(s) or service(s).
Scoping Call or Technical Discovery where relevant stakeholders from both sides discuss things like integrations, installations, etc.
Follow Up, discussions where sales reps work with the decision-maker or champion at the buyer organization to move the deal forward.
Closing, which should result in a verbal commit to the deal from the buyer.
Outbound Follow Up
These conversations happen for both transactional and complex sales and last somewhere between three and ten minutes. Sellers reach out to prospects unscheduled to get updates and keep the deal warm. Since the buyer has interacted with the seller in the past, they’re generally willing to have a slightly longer conversation than they would for a cold call.
Renewal, Upsell, or Repurchase Discussions
In any organization with recurring revenue models, renewals and upsell conversations are critical. Customer churn is a major concern, especially in the SaaS world.
Renewal or repurchase conversations typically occur a few weeks or months prior to the end of the existing contact or product/service lifespan. These may be the responsibility of sales or customer success reps. These conversations typically involve a scheduled call that lasts between 15-90 minutes.
Upsell conversations are a little different. They can happen at any point after the initial contract is signed. For some products and services, these conversations are very transactional. At other organizations, particularly those selling into enterprise companies, they are much more strategic. Like renewals, customer success or sales may own these.
By understanding the types of sales conversations, you’ll have a better grasp of how to execute them. The best sales professionals understand the importance of each call and where they belong in the sales cycle. These are also helpful to understand when you’re looking for new job opportunities in the sales world.
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