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January 9, 2017

6 Sales Call Conversation Starters You Need to Try

One of my favorite things about my team is that we are constantly focused on helping each other do better. After one of us finishes a call that doesn’t progress, someone may say something along the lines of, “Ah man, so close, I could have taken that somewhere!” That’s when we start discussing what happened in the call and together try to figure out how we could have driven it better.

We do this because we know the struggle is real. Any B2B or SaaS company’s sales team likely battles to either get prospects to pick up, or move sales pipeline further—or both. The key to success can often be boiled down to good, insightful conversations. But how do you start those conversations? Below are six tips to help you have conversations that move the needle.

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1. Know the person and company on the other end.

Blocking off time to make those dials out and working through cadences is great for SDR and BDR teams. However, there’s a fine line between high activity and good quality activity. Hands up if you’ve frozen up when someone actually picks up the phone after you hit 10 voicemails? That can happen when you get what we like to call “dial crazy”: after countless unfruitful dials, you lose the personal touch when a prospect finally picks up!  

Proper research and profiling can help prevent the “dial crazy” syndrome, but reviewing these notes at each touchpoint before making the call will be the remedy. Ask yourself: “What am I going to say if this person saysnow is a good time to talk?” Know the company, their particular role, who they might report to, and what they are like as a person. Most of this information can be found in a matter of minutes just by looking at the person’s social media channels, blog posts or news articles, and, of course, the company website.

What we like to do at Vidyard is use tools such as SalesLoft, Marketo, and Vidyard itself, to get a quick snapshot of each prospect’s journey, like what pages they have looked at on the website, which of your videos they have watched, and more.

With Vidyard, we can even discover how much of those videos—including marketing videos on our site and any videos our own salespeople personalized for the recipient—the prospect watched. Information like this is incredibly valuable; we know most audiences engage with video much more than they engage with any other content type, and being able to track what each person is watching and interested in—or not interested in!—helps us tailor our conversations for success.

We don’t make assumptions based on LinkedIn bios and titles; our salespeople are armed with individualized information about each lead and prospect so we can truly personalize our approach.

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2. Keep in mind all past touch points with the prospect.

Another symptom of “dial crazy” syndrome is forgetting that you already left them the same voicemail yesterday. Or realizing you already sent that email template.

Always know what your touchpoints have looked like, what emails they have opened, what particular links and resources they clicked. Tools like SalesLoft or Outreach can be great for keeping track of your activities.

If you want to go the extra mile and really set yourself up for success, you need something a little more. We all know that an “opened” email doesn’t mean it’s a “read” email, and there’s no way to tell how much they paid attention to your message, so you have nothing to help you follow up. If you’re using a powerful video platform like Vidyard, or the free Vidyard Chrome extension, you can get detailed analytics and notifications (right inside the CRMs you already use!) on when a prospect viewed your videos, what they watched, and for how long, so you can follow up at the best time, with the very best message. What does that lead to? Better engagement, shorter deal cycles, stronger relationships, and higher quality touch points! (Video also has the added bonus of being much more engaging and personal than text, so your prospects will likely absorb more of your message than if you had sent a boring text email!)

3. Don’t sell.

I sell Vidyard, a SaaS platform that helps companies drive revenue through the use of online video. And sometimes, I let “video, video, VIDEO!” take over my thought process instead of thinking about the prospect’s problem, and how—or if—Vidyard can help. About a month ago, I was reviewing a call with my manager in which the prospect told me that they were quite busy working on a new online community. Nothing they had told me seemed to be relevant to video off the top of my head, but I also failed to ask them more about what they did want to talk about. For all I know, that online community could have a great use for video.

This goes back to the simple 80/20 rule of selling: let the prospect do the talking 80 per cent of the time. Ask the right questions – and “right” doesn’t need to mean “directly related to what you’re selling.” Find that key point that can give you more information, even if it isn’t totally relevant to what you eventually want to sell them. These types of questions are great to get a better understanding of what their priorities are and whether it even makes sense to prospect this company!

A video platform will also give you the insights you need about your prospects on an individual level. When you can see what someone is watching, and how long they’re engaging with each video, you know which questions to ask and what they’re interested in. This way you won’t be selling hard and shoving ideas and products down their throat that they aren’t interested in. Instead, you’ll be help to solve their actual problem with your best solution!

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4. Be honest.

The “RE: we met at X event” email subject or the cold call introduction the receiver knows is a sales call probably won’t work. Don’t fib and say they visited your booth when you know they only attended the conference and made no connection with your company.

Be honest right from the start with the value of the conversation. Try something like: “We haven’t spoken before, but I saw your article on the Top 5 Reasons Video is Key for B2B Businesses. This is right up my alley and I was hoping to chat about it for a few minutes.” This call intro got me a great 15-minute conversation!

Be honest when trying to get them on the phone…and be honest through the whole conversation. If you focus on what their problems are rather than just selling your solution and trying to make it ‘fit’, you’ll create happy customers instead of raising your company’s churn rates after selling products to companies who didn’t actually need them.

5. Be human.

It’s okay to pause, to ask for clarification; don’t just smile and nod.  It’s also okay to have some faint noises in the back…and sometimes not so faint is okay too. Our floor at Vidyard gets pretty loud every time we sign a new logo—a giant bell rings and there’s a lot of clapping, banging, and cheering. Many times, I’ve had to tell a prospect, “Hang on, I don’t mean to interrupt you but the team is about to celebrate for about ten seconds here…okay, I can hear you now!” While it may feel like a noisy interruption to the call, an event like this can actually help you build credibility and relatability with your prospect, and bring them into the excitement of your success. After all, we all know that people do business with people they like.

At the end of the day, just remember both you and your prospect are human, so meet them eye to eye. I called a gentleman in Sweden and didn’t realize the Swedish workday often ends by 4PM. He was at hockey practice, so we talked about Canada and hockey for a couple minutes!

Using video to create that initial or follow-up piece also helps keep the conversation human, showing the prospect that they are not just another number or lead. Video shows them that there is a person associated to that voice on the phone and this person actually cares enough to make them a personal video.

That personal touch using video makes the prospect feel more responsible to respond to your email, even if it is just to let you know that they are not interested. Other times, you may have piqued their interest enough to get them to provide you with a follow-up contact or next steps!

6. Understand when a call is valuable—and when it isn’t.

Yes, they are busy. They have to get back to their job. But you’re busy, too. You have to be able to identify which calls are worth continuing, and which aren’t, because either the prospect needs more information, or the call likely won’t lead to a closed deal. Rather than saying, “I know you’re busy”, cap the call at 15 minutes and say something like, “I’ve got to run into a meeting in a couple minutes here and I know you’re busy too, so why don’t we continue this conversation Wednesday at 10AM?” Always have the next step in mind so that there is no fading murmur like, “I have another meeting so…thanks for this!” This way, you don’t have to spend time trying to justify your product; if they need more information you can send them marketing or sales assets quickly through email, or if you want to get them off the phone you can move on to your next call quickly.

Offer the next step, even if it is just an email follow-up because you want to qualify them out. If it is a next call, be ready to be flexible with the time you offer. I have a two-time rule: if I offer two times to the prospect and neither of them work, I tell them I will send them my Calendly link where they can book a time at their convenience. And then I follow up with them if they did not take action! The next step can even be a personalized video that you create just for them and send through email, which is more engaging and will help you stay remembered. It’s quick, easy, and gets you back to work while helping you move a lot more potential deals faster.

If you learn about your prospects, find interesting and innovative ways to connect with and engage them, and have honest and human conversations with them, you’ll have more calls that are more valuable not just for them, but for you. What sales techniques have you tried recently that have worked for you? Was video one of them? I’d love to hear all about it.

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Gunjan Marwah

Gunjan Marwah

Gunjan is a former Sales Development Representative at Vidyard and loves using video to sell video. Outside of the office, she loves travel photography, music, and coffee.