Overwhelmingly, many deals are lost after the first call that a sales rep has with a prospect. The leads may be well qualified and ready to be taken down the path to close, but what transpires during that initial call determines whether a sale will close.

As in many situations in life, first impressions matter a great deal. That's why it's so important to structure your calls to establish rapport and drive toward a sense of trust and camaraderie with your prospects.

Ensuring that an intro call goes well and kick-starts the selling process isn't just the responsibility of the sales rep. A teleprospecting rep can do much to increase the odds that leads convert to forecast at the highest possible rates.

Remember: if that initial call is a flop, then nobody has done their job. It's a team effort, and if a lead doesn't get to the next step... nobody wins.

Follow these three very simple tips to help ensure that your sales reps succeed on the first call.

1. Own the invite

Make certain that after a lead is qualified and a prospect agrees to speak to Sales, your teleprospecting rep (not your sales rep) sends the invite to both parties. The invite can serve as both an introduction to your salesperson and a reaffirmation of the great conversation your teleprospecting rep just had with the prospect.

Don't just have your teleprospecting rep write up the lead and expect the salesperson to facilitate the invite. Stay involved. There is no better way to ensure that your kids get on the bus to school than to wait with them at the bus stop.

2. Be the meeting host and its stenographer

Make sure that your teleprospecting reps are attending the calls they have scheduled for your sales reps. They should be introducing your salesperson to the prospect and summarizing the first conversation. That will add instant accountability for the prospect. With your teleprospecting rep on the phone, there will be virtually no way for your prospects to say that they are no longer interested.

Also, make sure your teleprospector takes copious notes on the call to be entered into your CRM after the call. Doing so will provide a record of all the great information exchanged, and it also could be a real help to your salesperson, who may have missed something during the discussion.

3. Meet after the call to debrief

Have your teleprospecting rep meet with the salesperson to review the call and discuss how it went, because he needs to understand what the salesperson liked and didn't like about the call. He must also understand what it was about that particular opportunity that made it move forward.

Most important, your teleprospecting rep needs to ask what he could have done differently: What kind of information could he have gathered while qualifying the lead that would have made the call even better? The credibility gained by asking this question is invaluable and will go a long way toward cementing reciprocal respect between your teleprospecting reps and the salespeople they support.

Conversion rate is what counts

The ultimate success metric we are driving toward here is conversion rate—the percentage of all leads passed along that will end up on your sales rep's forecast as stage 1 pipeline. This is the most critical metric in the measurement of any teleprospecting campaign. It's not logical to evaluate your lead generation efforts solely on closed business. By looking at conversion rate you are gaining a more accurate picture of whether your teleprospecting team is doing its job.

The purpose of any teleprospecting team is to drive new pipeline to your salespeople based on agreed-upon qualification criteria. If Marketing and Sales have agreed on what a lead needs to contain and (a) your teleprospecting reps gather the required information, and (b) the call occurs with Sales, and (c) those leads progress into pipeline... then your teleprospectors have done their job.

However, as already noted, don't just turn your back and move on at that point. Make sure your teleprospectors follow their leads, as instructed earlier. Have them take an active role in the post-conversion life of their leads. The live training, teamwork, and appreciation they will gain for how challenging sales can be will only serve to pump up their conversion rates.

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Close the loop and follow your leads after the pass. The forced engagement that doing so causes between your teleprospectors and salespeople will pay massive dividends in the form of conversion to forecast. In the end, that is all that matters.

Communicate exactly why you are requiring this level of engagement between teleprospector and sales rep. Explain the critical success metrics you are trying to achieve and how this approach helps. Get everyone on the same page, and watch the conversion rate increase across your team.

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image of Peter Gracey
Peter Gracey is chief operating officer at AG Salesworks, a B2B teleprospecting and marketing services firm.