How to pivot a conversation from asking questions to booking a meeting

Collin Stewart, CEO
01 March 2018

It’s ingrained in us the minute we begin our sales careers as SDRs: we are here to book qualified meetings for Account Executives.

It’s that simple.

As many meetings as you can book, the company (and the AE, for that matter), will take. And you will be compensated for setting up those meetings.

Sure, part of your job is to have unparalleled knowledge of your specific product or service. You are also expected, over time, to refine your email messaging and ensure your copy sparkles. And, you will have to learn how to build targeted, high-quality lists.

Critical tasks, all. But if you strip the gig down to it’s core, there is just no avoiding that all-important initial responsibility: your are there to book meetings for your company’s Account Executives.

That function, as we all know, requires an SDR to hand off each of those qualified meetings to an AE. And that handoff process, if not deftly handled, can add unnecessary complexity and confusion to a sales cycle. That is not a good thing.

“Yeah, so, the thought of moving to scheduling a meeting from a cold call can be daunting. So, I hear often from people that this is difficult,” says James Buckley, Account Executive with Cirrus Insights, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“But, I think, if you’re smart about this and focused on building a relationship of trust and mutual respect and an obvious goal in mind, then setting up the call should be very organic. Everyone should be aware of that goal.”

If you do achieve that organic, natural conversation with a prospect, how do you get that meeting booked? How, then, do actually get something on the calendar?

“I’ve often said things like: ‘this is going great, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time, why don’t we put a meeting on the calendar for next Wednesday? And I send some times so they can choose,” add Buckley. “But, I choose that day out of the clear blue. I just make sure to give everyone enough time to prepare if they need to. That seems to works really well.

Suggest a specific day, then send them a bunch of times and let them choose one that works well.”

Maintaining Relationships

So, you’ve got something on the calendar with your qualified prospect. Awesome – this could soon be new pipeline and, hopefully, revenue. Without a doubt, that’s what your company needs and wants. But, according to Buckley, the role of the SDR with this prospect is not done quite yet. There’s more legwork.

“After you make the pass off, attend the booked demo if you are an SDR. Personally, I don’t want the prospect to feel like they have to build a new relationship from scratch. If you attend, things become easier for the prospect, and for the AE,” says Buckley.

“The assumption is that I briefed my colleague on everything there is to know about the prospect. The prospect knows that me and my colleague have spoken, and we are up to speed on their needs. This helps keep the conversation going in the right direction, and doesn’t force the prospect to have to repeat themselves, or discuss their pain points again. That can be difficult for people.”

Buckey is quick to add, however, that not every prospect is built the same. In fact, Buckley says there are times when a great discover call doesn’t lead immediately to a demo. Sometimes a great discovery call leads to…another discovery meeting.

“If you have a phone call that is going well but the lead is being cagey, maybe set another call. If they are local, have a coffee with them,” says Buckley. “Don’t send the prospect to an AE yet. You want to ensure the pass off has a solid level of camaraderie.”

Trust: The Foundation of All Sales

Ensuring you have a presence in the demos you booked is, clearly, a great way to continue building trust with a prospect and ensuring they feel comfortable and taken care of as the sales cycle progresses. But, to be clear, being a part of the sales cycle past booking a meeting is an example of continuing to build trust. Establishing that critical foundation actually started from the minute you first connected with a lead.

“All relationships are founded on only one thing: trust. And if you can be a relatable human being to one individual, they will trust you. Knowing something about a current event, the individual you are calling, and the industry they work in, it will really help the person open up,” says Buckley.

“There is no excuse for not doing this – you always have time. The last thing you want to be is that person calling, trying to sell and not knowing anything about the person you are talking to.”

Once you have a lead on the phone and you’ve built some rapport it’s important to start getting some information from them. The best way to do that, Buckley says, is to use a series of open-ended questions that inspire conversation. Black or white, yes-or-no questions, on the other hand, tend to stifle conversation.

“I do really well just finding out if we are a fit for an overall process. Instead of ‘do you use Salesforce?’ I’ll say ‘how familiar are you with Salesforce?’” says Buckley. “It’s a little softer, and prompts are more nuanced answer.”

  • More open-ended questions:
  • How long have you been using a tool?
  • Has it been useful for you?
  • Does everybody use the same tool?
  • Are there other people that a change in tool would affect?

Meeting The Rest of The Team

As the final question above illustrates, an undeniable truth of sales, in particular tech sales, is that a purchasing decision is rarely made by one person.

As such, the lead you are prospecting to, and hoping to move along the sales cycle, is not the only person that you and your team is going to speak with. So, says Buckley, make sure you are always asking who else you can speak with or include in follow up calls and demos. For a new SDR, that can sound daunting (more people to talk to!?!?).

But, adds Buckley, if you are organized and consistent in your communication with your prospect’s team, you will become an important contact for a number of people in that company, “It is usually a team that evaluates a new tool. There are a lot of moving parts.

So,when there is a team involved, I email everyone at once. That keeps everyone on the same page, and establishes yourself as the main point of contact,” says Buckley.

“If you are a consistent person in someone life, it is easier to do business with that. Consistency is huge.”

For more on James Buckley’s sales and hand off best practices, make sure you check out his recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.