How to Start an Effective Sales Conversation

What do you say the first time you meet a prospect? How do you engage a prospect in the first few seconds of interaction? 

Let’s say you make a cold call to a prospect. What do you first say to get that prospect’s attention and then engage that person into a productive sales conversation?

Most salespeople wing the initial components of a sales conversation, but prospects will decide in the first seven seconds whether they want to continue a conversation with you. So, your opening or the beginning of that sales conversation is as critical as any other component to the selling process.

How to Start a Sales Conversation Video Summary

How to Start a Sales Conversation Tip #1: Show expertise.

How to Start a Sales Conversation Tip #1: Show expertise.

The first tip on how to start a sales conversation is all about showing the prospect that you know what’s going on in the marketplace. When prospects think a salesperson is going to provide some valuable information, they’re immediately going to listen. Salespeople should start off the conversation by saying something like, “Right now I’m seeing a lot going on in your sector that looks like the following…” to show prospects their value as an expert who sees what’s going on in the industry. This approach to how to start a sales conversation will have prospects sitting up and paying attention to see what they can learn.

How to Start a Sales Conversation Tip #2: List common challenges.

How to Start a Sales Conversation Tip #2: List common challenges.

Once a salesperson has the prospect’s attention, it’s time to list three common challenges seen in the marketplace. The key is to make sure these are challenges that the salesperson can solve. For example, as a sales expert, I’ll say something like, “I see a lot of companies right now that are losing sales to low-cost competitors, frustrated with old-school sales approaches that simply aren’t working on savvy prospects, or just finding it more difficult than ever to set really good quality sales meetings.” All I’ve done is listed off three very simple challenges that are likely relevant to my prospect. What are those challenges that your prospects are facing that your company can help solve? Think about those, write them out, and start to incorporate them into your opening as you consider how to start a sales conversation with your next prospect.

How to Start a Sales Conversation Tip #3: Engage with a question.

How to Start a Sales Conversation Tip #3: Engage with a question.

Of course, in order to know how to start a sales conversation that actually leads to sales, salespeople first have to get the prospect talking. A question is a great tool for engaging prospects. Simply tie off your opener with a bow by asking something like, “Do any of these issues ring true to you?” By listing off three challenges and asking a question like this, you’ll find that the prospect will say something like, “Yeah, actually, we are dealing with one of those challenges”—and just like that, you’re ready to dig into their challenge and your sales conversation is off to the races.

How to Start a Sales Conversation#4: It’s never about you and your product.

How to Start a Sales Conversation#4: It’s never about you and your product.

When you begin that sales conversation, your prospect simply does not care about you or what you sell.  The only thing that prospects care about is themselves.  So make the opening focused entirely on the prospect.

How to Start a Sales Conversation #5: Lead with what you’re seeing in the marketplace.

How to Start a Sales Conversation #5: Lead with what you’re seeing in the marketplace.

Your prospect is interested only in speaking to you, so long as you’re providing value in the conversation.  The number one way that you can provide serious value at the beginning of a selling interaction is by sharing some of your expertise.

This doesn’t mean you should conduct unpaid consulting, but rather, share a couple of trends that you see happening in the marketplace.

How to Start a Sales Conversation #6: Engage the prospect immediately.

How to Start a Sales Conversation #6: Engage the prospect immediately.

As soon as you’ve shared some of the insights you see taking place in your prospect’s marketplace, it’s time to immediately engage the prospect in a conversation to learn whether those trends are affecting his or her business.

Here’s an example of how I, as a sales strategist, might start a conversation with a prospect:

“George, what I am seeing happening with a lot of organizations’ sales teams is that first, the rate of change in the marketplace is really confusing a lot of existing people on sales teams. I’m also noticing that many organizations are consistently getting beat down on price because of the overabundance of low-cost competitors. Finally, I’m seeing that many organizations simply are not getting a truly effective return on their investment in their sales team and in their sales culture.  Do any of these challenges ring true to you?”

By sharing a few of the challenges that I’m seeing in the marketplace and then engaging the prospect, I immediately pull the prospect into the conversation while at the same time showing that I know what I’m talking about, and showing that I am focused on providing value.

The last thing you want to happen is to lose the prospect in those first critical seven seconds. By applying these three simple ideas you’re going to start much more effective and productive sales conversations than you’ve ever done before.

how to start a conversation in salesThis very simple approach to how to start a sales conversation will accomplish a few key things at once. First, your prospect will see you as an expert who knows what’s going on. Second, you’ll engage the prospect in a two-way conversation. Finally, you’ll continue down a powerful sales conversation path based around challenges your prospect is facing that you can help solve. Follow these sales conversation tips in your next prospect interaction to set yourself up for success.

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About the Author Marc Wayshak

Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.

Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.

Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.

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