Blog

by Bob Woods
on September 13, 2016

Nail that Initial Sales Call with LinkedIn and Social Selling

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Social Selling (and by extension, using LinkedIn) is not a passive process.

It’s not just about writing articles and/or blog posts, updating your LinkedIn timeline, making sure your Profile is set up to generate phone calls and emails, and so on.

While all of those are very helpful in Social Selling and using LinkedIn, you have one ultimate goal: to actively use LinkedIn and other social tools to schedule phone calls and meetings with qualified buyers. You’ll then utilize whatever sales process you normally use to filter them out in your sales funnel and take the ones that make it through to the close. (Social Selling can help in the prospect-to-close process, too, but that’s another article.)

Those in sales know that this process takes time and especially effort. Social Selling is no different. I want to be clear about this point (so I’m putting it in bold): One of Social Selling’s major purposes is to get that initial, all-important first call booked—be it a phone call, Webinar/screen share, in-person meeting, or another form of conversation—and then take the conversation offline. The actual selling starts once you’re offline.

I do get questions on how to do just that by using Social Selling. This is where what I call the “discovery call” comes in. It’s a short (15 minutes or 30 minutes) call where you get to show your expertise in a way that hopefully not only solves a problem or two, but gets them to want more. That “want” will hopefully lead to a closed sale.

How To Set The Call

Just like everything else in the sales process, it involves a templated script (you do use scripts and templates in your sales process, right?). While I have all kinds of conversation-starting templates for various situations, the following is the base for all of my scripts and serves as a generic “starter” for your online-to-offline activities.

Whether you’re a straight-up Social Seller, or you’re just using LinkedIn to augment your general sales activities, this script can help you with your first-degree connections. Feel free to customize it for your situation, “voice,” and so on:

[NAME]:

I invite you to have a conversation. Whether or not we decide to do business together, I am confident our call will be full of insights that can help you grow your business. Here is a link to my calendar: http://www.BookACallWithBob.com. Please pick both a time-frame and specific time that are most convenient for you. I am looking forward to our call.

There are other techniques for reaching second- and third-degree connections, people you don’t know, and so on. I’ve written about those in the past. Think of this article as more of a generic way to both secure and move through that all-important first call.

(NOTE: I know that scheduling via an online calendar can seem impersonal. I usually include a short note about how using one saves time and headaches on both sides. If you’ve ever been in one of those endless “let’s set up a time” email chains—I can almost guarantee you have been, too—I think you’ll see the value in using one.)

After the Appointment is Set

Just as in any call, it’s time for you to put all of that Social Selling work you’ve done to practical use. The call/meeting/whatever needs to be chock full of insights about your industry, and to prove further that you (and by extension, your company) are that “go-to gal/guy” in the business. You also need to determine if you can be of help to them and that the both of you are a good fit; if so, this process should ensure many follow-up conversations. And you need to listen to what they’re saying as well. Here’s how in seven steps:

Pre-call prep. Because of course you should. Research the person’s LinkedIn Profile. Use the “People Similar to [NAME]” and even the “People Also Viewed” sections in their Profile to check out their competitors. Visit and digest their company’s LinkedIn page, too. And use any other tools, Websites, etc. that you usually do for pre-call prep in your other selling activities.

Start the call right. Make sure she/he knows straight off the top that this phone call is about them: “[NAME], I am looking forward to our call. Before I jump into an agenda, is there anything specific you were hoping we would cover today?” This question also hones in on any need they have and/or the direction they would like the call to go; after all, it is vital to ensure that you meet her/his needs. If you jump right into your agenda without asking, you may entirely miss the opportunity to serve their needs.

A fork in the road. From here, one of two things will happen:

  1. If they have an agenda or specific questions, just go with that. Follow their needs and don’t worry about anything else, Just be sure that you offer insights that you promised her/him when you invited them to talk. I’d say this happens three out of four times in my calls; what’s more, you’ll have a better chance of further engaging them in subsequent calls or meetings if they’re inquisitive at the start.
  2. If they took your call because you asked for it, you’d need to flip everything you ever knew about networking on its head: You’ll need to talk about yourself. As an example, I say “Great; I am looking forward to each of us learning more about our respective businesses so we can explore ways we may be able to help one another. I am a sales trainer and coach. I’ve been on LinkedIn since it started, and I use LinkedIn and Social Selling as a prospecting tool, too. I use a proven curriculum that has helped hundreds of clients; from individual salespeople up to Fortune 2000 companies. I am also a speaker and writer, and have published a best-selling book on how to monetize LinkedIn and Social Selling for business development. As promised, when I requested this call with you, I’d like to learn more about what you do and who you help and possibly offer you some strategies that can have an immediate impact on your business, so please tell me about you.” By giving them more of an idea of what you do, they’ll likely come up with questions or situations they have so that you can go to the next step.

Time to be schooled. Now it’s time to learn just enough about them so that you can offer helpful ideas. You don’t need to hear their entire life story, though. The only way you can make this call effective at this point is to ask targeted questions to help them zero in on their current situation. These questions can and will lead you to offer powerful tips, strategies, and ideas that will have an impact on their business. Then let them talk. And…

Listen. I mean, really listen. Take notes (put them in your CRM, if you have one). Also, ask insightful questions based on what they’re saying. You’ll refer to them in the next step.

Demonstrate you’ve been both listening and care about them. Hands down, the best way to do this is to recap what you heard from them. At this point, you can offer one or two implementable steps based on their specific situation that will make this call well worth their time.

At this point, you need to keep two things in mind:

  1. This call was not free to them. It took up her or his time, which is more valuable than money in many cases. Plus, time is always money.
  2. Your time is worth money, too… as is your expertise. Don’t give away the store; instead, offer them just one or two “to-do” items. Just do the best you can to offer something that’s new.

The close. In this case, your “close” is… a second phone call or meeting, where you can hopefully close the sale (depending on your sales process and their specific situation). As I approach the end of the call, for example, I say “[NAME], we’ve covered a lot on this call. I look forward to hearing about (whatever to-dos you gave her/him). I have some other ideas I’ve offered some of my clients that would be very beneficial for your situation as well. I know we are close to our time today, but with your permission, I would like to schedule a second call/appointment so I can share them with you. Can we look our calendars now?”

Keep in mind that this initial call isn’t a “sales call” per se, where you offer specifics on what you can offer them. That process will start to happen in subsequent calls or meetings.

Of course, each type of sale is different. Your process may be somewhat (or totally) different from what I do when I go through it. Feel free to modify these steps, but keep one thing in mind: This initial call is a discovery conversation; one where both of you determine if there’s a basis to move forward in the sales process.

Scheduling

In my online calendar, I usually offer the option of having a 15-minute call or a 30-minute call. In either case, I have a 15-minute buffer built into the back end of my calendar, in case the call goes long. I highly recommend this for you, too; after all, you never want to rush a call, right? In my opinion, nothing is more impersonal and (quite frankly) rude than having to wrap up a call before it ends “naturally.”

Just as in any sales strategy, properly securing and conducting that initial phone call plays a crucial role in both Social Selling and in your process.

NOTE: This post was originally published at LinkedIn.