How to Run a Bulletproof Negotiation

Negotiation is one of the most difficult, and in my opinion, poorly understood aspects of the sales process.  If there's at least one thing I've learned about leading sales reps, epecially less experiences ones, they do not know how to negotiate effectively.  Even if they run a flawless sales process, they give up loads of value after having created so much in everything they did prior.  While the customer ultimately gets the better end of this deal, it's not effective for building a business over the long term.  Heavy discounting erodes margin and eliminates a business's ability to invest back into their own people, which in turn, limits the quality of the total customer experience.   

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Inbound Sales from the Front Lines [Part 5 of 5]: Concluding a Connect Call and Transitioning into the Exploratory Call


If you're wondering how to run an effective connect call, these are are five key questions you need to have answers to.  This post will be helpful to: 

  • New sales reps, or experienced reps that just want a refresher
  • Managers looking to help their reps improve their connect calls 
  • Directors, VPs, or SVPs, looking for actionable coaching they can provide to their front line sales managers

How long should the Connect Call last?

The Connect Call should be no more than 10 minutes.  Let me repeat myself -- 10 Minutes.  No more.  You can go less than 10 minutes, but I would be surprised if you ever feel like you’re running out of things to ask your prospect in a 10-minute window.  Remember, if you’re working in a sales environment that requires you to work more than a handful of deals per year to make your numbers, you need to systematically work through a relatively large volume of prospects daily (likely anywhere from 20-40 per day).  Every minute you spend with one prospect is one minute less you are not able to spend with another.  In addition, keeping the call to 10 minutes is designed to leave the prospect wanting more.  Remember, you caught them out of the blue.  You are there to add value, establish some trust, and leave them wanting more.  Get off the call.  

What specific pieces of information should I be gathering during the Connect Call?

I have thought about question many, many times over.  How much information is too much?  Which pieces of information are the RIGHT ones to gather?  Should it vary from rep to rep or not?  Why or why not?  My first piece of advice is that whatever you decide, it should be decided at the SVP, VP/Director, or Segment level.  The information should be standardized.  This allows an organization to obviously scale faster and provide consistent training to all from all levels, organization wide.  Second, and this is just my personal opinion based off of almost four years of observations, during the Connect Call you should be gathering:

  •  A firm grasp of whether or not the prospect has a compelling reason to change, and what that reason is, 

  • A clear understanding of why that compelling reason carries urgency with it; in other words, “Why Now?”, 

  • How much authority the person you are speaking with possesses, which may not be obvious from their LinkedIn profile alone, and 

  • Any other pertinent information that is correlated with your ability to help a prospect address their compelling reason to change (but not more than what you can gather in 10 minutes or less).

Is it OK to speak with a lower level employee, or non Decision-Maker?

Short answer: Yes.  You’re going to have to start somewhere.  Does this mean you should talk to an intern or executive assistant?  Probably not, but not definitely not.  You have to remember that the decision-maker is rarely the one doing all of the research on how to solve a problem he or she has.  They often times delegate that information to lower level team members and you have to earn their trust to move up the decision-making ladder.  Make these people your champions and as long as they involve the true decision-makers and give you access to those decision-makers, they will be your best friends.  

Should I push back or ever go negative during the Connect Call?

Absolutely.  During the Connect Call, you should always be leading with how you can help your prospect.  And if you’re running the Connect Call properly, you probably have a number of positioning statements that are designed to tease out those pain points your business helps prospects solve.  


For example, inside of HubSpot’s Agency Partner Team, we would often use a positioning statement that sounded something like, “Typically, when I speak with an agency like yours, they express concerns over their clients coming to them asking for services they don’t provide.  As a result, they have often have to refer that business away.  Has that ever happened to you all?”  

How should I close the Connect Call and establish next steps?

The idea here is to use the positioning statement to find a vein that opens up a broader conversation.  I recommend anywhere from three to four positioning statements that could open those longer conversations.  As you go through these statements, if you find that your prospect isn’t reacting to anything, it’s probably time to go negative.  However, the way in which you go negative matters and it’s delicate.  Here’s how I would recommend delivering it as simply, professionally, and politely as possible: “Well, it sounds like everything is going pretty well and there’s no reason to change the way you’re doing things now.  Would you agree or did I miss something?”  


The beauty in going negative is that the outcome is binary.  It’s a Yes or No outcome.  After delivering the “going negative” lines, the prospect will either agree with you, in which case you’ve accurately assessed the situation and saved yourself time; or, the prospect will tell you that they’re wrong and will instantly reveal EXACTLY what they’re looking for help with and why it’s so urgent to address now.  In other words, they’ll end up selling you on why YOU should keep talking with them!

How do I wrap up the Connect Call and transition into next steps?

Again, this will depend on the specific sales process that your organization has laid out and that you should be following; however, there are a few things I would recommend.  First, do not ask if a prospect would like to have another call with you.  Tell them.  At this point, you know better than they do as to whether or not they’re a company you can help, so say so.  As you wrap up, I would use something like this: “I know you weren’t expecting my call today, but I appreciate you taking some time to connect. Based on [compelling reason to change] and [why it’s important to address now], we might be able to help you; however, I need to learn more about your business. I have my calendar open now for [whatever time] tomorrow morning.  Is that open for you?” I cannot reiterate how crucial this step is -- not only on the Connect Call, but for EVERY step of the sales process.  One of the most common mistakes sales reps make -- and also one of the easiest to fix -- is not having a clear next step decided upon and a corresponding date upon which that next step will happen.  

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Brian Signorelli
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