control sales conversations

How to Control Sales Conversations

Many sales representatives only start to think about closing the deal later in the sales process. However, to really set yourself up for closing, you need to be setting the groundwork from the very beginning. The best way to do this is to exercise control over sales conversations. If you can do this, you can successfully deploy a solution-selling approach.

This approach means diagnosing the prospect’s problems early in the sales process. Then, the sales representative recommends a solution for the problem and explains why the proposed solution addresses the prospects’ needs. When using the solution selling approach, the sales representative needs to be focused on value. Getting derailed by price concerns and other things the prospects raise can be detrimental to this approach.

Here are some tips for taking control over sales conversations so that you can sell your solution:

1. Early on in the process, identify and understand the prospect’s major pain points and aspirations.

By asking the right questions in your early conversations, you can discover the prospect’s major pain points. This should guide the rest of your approach in sales conversations. When conversations start to get off track, gently steer the conversation back to the original pain points. Remind the prospect why they’re seeking your help.

In addition to uncovering the pain points, identify the prospect’s aspirations. What do they hope to achieve? Use this knowledge to paint a picture for them.

2. Create an action plan for closing the deal.

Once you’ve had your initial conversation with a prospect, create a simple template that outlines a realistic plan for how you are going to close the deal. Include a step-by-step description of every step in the process. This helps you to visualize closing the deal and allows you to think strategically about what you want to accomplish in every conversation. The plan should include potential roadblocks and steps for navigating them.

Consult your action plan periodically to remind yourself about what you hope to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish it.

3. Go into every sales conversation with a clearly defined plan and goal. 

The best sellers don’t just play things by ear. They enter every conversation with a goal for the conversation and a plan for how to achieve that.

Realistically, you might not always achieve your top goal. So, you should also have a backup goal in mind. That enables you to make progress on the close even if things don’t go exactly as you might have wished.

4. Subtly guide the conversation, but don’t simply recite a sales script without alteration. Shift the conversation towards value.

Subtlety is key for guiding sales conversations. Prospects can tell right away when the seller is simply reciting from a pre-existing script. To avoid this pitfall, be natural in steering the conversation towards the value your solution provides. Acknowledge what the prospect is saying, but redirect the conversation towards value.

5. Decide when to introduce price into the conversation.

Studies demonstrate that top sellers usually first raise the issue of the price at the 38-46 minute mark of an hour-long call. This enables them to establish the solution’s value before wading into this tricky territory.

Prospects will want to discuss price at some point. If the seller can be the one to raise the topic, they can set the terms of the discussion and remain focused on value.

6. Encourage your prospect to ask questions by providing just enough information to raise their interest.

Although it’s tempting to get your best pitch out there right away, this tactic doesn’t really engage prospects in a true back-and-forth conversation. Instead, provide information that piques their interest. They will ask for additional information, and that allows you to engage. You’re still controlling the conversation, but it’s more natural than a straight sales pitch.

7. Refocus the conversation and explore the prospects’ priorities.

At some point in the conversation, the prospect is likely to discuss tricky topics such as price and potential reasons why the solution might not work for them. Without dismissing the prospect’s concerns, refocus the conversation towards the solution’s value as it relates to their priorities.

8. Exchange value instead of giving it away.

Making a lot of concessions early in the sales process sets yourself up for an unproductive negotiation session and possibly losing the deal. Concessions are counterproductive when it comes to establishing the value of your solution because it prompts prospects to think that maybe your solution isn’t really as valuable as you claim. Be flexible, but make sure that you’re getting something in return for concessions.

9. Ask questions when the prospect raises objections.

A well-placed question can be invaluable when it comes to helping a prospect to reframe an objection. For example, if the prospect worries about price, say, “I understand your concern. What other plan do you have to address the problem?”

By framing your response as a question, you enable the prospect to handle the objection for you. They better understand the value of your solution when they can articulate it in their own words.

10. Be willing to challenge your prospect on occasion. 

Customers want a business partner, not a yes-person. Sellers who are in control of the sales conversation are willing to challenge the prospect’s ideas on occasion. If the prospect loses sight of their major problems and ambitions, don’t simply accept the framing of the issue. Use questions and gentle rebuttals to challenge their thinking and show your solution’s value. 

11. Use language that encourages your prospect to think about how your solution can help them to succeed.

Ultimately, you want to show the prospect a cohesive and emotionally moving story about how your solution can help them meet their business aspirations. To do this, use the language of success early and often in sales conversations. Help the prospect to visualize the value your solution offers and how it will change the game for them. If you can show them a better future, you can close the deal.

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James Meincke

Director of Marketing @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.