In the Successful Agency Selling series, we devote two sessions to Running a Top Notch Exploratory Call. Below is a 30 minute Exploratory Call role play that hits many of the concepts referenced in the training. This was done by Hubspotter Corey Beale and I.
The format was very much on the fly - meaning this was like a typical call where I, as the agency rep, didn't know what was coming. Below the video, I've added notes where I break down the call section by section. Between about 14:00 and 25:00 on the recording we also do a live break down. Continue reading below the video...
As my former manager Dan Tyre would say 'Rate the Call'! I've given my rating and self assessment at the bottom. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments at the bottom. .
Role Play Notes
*Bolded text refers to specific concepts mentioned in training.
Minute 00:54 - In line with a standard call beginning, I led off Setting Expectations for the call. I then Checked In with Corey to make sure the agenda met with his expectations.
1:25 - Next, I led off with a Marketing Tip. I made a judgment that the prospect was in a reserved state of mind which is why I did this. However, in retrospect, I might have just started with the more standard 'Tell me a little bit more about your company and goals' and held off on the tip for a bit.
2:40 - I went to the top of the Exploratory Discussion Guide, asking about the company and their growth plans.
2:50-3:50 Corey describes the product and their target market. They have 100 offices nationwide using their product. He expresses that they want that number "to go up". This gets at their Need (from BANT) and more specifically their Goals (from GPC), but it is not very specific or actionable. I don't like generic goals. I'm not going to press this now, but I'll come back to it. Getting a specific and meaningful goal is critical on a call.
3:50 - 5:28 I go the second section of the Exploratory Call Discussion Guide - Organization Section and ask about their marketing initiatives. I'm now getting within their walls and trying to understand what they have done and what has worked. I learn a lot about their tradeshows, videos, and distribution.
4:16 Corey drops a mention of his "marketing team". One thing I failed to do was pick up on this comment and ask him more about his marketing team and how they fit within the organization. Corey could love his marketing team or alternatively be upset at them. I don't know that Corey would have opened up about this fact yet, but I could have probed a little and picked up some valuable clues.
5:28 - Now I'm getting into the Need & Timing section of the Exploratory Call Discussion Guide by asking about how important he considers the website to his growth goals. My objective going into this section is determining 'Can I help this prospect'?
I learn that Corey is skeptical his target market is online.Maybe he is right (that is a possibility) and online marketing won't help him. But I'm going to find some ways to challenge it. I recognize that this point is critical to the sale. If his target market isn't online (or he doesn't believe it to be so), I'm not going to be able to help him.
6:40 - I challenge him on his point by pointing to mobile platforms and that a lot of doctors are online, including at tradeshows. I advise him to keep this in mind. That probably wasn't strong enough. I should have attempted to tie this down with something like, 'you mentioned before that doctors aren't online, but it sounds like factoring in mobile devices and tradeshows, they are in fact online. Do you agree?' I do return to this point in the next few minutes though.
7:00 - I'm still probing on Need (part of BANT), specifically whether there is much traffic to the website and whether the website is converting leads. I'm learning that their traffic is not great, they don't get many good leads from the website, and that a lot of business comes from referrals.
8:20 - I come back with a Marketing Tip to use the website to support their tradeshow strategy. My purpose is threeforld. 1) I'm still stuck on the fact that he doesn't believe his target market is online, yet he knows there is website activity coming after a tradeshow. I want to tie these together better. 2) I want to help him recognize that online marketing doesn't have to be a stand-alone initiative. It can help his other initiatives. and 3) I want to offer an Marketing Tip about lead generation. By giving him a tip about converting leads from tradewhows, I'm beginning to work my way across the funnel.
9:27 - I do a Tie-Down this tip by asking him if his sales folks would find it interesting to have more leads from doctors after tradeshows. He confirms that his sales folks have been complaining about this. Bingo, now we are sniffing the trail of a real Need.
9:40 - After the comment about his sales folks complaining, Corey is breaking down a bit and admitting that they do need better web marketing. However, he is looking to a website redesign as a solution for their problems. Redesigning his website alone will not get him more leads. This is an impression we are going to have to correct if we are going to be able to help him.
9:55 - I'm going to challenge the 'website redesign as an answer to all our problems' impression by probing into analytics. Lack of good business analytics is almost always a Challenge (from GPC) for executives. At 10:30, I talk about starting with the end in mind. Shifting the conversation from website aesthetics to Goals (from GPC) is a great way to shift the conversation from a website redesign alone to ongoing marketing services.
11:13 - I'm making a little progress with Corey, but he throws up an objection. He wants to know how my agency is different than any other pitch he has sat through. This is a good question, especially from a skeptical decision maker who doesn't fully understand web marketing.
11:55 - I could answer how I offer marketing services services, and that is different than all those other pitches, but I don't do that. I prefer to push back on Corey. This is one my favorite parts of the role play. Using the Cost of Inaction, I challenge Corey to answer his own question. Perhaps he should in fact do nothing. Why not set the entire website aside, and do more of what he has done so far? You can hear in Corey voice that he is struggling with the answer to this question. In talking about funding the business himself, we hear some real emotion from him.
12:52 - Corey says it would be ridiculous for him to double down on what he is doing today, but ironically his marketing person is going to ask him to do. These are the type of nuggets you live for in a sales call. Probing into the Cost of Inaction will help surface these.
13:10 - Since I'm getting somewhere with Corey, I'm going to come back to Goals (from GPC) and look for something concrete and specific. However, Corey still pushes me off. Way to go Corey - playing a tough prospect! I'm not giving up though. In fact, this is where the Cost of Inaction is so valuable. I'm going to press him again back on his question from 11:13 that maybe he really shouldn't be entertaining all these pitches from different agencies. I do it politely, but suggests maybe he doesn't need my help or help from any of these folks. I want to see if he pushes back on me, which he does. He recognizes that a change is needed. That is a great first step in a sales process.
14:08 - Intermission from the role play. Corey and I break down the role play. Please note this is a snippet from the former sales training. When Corey and I talk about the 'IMA', consider us to be talking about the 'Exploratory Call'.
25:20 - We pick it back up with the role play.
25:20 - Anytime you start or end a call, lead with a summary of the main storyline to that point. That is what I do here.
25:45 - If a new website could produce one more sale and one more sale would far surpass the cost of a new website, why haven't you invested in a new website yet Corey? Now I'm probing more deeply into Corey's Challenges (from GPC). It turns out Corey is frustrated because he can't measure the ROI of his web efforts.
27:45 - Again, I'm coming back to Goals (from GPC). I'm not going to quit on this. We need something specific to define success, and I also get the sense, as opposed to some prospects that don't know, Corey actually has goals. Finally, Corey actually shares them with me! My persistence, patience, and building credibility throughout the call pays off. He wants to be in 250 offices by the end of the year.
28:35 - "What is holding you back Corey?" This is a question I've asked a couple times now and is one of my favorite questions especially after we get to a meaningful Goal. It let's me know their Challenges and if they have a Plan. (Goals, Plan, and Challenges from GPC)
28:50 - "What path are you thinking about taking"". Another question probing their existing Plans (from GPC).
29:00 - Corey asks 'Can we talk about pricing?'. Good question and one that comes up frequently. You might sense I'm a little nervous fielding this question from Corey. He is very much in a website redesign frame of mind, and my pricing is going to take a different form. I tie back to his goals, which is good - all my work getting his goals pays off here. However, listening to this in retrospect, this is almost my most cringeworthy moment. I could have done much better on my reply. I whiffed on actually answering the question. After tieing back to his goals, I should have provided a range of my pricing, even if broad, like 3K a month to 10K a month. I would have then checked in to see what he thought of that structure - and had a discussion about it if necessary.
33:00 - After a potential detour into social media (try to avoid these type of detours), Corey and I talk about his Goals (from GPC) again and how an entire program will help him get there, not just social media. I'm going to press again on Goals (from GPC). I want to know how real that goal of 250 offices is. Specifically, are there real Consequences (from GPC) for not hitting it, or is it a nice to have number. The more meaningful a goal is, the more likely Corey needs to change, and the more likely he needs outside help. Plus, the more realistic a goal is, the more I can develop a realistic solution.
34:00 - It turns out 250 offices is a nice to have number. 150 is the need to have number. Corey has an exit plan for the business.
34:30 - 'What will it allow you do to when you get to 150 offices?" I ask, attempting to understand the Consequences (from GPC) of his goal. Corey allows that hitting the goal will take the company valuation from $5M to $7.5M. We've just attached a dollar value to Corey's goals. This will help when we come back to pricing and recommendations. This whole conversation is not about a new $15K website, it is about helping Corey increase the value of his business $2.5M.
35:00 Here is the close of the call. I Summarize and Recommend Next Steps. My summary is not just stating facts, but telling a story of Corey's goals and needs. My recommended next step is a goal setting and planning call. This is a skeptical decision maker who has been pitched to many times. My approach is one of helpfulness, not one of pitching.
There are also a number of things I miss doing during this section. I didn't deliver a Unique Selling Proposition to clearly state what my firm does in context of Corey's needs. It was a productive call, but I don't want Corey wondering, 'what the heck does David do again?' after our call. I also should have assigned Homework to help move Corey along before our next call and help me confirm his interest and commitment. I should have asked who else should be included on the next call, getting at the decion making process and Authority. Lastly, I should have mentioned I'll be sending a Recap Letter within a day to highlight the key takeaways, recommendations, and next steps from our call. This gives me a chance to make a commitment and meet it, looking professional (this alone would set me apart from all the other folks he has been pitched by, none of which would have done this). . It also allows me to make that Power Statement I didn't make on a call. You can't sell in a recap letter, but you can shore up one or two things you missed on your call.
37:00 Corey and I do some additional breakdown till the end of the recording.
I'd give myself a B/B+ on the call. There were a number of things I did well on the call, including using tips across the funnel, patiently breaking down a tough decisoin maker, and really zeroing in on need. There were also several things I could have done better too, including closing the call up better, using my Unique Selling Proposition, and handling the pricing question much better. See below for my full self-assement.
Some Things I Did Well
How I Qualifid for BANT:
I did a good job honing in on Need, which is the trickiest aspect of BANT. Using GPC, I came back repeatedly to Corey's Goals until I got specifics and in fact the consequences of hitting his goals. I also did a good a job uncovering his Challenges, namely that he couldn't measure ROI and that he didn't have enough marketing resources. Using Cost of Inaction, I also identified he was not confident his existing efforts would get him to his goals and that he didn't have much of an alternative plan.
How I Excited
I did a pretty good job working my way across the funnel with tips and conversation about turning strangers into visitors, and turning visitors into leads. I used the Tips just enough to build credibility but, for the most part, didn't talk too much. Rather, I used the tips to guide the conversation and learn more about Corey's business. I also checked in after most of my tips.
How I Worked Through the Exploratory Call Discussion Guide
I did a pretty good job working my way through the Exploratory Call Discussion Guide. I started with the Company first, then moved onto the Organization, then spent a majority of my call in the Need & Timing section, before moving to the Close.
Some Things I Could Have Done Better
How I Qualified for BANT
Although I feel like Need was the right element in BANT on which to focus, I should have done more on Authority. I know Corey is the decision maker, but I didn't ask much about the marketing organization or its role in the company. I also didn't ask how they typically evaluate new marketing vendors, as a team, or by Corey alone. That would have been a good question to ask to understand the process and stakeholders going forward.
I also could have spent a little more focus on Timing. I don't believe I have compelling reasons just yet. If Corey has known he needs a new website for years, yet has held off, why wouldn't he just hold off in the same way for marketing services? Coming up an approach to better uncover timing and urgency is at the top of my list for my next call with Corey.
As I mention in the detailed breakdown above, I also whiffed on the question about my pricing. I could have answered this better and also potentially turned it into the basis of a conversation to help me qualify better on budget.
How I Excited
As mentioned above, I did a pretty good job working my way across the funnel. However, I didn't hit turning leads into customers much at all. I could have probed into their email list and how Corey feels about nurturing that list as a way to touch on this section of the funnel
How I Worked My Way Through the Exploratory Call Discussion Guide
I just about completely missed the 'why you and why your services' section of the Exploratory Call Discussion Guide. I've gotten better on giving these statements in the time since this recording.
Have you checked out the 'Running a Top Notch Exploratory Call' training and have you viewed the role play above? What did you like about the role play? What didn't you like? What would you have done differently? Feel free to drop your two cents below.