It’s easy to over complicate things. It’s easy to get in our own heads and cause inertia by attempting to calculate and prepare for every contingency. If you’re planning a hostage rescue, that’s probably a good instinct, but in sales, it backfires.

I’m working with a few reps who are new to sales for one of my clients right now. They are all good people, with good communication skills. Most of them are trying a new sales role after extensive experience in customer service and/or marketing. One of the issue that is coming up consistently is over preparing for prospecting calls. The reps feel they need to research their accounts exhaustively before they call. They want to know about the whole business, even areas that have very little to do with the specific problem they solve. This becomes a call avoidance crutch, but fueled by a valid concept of “know thy customer”.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for preparing and knowing your customer. Especially for actual demos and presentations. I also, however, place importance on the conversational nature of a good sales interaction.

Yup, above all else, your prospecting and even presentation calls need to be a conversation. That means the talking goes both ways, and that means you are not reading off a script. You listen, and interact with the other person based on what they are saying to you, not just based on following a conversational plan.

In other words, yes, you need to control the conversation, but keep the emphasis on the word conversation. You’re not controlling a sermon or a monologue. There’s a human being on the other end of that phone!

Ultimately, a prospecting call is just talking to another person to confirm the existence of a problem you can solve. Marketing data and sales videos are nice tools to have, but if they worked as a format, companies wouldn’t spend money on sales people. That human to human connection you create when you call on prospects is the magic ingredient. All sales are at a very basic level, happening on a human to human level. Be human, first and foremost.