The first sales process step is the Initial Contact. This is basically the first time that you interact with the prospect, and this can take place in any of the following formats:

  • Cold call: You are talking to the prospect on a cold call.
  • Inbound call: The prospect calls you or your company by either finding
    you on the internet or being referred to you.
  • Cold email: You send a cold email to a prospect, and the prospect replies.
  • Inbound email: The prospect contacts you through your website or sends you an email, and you reply to the email.
  • Website chat: The prospect contacts your company through a website
    chat tool.
  • Social media: You communicate with a prospect through a social media platform.
  • Networking: You meet and talk with the prospect during a networking event.

I give you this list of types of events so you can see that the Initial Contact step of the sales process is simply the first time that you interact with a prospect, and it can occur in a lot of different ways.

Amount of Time for the Initial Contact
One of the main details to keep in mind with the Initial Contact sales process step is that it should only be between two to five minutes in duration. However, you can easily find yourself talking to a prospect in the first interaction for longer than five minutes. This means you are either spending more time than you should in the Initial Contact or that you have progressed to the next step in the sales process, which is the Meeting. It is OK to talk longer and flow from the Initial Contact to the Meeting in the same interaction, but you should know where you are in the sales process so that you can stay aware of what you need to accomplish as each sales process step has its own goals and objectives.
Goals for the Initial Contact

Here are some of the main things you should try to accomplish during the Initial Contact sales step:

  • Pre-qualify the prospect: Try to determine if the prospect has at least a slight need or fit with what you sell.
  • Build interest in your product: Try to create a little interest and curios- ity in the product you sell and the company that you work for. However, you do not need to build interest to a level where the prospect wants to purchase your product; you only need to get the prospect interested enough so that her or she is open to talking more.
  • Close the prospect on the next step of the sales process: Close the prospect on agreeing to move to the Meeting sales process step (set the appointment, schedule the meeting, etc.).

Distribution of Attention
A product selling salesperson primarily talks about his or her own “stuff.” To be more of a consultative salesperson, focus more on the prospect and less on you. With that, try to make 80 percent of the Initial Contact step about the prospect and 20 percent about you, your company, and your product.

The way to apply this is to focus the majority of the interaction on the prospect by asking questions to learn more about what is going on with him or her. You can then wrap up the interaction by sharing just enough information about your product and company so that you are able to close the prospect on talking more by moving to the next step in your sales process.

Questions to Ask
You only have a few minutes to work with in the Initial Contact step, so you probably have enough time to ask between two to four questions. Since this is the first time you are speaking with the prospect, you don’t want to ask anything too deep or detailed, so a couple of your pain and current environment questions should work best. If you ask a question that uncovers a pain or concern, you can then wrap up your questions and move on to try to close the prospect for talking more and moving forward to the Meeting sales process step.