There was a point in my sales career when I sold enterprise software and the message coming down from my management was to have “business conversations” when you are sales prospecting. This was actually a really good directive from the top as what they were saying was to get away with talking about products and features and have a conversation closer to where the prospect has interest and that is their business.


I did not know how to have a “business conversation”

The problem with this direction was that, as a young sales professional, I honestly did not know how to have a business conversation when talking with a prospect. Everything the company had trained me on was the details of the product, and now they want me to have a “business conversation”?

I was a bit lost on how to do that. And I was actually better positioned than many others to know what to do as I had just completed my MBA and I had a lot of experience working with different businesses.

But there are a lot of different domains of information that you learn in business school. And a business has a lot of different areas – accounting, operations, HR, legal, finance, IT, etc. Am I supposed to try to talk to an executive about all of these different areas? This is where the problem with this starts when applying this to sales prospecting.


The strategy is right, but the execution is wrong

From a sales prospecting standpoint, this strategy is correct, but the execution is wrong. What you do not want to do is have a “random” business conversation, and here are two reasons why:

1. Subject matter expertise
You are (or should be) a subject matter expert in the area where your products/services apply. If you have a general business conversation, you will end up in an area where you do not have the knowledge, and this will make you less positioned to ask good questions and make a good impression.

For example, if you are an expert in the area of operations and in your “business conversation”, you end up talking to the prospect about accounting and their goals and challenges in that area, you will not be as likely to know what the prospect is talking about.

2. Will not be a productive conversation
Your goal is to generate leads. When you have very general “business conversations”, you are less likely to have a conversation that results in you finding a lead or opportunity. The reason is that, as we mentioned, there are many different areas of business, and you can easily end up talking about an area where you can’t help.

Continuing with the same example, if we help with operations but end up in a conversation for 20 minutes with a prospect talking about accounting, we just wasted valuable time talking about an area that we can’t help, and that might have taken time away from us talking about operations. In this scenario, we probably would have been more likely to find a lead for a company that can help with accounting than for ourselves when sales prospecting.


How to have the RIGHT kind of business conversations

We just pointed out why it might not be advantageous to have “general” business conversations when sales prospecting. What you want to do instead is have business conversations that are centered around the area where you can help.

For example, if you provide services around employee benefits, you want to have a conversation that is at a business level but focuses on aspects of employee benefits. This will allow you to look like an expert since you should have a lot of knowledge about this area and also position you well to generate leads if that potential exists.

But how do we do this? If we are like most salespeople, we have a lot of product knowledge in our heads. How do we take that and use it to create business conversations?

Here is a step-by-step process for you to take to make this easy when sales prospecting.

Step 1: Identify the technical value that your product offers
Your product will likely offer some sort of technical benefits. When we say technical, we are referring to a process that your product makes work better. Or does it make something operate or perform better?

Identify a few of the technical benefits that your product provides and make a shortlist.

Step 2: Identify the business value that your product offers
Once you have the technical value listed, for each technical value point, you should be able to identify a business benefit. Look at each technical value point and identify if that benefit will lead to an improvement in revenue, a decrease in cost, or an improvement in the delivery of a business service.

Step 3: Identify the pain you resolve
For each value point that you have identified, you should be able to identify a problem or challenge that is resolved when that particular improvement is realized. Make a list of these, and these are the pain points that you resolve.

Step 4: Develop a list of pre-qualifying questions
You should be able to take your list of pain points that you resolve and develop at least one or two questions for each pain point. These are questions that probe the prospect to identify if the problem exists or is a concern.

How to execute from here to establish the business conversation
With this list of questions, it will be extremely easy for you to establish a business conversation, as the questions are all directly related to the prospect’s business. And the great thing about this list of questions is that they are all directly tied to areas that you can help with, so they will not only be focused in an area where you have subject matter expertise, but they are also positioned well to uncover leads when sales prospecting.


When to use this method

Whether you are on a cold call, at a networking event, or in a sales meeting, you should lead with these pre-qualifying questions. Since they are tied to problems that you help to resolve, they will not only establish conversations that are very business-focused, but they will also help you to identify if the prospect is qualified in terms of needing what you have to offer.

SalesScripter helps you to build out the questions you need to have business conversations when sales prospecting.