There was a point in my sales career where 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 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 were details on 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 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 why 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 lead for a company that can help with accounting than for ourselves when sales prospecting.

>> Part II >>