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The most unexpected way to prep for your next sales call or meeting

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 3/22/16 8:30 AM

When we hear as salespeople that we need to understand our buyer, it sounds so easy to do. Ask enough questions and you will get a picture of their world and what is going on in their minds, right?

But we make the easy difficult on ourselves. We have to have next steps, we have to talk about our product. One client recently asked “Aren’t they going to wonder why we aren’t talking about our solution more?” To which I replied “At no time ever have I heard a buyer say ‘Man, I wish that salesperson would talk more about themselves and their product.’

As salespeople, we have been taught that we have to do a lot of research, role play practice, have our questions prepared and know what the next step needs to be and get commitment for those things on the call.

And while all that is true, it becomes a problem when it triggers our emotional involvement to make something happen. Instead of a person having a conversation with another person, we are now a highly motivated salesperson with an agenda and objective to be reached. It becomes all about us.

When it becomes all about us, understanding the buyer either doesn’t happen at all, or just barely gets below the surface enough for us to pitch our solution. Even when you say, let’s set a meeting for next week to discuss the next step, and they nod their heads all the while thinking “Yeah-right.” Buyers don’t feel listened to, understood, and as a result, they disappear. We are so busy thinking about our agenda and how to get to next steps, we are not in the present with the person we are trying to help.

So how do you balance the need to research and prepare for your next call with the ultimate need to be fully present and attentive with your buyer so that you can:

  • Ask appropriate questions that dig into the why they want to change their status quo?
  • Understand the obstacles they face in making that happen?
  • Offer them insights and recommendations that are truly helpful and differentiate you from other options and competition?
  • Add real value where everyone else is boring them with pitches and sleazy sales tricks?

Last year I spoke at HubSpot’s Inbound conference. I had spoken at conferences before, but that didn’t make me feel any less nervous. So I read Julie Hansen’s book “Act Like a Sales Pro” to help make my presentation engaging and insightful, and not death by powerpoint. (by the way, I also recommend picking up her latest book “Sales Presentation for Dummies”.)

The warm up routine that actors use before an audition and that Julie shared in her book was a lifesaver for me. Before getting up in front of 1500 people, I locked myself in a bathroom and as ridiculous as I felt, I did it. When I walked about, my nerves were steady, and I was fully present with what was going on around me. Salespeople can use this same routine before their calls and meetings to channel and keep their emotions in check so that they are fully present and on point for the people they are engaging with.

After all, aren’t we all actors on a stage in the world of sales?


How to warm up and be prepared to be present for your next sales call or meeting.

In her first book Julie writes; “ Don’t hide behind your product or service or rely on it to speak for itself...You are your greatest selling tool: your mind, your voice, your physicality. Most sales are still won and lost by human beings.”

The following exercises will probably seem as completely silly to you as they did to me, but it’s the physical, vocal, and mental stretch and warm up you need to expel all the emotional energy that will trip you up. If you are willing to try anything to make your calls and meetings go better, these will help prepare you mentally, physically, and vocally.

If you are doing a face to face meeting, arrive early and do this in the bathroom (as I did) or even in the parking lot. If it is a call, set aside 10 minutes before the call to do the routine prior. While I did all these exercises, each one was for no more than a minute.

  • Breathing.
    If you have ever done yoga, then you know what belly breathing is. To do it, place your hand under your rib cage and breath until you feel it move. Think of your breath as an ocean wave moving in your nose for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, and breath out through your mouth for 8 counts.
  • Relaxation.
    Tension is an energy suck that robs us of focus and is held somewhere in our bodies like our neck and shoulders. To release it, sit in a straight backed chair and close your eyes and see where you feel tight in your body. Focus on one body part at a time, starting from your shoulders and down. Life your shoulders up to your ears, rotate backwards and when you find it, hold that muscle tightly for 10 seconds, then let it go. Repeat throughout your body tensing and releasing until you don’t notice any tension left. (This also works well if you are having a hard time getting to sleep at night).
  • Rag doll.
    Standing up straight, inhale and then on the exhale start to roll your body down. Shake your arms from side to side, keeping your neck loose. Inhale and slowly roll your body back up one vertebra at a time. Then shake your legs, standing up on one leg, shake the other loosely.
  • Facial expressions.
    This is an especially important exercise if you are going to be face to face. Scrunch your face up, almost like you sucked on a lemon, hold it for a moment, and then release making your face as wide as you can, as if you are surprised. Then lift your eyebrows up and down quickly, and hold. Stretch your jaw by opening your mouth as wide as you can and rotate it around, stopping where ever you feel tension. Move your lips from side to side and in and out. Stick out your tongue and move it in circles as well as in and out. Blow raspberries at yourself, or as you would with a baby.
  • Vocal warm up.
    Professional singers know that just because you are talking a lot, doesn’t mean your vocal muscles are warmed up. To have a calm and steady voice repeat these sounds and phrases:
  1. “ba-ba-ba, pa-pa,pa.”
  2. “Ta-ta-ta, da-da-da”
  3. “ka-ka-ka, ga-ga,ga”.  

To articulate clearly, repeat these tongue twisters:

  1. “sushi chef”
  2. “toy boat”
  3. “worldwide web”
  4. “round the rough and rugged rock the ragged rascal ran”
  5. “unique new york”
  6. “While one blue bear bled black, the other black bear bled blue.”
  7. And my fave: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”
  • Octave slides.
    This will help stretch your vocal chords. Take a deep yoga breath and exhale using a vowel sound like “ahhh” and start at the lowest register sliding up to the highest register you can manage. Inhale again and start at the highest and go to the lowest. Try a few more times with different vowel sounds like “eee” or “ohh”.
  • Combine the physical and vocal.
    Doing both the octave slide and the rag doll at the same time will help you be persuasive, like how some people talk with their hands. You can also “punch it out” while shouting a hard consonant sounds like “pa” or “ba”. (this is why martial arts involve these sounds while sparring).
  • Gibberish dump.
    Julie calls this a cheap form of therapy, and it might be where you feel the most self conscious. To do this, stand up and let a stream of consciousness come out where you complain or gripe about anything using any made up words you want. Yada, yada, yada, that thingamabob, whatever. It could be the traffic, your boss, your itchy suit, whatever. The point is to to get all the negativity out of your system.

Are you having trouble even getting those sales calls and meetings? Are people finding you and asking for your expert help, or are you trying to find the cold hidden in your contacts unsuccessfully? 

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Topics: sales conversations