The Optimal Length of Sales Calls, According to the Data


True or false: A 30-minute connect call is less likely to lead to a deal than a 60-minute connect call.

Before we get to the answer, here’s some context.

The team analyzed 30,000 calls between salespeople and their prospects. These calls varied in length, but the most popular times (unsurprisingly) were 30 minutes and an hour.

So, which call length was the most effective for getting a follow-up call — and eventually, closing the deal?

It turns out, there’s no statistical correlation between call length and probability of closing. We asked you a trick question.

But that doesn’t mean call length doesn’t have an impact. Here are three things to consider.

1) Shorter Calls Are Better

According to Gong’s analysis, prospects are 12% likelier to show up to the first call if it’s scheduled for a half hour rather than a full one. This makes sense. People are busy, so asking them to commit an entire hour to you is risky — especially considering you’ve never spoken to them before.


With that in mind, opt for shorter connect calls. You shouldn’t be presenting your product features on the first call, anyway — this time should be reserved for building the relationship and asking initial qualifying and discovery questions.

2) End When Planned

What if you’re having a great conversation? Should you let the call go over? Sales trainer and consultant Jeff Hoffman says you should always end when planned.

It makes your time seem less valuable if you can talk for 20 or 30 more minutes than you’d allocated, Hoffman explains. You want to appear highly in-demand — not only will your prospect trust you more, but they’re likelier to view you as a peer.

When you’re getting close to the scheduled end of the call, say something like, “[Prospect], this has been great. I have another call at [time] — do you want to pick up where we left off on [date and time] or [alternate date and time]?”

Hoffman says you can even propose a later time that day, if the buyer is really enthusiastic. Just make sure you’re wrapping up when you’re supposed to.

3) Use the Right Words

Make your call feel less time-consuming to prospects by describing it as “quick,” “short,” or “intro.” They’ll subconsciously perceive it as a smaller commitment.

For example, you might write, “Do you have time for a quick call to connect on Thursday at 2 p.m.?” or “Are you available for 15 minutes this afternoon to briefly discuss X and Y?”

The more painless your request sounds, the likelier prospects are to agree.

Although call length might not have a direct correlation to your close rate, it definitely has an influence. Pick the optimal amount of time, don’t let your meeting go over, and use the right adjectives when you ask.

Free Sales Training from HubSpot Academy

Source: The Optimal Length of Sales Calls, According to the Data

25 Qualifying Questions to Identify the Decision Maker


There’s nothing more frustrating than getting your prospect’s commitment to buy — before realizing they’re not the decision maker. It’s going to take much longer to get the deal done than you’d anticipated (that is, if you close at all).

Salespeople experience this all the time. However, you can avoid the situation completely by asking the right questions during the discovery process.

The wrong way to ask is, “Are you the decision maker?” Everyone wants to feel important and valued, even if they’re not the ones signing on the dotted line. This question will make your point of contact feel unimportant. Sabotage this relationship, and you’ll lose their influence.

Use this list of 25 questions to figure out who’s the ultimate decision maker without stepping on any toes.

Qualifying Questions About the Decision Maker

  1. Who else is involved in this process?
  2. Who will be using the product? (If they say, “I will,” follow up with, “Is your manager reviewing this purchase as well? What will they be assessing?”)
  3. Which evaluation criteria are the other stakeholders using?
  4. What was the last product in this category you bought? Who was involved in buying it?
  5. What’s the purchase approval process like?
  6. Have you bought a product like this before? (If they say no, ask, “Would you like my help figuring out who to bring in, based on my experience selling to companies like yours?”)
  7. In the past, my customers have asked [job title] and [job title] to participate in this decision. Does that make sense for [prospect’s company]?
  8. Will any other teams or departments be using [product]? Will they want a say in the selection process?
  9. How have decisions like this been made previously?
  10. At the end of the day, how can I help you get this purchase approved?
  11. Is there anyone else I should be meeting with to get the full picture of how you and your colleagues will be using [product] and what your needs are?
  12. [Name], do you handle [product category] decisions for [prospect’s company]?
  13. I’ve found the person with [X responsibility] almost always wants a say in this decision. Should we bring them into this conversation?
  14. I’m sure you’ve seen first-hand how complex the average buying decision is these days. Let’s work together so [company] can start experiencing [specific benefit] as soon as possible. Who do we need to meet with?
  15. How does your [team, department, business] make buying decisions?
  16. Is there a committee assigned to choosing a [vendor, supplier, solution]?
  17. What’s your role in the decision making process?
  18. Should I be aware of any priorities or concerns from other stakeholders?
  19. Who will sign on the dotted line? Would you like any insights I’ve picked up on positioning the solution to people in [X role]?
  20. How long have you been looking into this type of solution, and why did you start? (Their answer will reveal if they’re a junior decision maker responsible for the initial supplier research.)
  21. With my other customers, it’s typically the case that [X professional] likes to share her thoughts. Should we invite her on the call?
  22. Would [likely decision maker] be interested in speaking to [person of matching rank at your company]? (This question helps you get to the budget authority if your prospect is reluctant to give you access.)
  23. Are you the sole owner of this [project, initiative, purchase]?
  24. How can I help you sell this internally?
  25. Do you need any materials from me to present this to your boss?

HubSpot CRM

Source: 25 Qualifying Questions to Identify the Decision Maker

The Best Days and Times for Sales Meetings, According to New Data


You just crushed a demo, you’re making good progress toward quota, and you’re ready to get on your next call and crush it, too.

But 10 minutes after the prospect is supposed to join the meeting, they still haven’t shown up. You’ve been no-showed.

Having a prospect flake isn’t just annoying — it’s also a big waste of time. Every second you spend twiddling your thumbs is a second you could have used to email a hot lead, follow up with a buyer who’s gone dark, or give a demo to someone who’s more interested.

You can reduce the likelihood of a no-show by qualifying more rigorously and setting an explicit agenda. But that’s not all: You can also book sales meetings at the right times., a sales intelligence platform, analyzed sales calls to see which days of the week and times of days have the highest and lowest no-show rates.

The Best Times of the Day

Many experts recommend calling early to get in touch with decision makers before the gatekeeper shows up or while your contact is still relatively available. This advice still holds true for unscheduled calls — i.e., calls your prospects aren’t expecting.

However, if you’re scheduling a call or meeting, the crucial window is 2 to 5 p.m. Roughly 15.9% to 14.7% of calls in this time period lead to no-shows.


Compare that to the morning, which has the highest no-show rate. The no-show rate is 19.09% at 8 a.m.

Clearly, your prospects are getting into the office, realizing they have a ton of stuff on their plate, and deciding to bail.’s data shows salespeople are scheduling too many calls in the morning and early afternoon rather than late afternoon.


The Best Days of the Week

You might expect the highest percentage of no-shows to be on Friday — and you’d be right. Prospects are increasingly likely to leave you high and dry as the week goes on.

But don’t let this data point convince you to never again schedule an end-of-week call. The difference is pretty incremental: Monday’s no-show rate is 17.46%, while Friday’s is 18.01%.


The two days you should never have a meeting? Saturday and Sunday. The no-show rate is four times higher over the weekend.

If you want your prospects to show up, you have to pick the proper times. Take this data into account next time you suggest when to meet.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

Source: The Best Days and Times for Sales Meetings, According to New Data

5 Highly Effective Ways to Respond to Pricing Questions


You’re meeting with the buyer for the first time when they hit you with the dreaded price question.

There are five potential responses.

First, you could dodge the topic. Many sales training programs advise sellers to never, ever, ever give a price until value has been established. This school of thought says to ignore price questions completely until you are ready to talk about “the investment required.” And, in most sales processes, price and negotiation come at the end. But according to HubSpot Research, that’s not when buyers want to talk about price.

Second, you could give a clever response such as, “At this point, we should be able to work something out for under one million dollars,” or “Would you ask your new doctor to give you a price quote on surgery before the initial exam begins?”

Third, you could explain the delay. This seems to be the most common response. Rather than giving a price, sellers say something like, “There are many options, and I need to understand your needs before I can give you an accurate quote.”

Fourth, you could offer a range based on average deal size or high and low price points. This response is meant to help the prospect without overpricing them.

Lastly, you could simply answer the question — right away, in a straightforward, no-more-mystery way. You could give an actual price quote even though value hasn’t been established and despite the fact that the steps in your sales process haven’t been completed. This is what buyers are asking you to do.

Why You Shouldn’t Postpone the Conversation

Buyers are becoming increasingly impatient and intolerant when it comes to price deflection tactics.

We worked with Santa Clara University to conduct a Qualtrics Panel Study with 530 verified B2B buyers. These buyers rated 30 selling behaviors as “highly favorable.” The number one most important?

“The seller fully answers my questions and provides information that is relevant, timely and useful.”

Buyers do not like seller stall tactics. They want an answer — an actual dollar figure — when they ask about price.

When price questions are not immediately answered, buyers get suspicious. They assume they will (eventually) be quoted an inflated price.

This suspicion makes them guarded. The more you withhold, the more they withhold. As you proceed with your needs analysis, you won’t get all the information you need to accurately quote price. They don’t want to equip you with information you can use to inflate the price.

In addition to being counterproductive, causing mistrust, and erecting a barrier between the buyer and seller, evading the price question is inefficient.

You won’t learn if you’re dealing with a comparison shopper or a prospect who truly can’t afford your solution. Furthermore, there are multiple decision makers in most B2B purchases. If you’re talking to one person in this initial meeting, you’re barely scratching the surface of needs and values. Your preliminary assessment will, at best, enable you to give a preliminary price quote. So why not save time and provide a preliminary price quote right at the start?

How to Talk About Price the Right Way

Since most sellers delay responding to the price question, you’ll immediately differentiate yourself by giving the direct response the buyer is requesting.

It also suggests you are tuned in to the buyer’s needs and unashamed of your prices. And the law of reciprocity will kick in: Because you were forthcoming with information, the buyer will be, too. You’ll get higher-quality information faster and can use what you learn to build even more value for this buyer.

To answer the price question right away while also building value, try one of these strategic responses. Use a direct, matter-of-fact, confident tone.

  1. Price + Question: “The preliminary price is $____ and that includes ______. What criteria, other than price, will you be using to make your final decision?”
  2. Price + Benefit: “The preliminary price is $____ for the ____ option. What this means to you is that you’ll have _________. How important is this benefit to you?”
  3. Price + Personalization: “The preliminary price is $____ for our _____ package. I’m thinking this is the right package for you because you _________. Let me ask you some additional questions to confirm that I’m on the right track.”
  4. Price + Urgency: “The preliminary price is $_______ and we can honor this special offer for 48 hours. I’m mentioning this because it sounds like price is important to you. What will the impact of this cost saving opportunity be on your decision-making process?”
  5. Price + Budget Check: “The preliminary price is $_____. Tell me how this sounds in terms of your budget and the prices you’ve heard from others.”

Notice that price comes first in each of these options. The buyer asked for price, and you immediately responded with price. Then, rather than debating the price, you’ve steered the conversation back to something related to value.

Notice as well the lack of hesitation, deflection, or apologetic language. Your confidence in the way you state your prices is every bit as important as the price itself.

Finally, notice the word “preliminary.” Unless your prices are absolutely fixed, use this word to signal that there may be some movement in price. Don’t make up a number or lowball the quote. Using “preliminary” is not license to play fast and loose with the true pricing.

As you respond to the price question, keep this in mind: No one asks about price unless they are interested in purchasing. Consider price questions to be buying signals rather than potential objections. Your prospect is interested and has gotten to the stage in their own buying process where they need pricing information. Let that knowledge guide your responses and accelerate the close.

HubSpot CRM

Source: 5 Highly Effective Ways to Respond to Pricing Questions

The Secret Strategy for Getting to the Decision Maker in Half the Time


So you’ve done your homework, and you’ve identified the ideal contact within the account to reach out to.

But three weeks and a dozen phone calls later, you’re still no closer to actually talking to the decision maker.

What’s happening?

It’s more than likely the gatekeeper is screening your call.

To have as successful sales career, you must learn how to get through a tough gatekeeper screening. Here are some tips for achieving that.

Identify the type of screen you’re facing

There are two types of screens: The investigation screen and the blind screen.

The investigation screen is exactly what it sounds like. The gatekeeper asks you a ton of questions, like so:

Rep: “Is Andy Beavon available?”

Gatekeeper: “Who’s calling?”

Rep: “This is Lisa Brown from ABC.”

Gatekeeper: “And what’s your call in connection with, Lisa?”

Rep: “I’d like to talk to him about our mailing lists.”

Gatekeeper: “And have you spoke to Andy before?”

Rep: “No, I haven’t.”

Gatekeeper: “I’m sorry Lisa, Andy is in a meeting at the moment. Can I take a
message for you?”

The gatekeeper is usually pleasant and willing to talk, which leads many salespeople to fall into the trap of chit-chatting with them. However, don’t try to butter them up in the hopes of increasing your chances of getting through. Like today’s modern buyer, today’s modern gatekeeper is sophisticated and sales-savvy.

Then there’s the blind screen — the gatekeeper hardly asks you anything at all apart from your name. If your name is not instantly recognizable, you’re done.

Rep: “Is Andy Beavon available, please?”

Gatekeeper: “No, he’s not in at the moment. Who’s calling?”

Rep: “This is Lisa Brown from ABC.”

Gatekeeper: “I’m sorry, Lisa, Andy is out at the moment. Can I take a message?”

This type of gatekeeper usually has a more subdued and business-like personality.

They’ll often come across as impatient — they have no time and want you to just go away.

How to get past each screen

It’s important to quickly recognize the type of screen you’re facing, because they each call for the exact opposite technique. To negotiate each type of screen, you want to defy the expectations of what the gatekeeper wants, expects, and is trained to handle.

Here’s what I mean: For the investigation screen, remember, that this gatekeeper seems to have a lot of time, a pleasant personality and is the chatty type.

To negotiate this screen, you want to reflect the attitude of the blind screen gatekeeper: Serious, business-like, and time-conscious. When you’re asked a question, respond with a quick, almost curt answer — as if you expect to be put through.

However, don’t be rude or obnoxious. The words you use should be courteous and respectful.

When you project importance, you force the gatekeeper to make a quick decision. They can either ask you more questions, and risk annoying a VIP, or simply put you through and leave it to the decision maker.

The latter option is always less of a risk.

The same principle applies to the blind screen. This gatekeeper has no time and does not want to chat. So, take on the persona of someone who is very pleasant and and likes to talk. Once again, the gatekeeper is forced to make a quick decision: They can spend their time talking to you, put you on hold, or hang up. These options are far riskier than connecting you to the decision maker.

To double your chances of reaching the decision maker, first recognize which type of screen you’re up against. Then take the exact opposite approach of what they’re accustomed to.

What do you say to get through gatekeepers? Share your plans in the comments below.

Want to improve your sales even further? Check out this free report of 450 sales questions that you can ask your prospects and clients — you’ll have every base covered.

Free Sales Training from HubSpot Academy

Source: The Secret Strategy for Getting to the Decision Maker in Half the Time

50 Budget and Money Questions Salespeople Can Use With Any Prospect


Figuring out whether the buyer can afford your solution is nearly as important as figuring out whether they can use it. After all, need doesn’t matter without the ability or desire to buy.

But talking about money with your prospect can be tricky. Not only can these conversations feel awkward, but you may not know exactly what to say or how to say it.

That’s where this list can help. To identify whether a buyer can — and will — pay for your product, use these 50 questions.

50 Sales Questions About Budget

Questions to Ask Every Prospect

The following questions are relevant whether you’re talking to an entry-level employee doing initial research for his boss or the C-level executive signing off on the deal. Use some (like #1) to discover details of the buying process and others (like #3 and #5) to inspire urgency.

1) Has [company] bought [this exact product, a similar product] before? How was it funded? What was the approximate price?

2) Based on the info you’ve given me, this problem is costing [you, your team, your department] approximately [X amount] per [week, month, year]. How does your allocated budget compare to that amount?

3) Based on the info you’ve given me, [you, your team, your department] stands to gain approximately [X amount] per [week, month, year] by investing in this opportunity. How does your allocated budget compare to that amount?

4) How much money would it take to build this in-house?

5) How much have you already spent trying to solve this problem?

6) Our solution typically falls between [X and Y range]. If you believe [product] can help you [achieve A results, solve B problem, meet your objective by C time], would that be feasible?

7) Before you invest [significant amount] in this initiative, you can spend just [price of introductory package or product] to see if it works for you and will drive [desirable result]. Is that a number you’re comfortable with?

Questions to Use With Your Champion

Customer champions are rare. Use your ally to your advantage by asking tougher, more direct questions about cost.

1) Is the budget owner an “executive sponsor”?

2) Is the budget authority sensitive to price?

3) Are you willing to work with me to find budget for this initiative if push comes to shove?

4) We can play around with price depending on the other terms you request. Approximately how much do you think [decision maker] wants to pay?

5) Can you tell me about the other stakeholders? Who is motivated by price? Is anyone pushing for the lowest-cost solution? What motivates them and what are their objectives?

6) Does the budget authority subscribe to the “buy cheap, buy risk” philosophy?

7) What other vendors are you considering?

8) How much budget did you use last [month, quarter, year]?

9) Do you often have unused budget?

10) What happens if you don’t use your entire budget? Do those funds roll over or expire?

11) When does your current budget cycle end?

12) When does your organization typically make major purchases?

13) What is Procurement’s review process like?

14) When a product seems like a game-changer but you don’t have the available funds right away, what does your team do?

15) Would [a payment plan, lower price for a longer contract, reduced service fees, discount for a referral customer] make a difference to the [decision maker, stakeholders]?

16) Can you draw from your future budget if necessary?

17) How do you typically get approval for purchases out of your budget?

18) Would [typical results] sway [final decision maker] to invest in [product] for [X price]?

Questions to Use With a Junior Stakeholder

Lower-level employees are often asked to look into potential options before passing the final decision off to their manager or a buying committee. You want to tread carefully when you ask budget-related questions — it’s easy to sound patronizing. Once you’ve insulted them, you’ll probably lose their support.

To avoid this trap, call out their expertise or ask for their opinion.

1) Has the decision making team set aside budget for this project?

2) When you were given the responsibility of researching [vendors, solutions to X challenge], did you get a ballpark figure?

3) Whose budget is this coming out of?

4) Did you get any idea of how much [your manager, the signing authority] thought [company] should pay for this product?

5) Does this project already have approved funding, or do you need to request it?

6) What do you know about the budget for [product or service category]?

7) Can you describe the people involved in making the decision?

8) How heavily will price factor into your recommendation?

9) Does [decision maker] typically reject tools based on price?

10) Does [company] have a Procurement department? What are their financial considerations?

Questions to Use With the Budget Authority

This person has the most knowledge and influence over the purchasing decision. With these questions, you can identify potential roadblocks and move them closer to a “yes.”

1) Is price one of your main evaluation criteria?

2) Have you decided on a budget range for this purchase?

3) What’s the approximate ROI you’re hoping to get?

4) How does your department’s budget figure into the organization’s budget?

5) Are you working within a budget?

6) How much budget do you have set aside [this month, quarter, year] for [general product category]?

7) How much are you currently spending per [month, quarter, year] to address [problem, opportunity]?

8) How major a priority is [relevant business area] for your [team, department, business] this [month, quarter, year]? Does that align with your budget?

9) What is [result] worth to you?

10) [Customer stakeholder] said you were working within a budget of [$X and $Y] — is that correct?

11) Would this be easier for you to push through if we [unbundled the package, billed you separately for X and Y, started on a lower rate]?

12) Is price the only thing stopping you from moving forward?

13) How much would you be willing to pay for [X component of product] by itself?

14) If we removed [X feature or add-on], the price would go down by approximately [Y percent]. Is that an option you’re interested in?

15) Would you be interested in hearing some of the creative ways my customers have found the budget for this purchase?

Once you’ve qualified your prospect for budget, identified any major roadblocks, and delved into their top priorities, you’ll be well on your way to making the sale. Get ready to spend that commission.

HubSpot CRM


Call or Email? 4 Tips to Determine When to Use Which in Sales


The method of outreach sales reps use for a first connect makes a significant difference in response rates. Rather than deciding whether to call a new prospect or send an email based on personal preference, use the method your prospect will be most responsive to.

Which leads me to the question: Phone or email? While there are a few tips that can help you decide, sales reps should know that in the grand scheme of a sales engagement, it’s phone and email. However, I’m specifically addressing the first touch in this article, and since you shouldn’t issue an identical email and voicemail, you have to make a choice.

When deciding between trying a prospect by phone or sending an email, let the following four factors be your guide.

1) Time and Day of the Week

First, consult a calendar and a clock. Statistically, phone connect rates rise as the day progresses, and as the week progresses. In other words, a person is more likely to answer their phone later in the workday and the workweek.

That said, I like to reserve 3 p.m. and later of the prospect’s local time as my prime calling hours. Same goes for Thursdays and Fridays — I block out large chunks of time on these days for cold calling.

But what if a prospect doesn’t pick up their phone in these timeframes? Leave a voicemail. Response rates to voicemails also increase later in the day since checking phone messages is something people often do before heading home for the evening. Calling late is a win-win.

On the other hand, the ideal timespan in which to send email is shorter but more frequent. While I draft connect emails throughout the day, I am careful to send them either 10 minutes before the hour or 10 minutes after the hour. These brief windows correspond with people leaving or going to meetings. What do they do with the few minutes they have to kill? Scroll through email on their smartphones. If you synch your email to be sent with the time your buyer is most likely to check their inbox, your message will pop up on top instead of being buried beneath others. 

2) The Ask

What’s your objective for this first outreach? To set up a meeting? Get some more information? Receive a referral? Figuring out your ask and categorizing it as “weak” or “strong” will help you determine whether to call or email.

Strong asks require commitment from the prospect to do something. I would label requests for meetings, conference calls, or product trials as strong closes. Weak asks seek straightforward information from the buyer — think a prompt for feedback or a referral.

Once you know your close and have determined if it’s strong or weak, it’s easy to choose between a call or an email. If you’re putting forth a strong close, pick up the phone. Because these asks require more from the prospect, salespeople need to employ their closing skills to secure a “yes.” And it’s far easier to persuade on a phone call, when a rep can respond to and smooth over objections in real time. 

But if the ask is weak, draft an email. Don’t take up the prospect’s time on the phone unnecessarily if your request can be fulfilled with a few short lines of text.

It’s interesting to note that most salespeople take the opposite approach — they ask buyers for meetings through emails and reserve simple questions for calls. Why? Because they’re afraid of being rejected on a strong ask over the phone.

Don’t let fear block your way to connecting with a buyer. Reverse this equation and watch your response rates climb.

3) The Level of the Prospect

Do individual contributors have assistants? Not usually. But do C-level executives? Almost always.

That’s why the higher up your prospect is in an organization, the more likely you are to reach a live person when you call. Since a live conversation with anyone — regardless of whether they’re the person you were trying to reach or not — trumps an email exchange, lean on the phone with buyers at the management level or above. Also, higher-level prospects are generally more comfortable on the phone, and less intimidated by sales calls.

But if individual contributors don’t answer their phones, no one else is going to pick up — and they’re not likely to return a call from an unknown number. In addition, lower-level professionals are often away from their desks — traveling, working in groups, participating in meetings, and so on. Therefore, a rep is much more likely to connect with a prospect at this level through an asynchronous channel such as email.

4) The Buyer Persona

Some buyer personas favor a different communication style than others. Their preference depends on multiple factors: Their age, the nature of their job, their industry, and more.

In general, millennials like communicating by email more than over phone. If you’re reaching out to a younger buyer, take this into account.

You might find professionals in customer-facing roles are more amenable to talking on the phone — because that’s what they’re used to. Those in internal jobs, however, may be more comfortable sending emails.

Lastly, those in more traditional industries are typically accustomed to phone calls.

Following Up

These four criteria make it much easier to choose between an email and a phone call for your first outreach. But what about subsequent touch points?

In my opinion, the beginning and the end of each sales engagement should be phone-heavy, since that’s where the strongest asks are — starting a relationship, and closing a deal. In between, reps should opt for email as a rule of thumb.

Want more sales tips? Check out my blog

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness. 

HubSpot CRM


The 3 Most Common Closing Curveballs (& How Sales Reps Can Avoid Them)


In sales, the occasional closing curveball is inevitable. But if you’re consistently encountering unwelcome surprises in the later stages of your sales process, the problem doesn’t lie with your prospects: It lies with you. Asking the right questions along the way will help you identify potential obstacles while there’s still time to deal with them — and meet your quota.

For more advice on closing, check out The GSD Show — tips for salespeople, by salespeople.

Here are the three most common types of curveballs reps face, as well as the questions that will proactively surface them.

1) Timing Curveballs

I can’t tell you how frequently my reps run into misunderstandings around the timing of their prospects’ purchasing decisions.

HubSpot international sales and strategy manager Paul Rios and I discussed deal stages during our recent GSD Sales Show episode, The Modern Close.

We agreed reps often run into huge roadblocks because they don’t understand the stages their buyer must go through to buy a product or service. Your prospect might be completely on board, but the purchasing order takes four days to process, or Legal needs a week to review and approve the contract. These delays inevitably mess with your sales forecast and may even cause you to miss quota.

The solution is simple: Ask the buyer about their process. You can’t directly influence how quickly their company moves, but you can prepare a winning strategy and create authentic urgency once you know what needs to happen.

Ask questions like:

  • “What needs to happen from here?
  • “Who am I going to need to run this by?”
  • “How long does this process usually take?”

Pose these questions at every stage so you’re never caught off-guard. The best salespeople can articulate the exact steps a prospective purchase will necessitate, starting with the day the contract closes and working backwards. 

2) Competition Curveballs

Another common problem my reps run into is that they’re dealing with a prospect who is engaging simply to compare prices or get a quote they can leverage with their current vendor.

When you try to move a deal forward and a prospect says, “We’re just waiting for final numbers from my current vendor,” nine times out of 10 you’ve already lost. That response means you’re down to haggling price — and the cost of switching almost always outweighs the cost of staying.

You’ve also missed the window to compare feature sets, leverage customer case studies, or explore the buyer’s pain points with their current vendor.

To avoid this curveball, don’t be afraid to ask about the competition right from the start. Reps are sometimes afraid to bring up competitors out of the mistaken belief they’ll give their prospect ideas. But think about your own large purchases over the years: Car, cable provider, home, cell phone, and so on. When have you ever bought an item without comparing it to at least one competitive product?

Bringing up the competition won’t put any ideas in your prospect’s mind. They’re almost certainly looking at your competitors, including the incumbent, so surface this information at the beginning.

Ask where they are with their current supplier and understand which other companies are in the running.

These questions will be useful:

  • “What other tools have you considered?”
  • “Is there a chance you stay with your current vendor?”
  • “Which vendors are you going to seriously evaluate?”

Knowing the entire situation helps you better manage the deal — and could even provide an opportunity to lock out the competition with your product’s key differentiators. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

3) Authority Curveballs

I can’t stress enough the importance of understanding exactly whom you’re talking to and why you’re talking to them. Every company has a different approval and purchasing process, and you must understand “who’s who” in your demos or meetings.

Reps often discover late in the sales conversation that their main contact is an internal champion masquerading as a decision maker. Just because your point of contact likes the product doesn’t mean they can independently make the decision to purchase.

Politely ask questions like:

  • “How did this [project, process, initiative] begin?”
  • “How did you get involved and what is your role in the process?”

When meeting new people, don’t be afraid to ask them the same questions. In addition, always request their job titles and contact information. My favorite qualifying question is, “Can you tell me about the last time you made a purchase like this in the past?” The answer will tell you all you need to know about whom you are really dealing with.

If they’ve acted as a budget or signing authority in the past, follow up with detailed questions about timelines, obstacles, dependencies, and so on.

The sooner you know exactly which stakeholders will be involved in the purchase, the sooner you can provide them with the information they need to move forward. I encourage my reps to tailor the content of each of their online demos to appeal to the individuals in the room — and to do so, you need a good understanding of who is in the room.

With these questions in your arsenal, you can learn key details from your prospect before it’s too late. Stop being thrown by curveballs — start anticipating (and more importantly, avoiding) them.

Try for simple, instant online demos. 

The GSD Show


The #1 Way to Respond to Any Question from a Prospect


You want your prospects to view you as a helpful expert. So when they ask a question, you should answer it immediately. Right?

Not so fast.

The number one most effective type of response isn’t an immediate one.

Implement this little-known technique, and you’ll stand out from your selling competition.

Introducing the Swim Move

If you’re a fan of football, you may already be familiar with the swim move. If not, I’ll break it down for you. When I was younger, I played football as a defensive lineman. This meant I often had to face off against offensive linemen who were much bigger than I was. To get past them, I couldn’t push right through. Instead, I’d use the swim move.

The swim move is a technique where the defensive lineman uses the offensive lineman’s own force against him. As a bigger, stronger offensive lineman rushed at me, I’d break around him and right through the line. I no longer play football, but I’ve learned how to apply this same strategy to close far more sales than ever before — and it works.

To learn more, check out the video below:

The Problem with Immediate Responses

Before we explore how to apply the swim move to your sales approach, let’s talk about why it’s so important. Imagine a prospect asks, “Do you come on site for the initial installation?”

Most salespeople would respond immediately, “Yes, of course I’ll be on site!”

This automatic response is actually one of the biggest mistakes salespeople make, since they don’t know why the prospect asked her question in the first place.

If the prospect wants her salesperson on site for the installation, this quick response does no harm. But what if the prospect is looking to do the installation herself and doesn’t want to be bothered by a salesperson in the office?

If you don’t understand the “why” before you answer a question, you could lose a sale. That’s where the swim move comes in.

Using the Swim Move in Sales

Let’s go back to our hypothetical question, “Do you come on site for the initial installation?” If you answer right away, you’re like the defensive lineman who rushes at the offensive lineman, ignoring the difference of size and strength. The swim move is key to figuring out the “why” behind the question so that you can answer appropriately.

Respond to questions with, “That’s a great question. Why do you ask that?”

The first sentence validates their question and makes them feel smart, while the second prompts them to reveal their intention.

Make sure you’re never using this technique to manipulate the prospect. In the case of our example question, you’re probably willing to be on site for installation but don’t need to be there. Once you understand what they prefer, you can adjust your answer and service to meet their needs—ultimately closing more sales by putting the customer first.

Have you ever misunderstood a client’s intentions when answering a question? What was the result? Share your experiences in the comments below. Check out this free 1-Minute Sales Strengths-Finder Quiz to transform your sales strategy even more.

HubSpot CRM


The 15-Second Intro That'll Make Your Sales Conversations 10X More Successful


A great sales call depends on what we at Sandler Training call an up-front contract. If you’re not familiar with the term, an up-front contract is an agreement, made ahead of time, about what will take place during a meeting or discussion — an agreement that clarifies what each person’s role in the conversation will be. In the inbound selling world, this contract unfolds in seconds.

Up-Front Contracts

To understand why the upfront contract is so essential, remember only one person can lead the discussion: The buyer or the seller. Obviously, you want to be the one leading the dance. The up-front contract is what allows you to do that.

To use the technique successfully, follow these three simple steps.

1) Show Appreciation and Set a Time Limit

Thank the inbound caller for his time and say how long you expect this call to take. Buyers will become irritated if they expect a five-minute discussion, only to realize it’s going to take far longer. Have you ever gotten one of those emails asking you to do a survey that will “only take a few minutes of your time,” and then abandoned it around question #48? That’s not how you want the prospect to feel.

If this is an outreach call, tell the person how much time is needed before the first decision. If this is an inbound call, say how much time you will need to tell them about the offer. Notice that you clarify how long the call will take before you move on to the next steps below. The goal here is simple: Make the caller feel comfortable.

You might say, “Thanks for getting on the call today, [prospect’s name]. This should take around 20 minutes.”

2) Provide an Agenda

Explain in a sentence or two what the call will go over and what your roles will be. An example might be, “We’re going to discuss your current methods for detecting spyware.”

3) Describe the Potential Outcomes

The up-front contract gives your prospect the chance to continue the sales conversation or walk away. Make sure you tell the buyer if she doesn’t like what she hears, it’s perfectly okay to tell you “no.” You’ll accept the answer and go away.

Giving your prospect the option of hanging up may be the most important part of the up-front contract. If you don’t explicitly accept this possibility, in clear, easy-to-understand terms, this strategy will not work — because the caller won’t feel in control of the call. By giving the buyer “control” over whether or not to hang up — which they actually already possessed — you gain their confidence, trust, and respect. You’ll also get the opportunity to define the rules that will drive the call going forward.

To illustrate, you could say, “By the end of the meeting, if you don’t feel like our services could solve your network downtime issues, I’ll hang up and won’t bother you. But if you feel like they could potentially help, are you open to scheduling another call?”

Up-Front Contract Example

Once you put it all together, here’s what an up-front contract sounds like.

  1. (Appreciation and Time) [Prospect name], thanks for agreeing to meet today. Can I take three minutes …
  2. (Agenda) … to give you some recommendations on [improving X] at [prospect’s company]? And then, iIf you have no further interest …
  3. (Outcomes) … you can hang up, but if you do have interest, let’s have another meeting.

Notice how concise this is. You do not have time for long monologues at the beginning of an sales call.

An up-front contract allows you to win half the battle within the first few seconds of the conversation. Wait to hear what the inbound caller says. Once you get agreement — which you will, 95% of the time or more — you can start the conversation in earnest.

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