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.
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.
- (Appreciation and Time) [Prospect name], thanks for agreeing to meet today. Can I take three minutes …
- (Agenda) … to give you some recommendations on [improving X] at [prospect’s company]? And then, iIf you have no further interest …
- (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.