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First Call Fiasco - First Impressions, Lasting Rejections.

Despite all the "science" that's gone into sales & marketing over the last 20 years, we're still grappling with an old challenge - the consistently low conversion rates from 'lead' to 'opportunity' to 'close.' But here's the kicker: the root of the problem lies right at the outset—the first call. Many sellers brush off this initial interaction as a mere icebreaker. In reality, the first call presents the golden opportunity to qualify, establish trust, and ignite preference. It's no time to 'clown around.'

By the numbers

According to the Bridge Grp the average conversion from Marketing Lead to Opportunity is one in eight. Add into this that the “generally accepted’ conversion of Opportunity to Close is between one in three and one in six. If we take the middle ground (one in four and a half). That means you need 36 Marketing Leads for every deal – and that means you need to have 36 “first calls” for each closed deal. At those conversion rates – that’s just too many. You have to change the odds.

The Criticality of First Impressions in Sales

The adage "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" is particularly poignant here. Psychological research underscores the rapidity and permanence of first impressions. Within moments of an encounter, humans form lasting judgments, influenced by a myriad of cues. In B2B sales, this initial judgment can significantly sway the prospect's perception.

The Reality of First Calls in B2B Sales

Many sellers mistakenly perceive the first call informally—an opportunity to introduce themselves and their offerings without delving into substantive discussions. This is a mistake. The truth is, first calls are more than just pleasantries; they're the first step in a complex dance of building rapport, establishing credibility, and aligning offerings with the prospect's needs.

The Role of Preparation in Elevating First Calls

At the heart of many unsuccessful first calls is a glaring issue: poor (or mediocre) preparation. This lack of readiness manifests in various detrimental ways:

  • Lack of Prospect Research: A seller unfamiliar with the prospect's business, industry challenges, and specific needs can hardly tailor their pitch effectively, let alone demonstrate genuine understanding and empathy.

  • Inadequate Solution Knowledge: Without a thorough grasp of their own offerings, sellers struggle to articulate the value proposition convincingly, and even worse fail to connect Business Problem/Opportunity => Your Solution = > Outcome.

  • Unprepared for Objections: Sellers not ready to address common objections fail to instill confidence, crucial in building trust. The better opportunity here is to surface the “gnarly” issues. They’ll only come back to haunt you later anyway, and as Rick Page famously said, “if you’re going to lose…lose early.” For instance, if you’re “never the cheapest game in town” set the expectations up front (as well as setting some competitive traps.) You can then focus the conversation from that point on around “value,” as well as qualifying hard. Assuming you get to a serious pricing conversation, this will avoid any "surprises."

  • Personalization Deficit: In today's market, a generic pitch is a missed pitch. Prospects expect personalized engagement that resonates with their unique challenges and goals. Sellers have to make two or three connections from the industry/prospect needs or wants.

Strategies for Successful First Calls

Transforming the first call from a procedural step to seizing a strategic advantage involves preparation. And then more preparation and then some more!

  • Do your Research: Prior to the call, invest time in understanding the prospect's business landscape, pain points, and aspirations. This knowledge not only informs a more relevant discussion but also demonstrates respect for the prospect's time and challenges.

  • Solution Mastery: Solution knowledge enables sellers to confidently navigate the conversation, aligning features and benefits with the prospect's specific needs.

  • Synthesize the Two: Understand and explain the connection. This might involve taking some leaps – you can’t know everything about where the stakeholders are coming from until you engage with them. But with good prep you can eliminate most of the guesswork…most of it.

  • Anticipating Objections: Prepare for potential objections by understanding common concerns within the prospect's industry. And hit the “awkward” stuff up front. Sounds revolutionary, I know, but be honest.

  • Technical Preparedness: Ensure all technical aspects of the call, from software to hardware, are tested and functioning. A smooth experience reflects that you give a damn.

Implementing the Plan

Sounds easy – right? The problem? Lack of knowledge & lack of time. You don’t know what you don’t know and have less time to figure it out. Cognitive overload is imminent…Condition Red! Just dust off the old, vanilla first call “playbook,” that’ll work - right?... Probably not.


This is all about achieving what’s fashionably known as situational fluency and then moving on from fluency to dominance. It’s about inspiring confidence in your team and yourselves. If you don’t feel ready and well prepared, you’ve already lost. Who did that used to be …until a few years ago the Chicago Cubs? Or as Sun Tzu said, "all battles are won, before they are fought.”

Well, I suppose we can help you with that. See how.

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