You Need This New Approach to the First Sales Conversation

first sales conversation

Buyers are changing, and so are their habits and preferences. It follows that how you engage with buyers should change too, including how you approach the first sales conversation. As sales professional Anthony Iannarino points out, "There is a new conversation starter in B2B selling. It is more effective than other, older conversations because it respects the client's time and creates value for the contact."

Why do first sales conversations matter? 

It's important that sellers immediately establish a connection with a buyer. Converting that first conversation into a second conversation is a current challenge for sellers. There must be something in that first engagement that sparks interest in a buyer and inspires them to engage further. 

Rapport is no longer enough

Traditionally, sellers relied on one particular "legacy conversation starter," as Iannarino calls it. And it focused entirely on immediately building a relationship. Sellers would seek to establish rapport from the get-​go, using personal topics, like alma maters, to inspire a connection. But, according to Iannarino, this type of conversation starter misses the mark with modern buyers. 

"You will never hear me suggest that relationships are not important, but because the world outside changed, this sales conversation starter is rarely as effective as it once was," Iannarino explains. A solid relationship continues to form the foundation for a successful partnership. Iannarinno just suggests using a different approach than this one when first reaching out.

What resonates with today's buyers?

Time restraints, information availability, shifts in buying processes, and other factors changed how buyers want to deal with sellers. Yes, likeability is still important, but what matters more to buyers? Sellers who can show value. SalesFuel research revealed that 30% of buyers say likeability is a top trait they seek in a seller. But nearly 60% say the same for a seller who knows how their products can help solve the buyer’s issues. And 55% want to work with a seller who provides relevant insights and ideas to help their business. In other words, buyers want value. 

This is where a more updated first sales conversation comes into play. “The new conversation starter in sales is something like a briefing,” Iannarino explains. He believes that this approach is better for buyers because first, there is no wasted time. This is something that modern buyers want (especially those who are younger). Second, you establish credibility. “The briefing positions you as an expert and authority, while also creating value for the contacts receiving your insights and perspective,” he writes. “When a salesperson is not positioned as an expert and authority—when they are not One-Up—they are not useful as a potential partner. Those who underestimate how much has changed and the impact it has on B2B sales will struggle.”

Knowledge and credibility will lead to rapport

While sellers may not be in control of outside factors, they can be in control of how they approach a first sales conversation. The briefing approach immediately shows value and credibility while also building rapport (just in a more understated way). Sellers create an immediate connection by demonstrating expertise about the buyer’s pain points rather than where they went to school or a favorite show. Sellers won't sacrifice rapport by leaving behind legacy conversation starters. They will just be building it in a different way that will resonate with what buyers want today.

Photo by Yan Krukov

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica reports on sales tips and credibility for SalesFuel. She is a graduate of Ohio University.