The Second Call: How to Build Trust with an Exploratory Call


When you hit your stride with inbound marketing, you are going to start to receive a steady stream of new leads, and, as we discussed in our last post on qualifying questions, not all of them are going to be worth your time.

Some of them, however, will be worth their weight in gold, and for these leads, it’s critical that you spend more time talking with them to increase your understanding of some key aspects of their business.

When you spend time asking the right questions about a prospect’s business, not only will you build additional trust, but you will also get access to data that is going to prove invaluable to you when it comes to closing the sale.

Just like our process for the Connect Call, we have also created a clearly defined process for the Exploratory Call and in this post, I’m going to share our framework with you.

The goal of the exploratory call is to:customer research

  1. Dig deeper into the needs of your prospect
  2. Gain a deeper understanding of some your prospect’s sales process
  3. Build additional trust and rapport
  4. Determine if your solution can solve your prospects problems with a positive ROI

Imagine yourself “testing the water” at an unfamiliar beach. You wade out a few feet at a time to see if the bottom drops off sharply or if there are other hazards. Exploratory questions help you “test” the sales call to see how well you’re doing. – Joe Charbonneau

The exploratory call is the second of our three steps in the sales process and is the call we use to ask a LOT of questions about our prospect’s business.

If you have done your Connect Call correctly, your prospect will be eager to do this call, and you won’t have to worry about their losing interest as you ask your questions. Instead, your main focus should be to gain as many insights as you can into key areas of their current sales and marketing activities and results.

How to Start Your Exploratory Call

Here’s what we say at the very start of the Exploratory Call:

When we talked 3 days ago, I shared with you how I’ve helped people like you in your industry with companies like yours with X, Y, & Z, and we discussed how Y & Z were defined areas of improvement that are a priority for you to address. I assume nothing has changed in the last 3 days, but has anything changed?

They confirm nothing has changed.

Well, typically that way I run this call is with the following agenda:

  • We’ll talk about you, your business, your role, and what you are trying to accomplish. As well as anything that you have going on right now that is relevant to accomplishing those goals.
  • We’ll talk about any kind of things that you have tried that may or may not have worked.
  • We’ll talk about things you are worried about might happen in the future based upon some of the solutions you might be putting into play
  • We’ll talk about timelines and how important that is for you.
  • We’ll talk about how I would recommend that you achieve your goals, maybe more efficiently or more effectively, or just in ways that you haven’t thought about.

If that stuff sounds like it might be good for your business, we can start to have more of a conversation around how I might be able to help you execute on some of this.

This is what I’d recommend for the agenda. Did you have anything that you wanted to cover as well?

They will most likely say no. If they do, say… Are you sure? We don’t have to stick with this. I want to make sure that you get the maximum benefit from this call possible.

Ask the Right Qualifying Questionsexploratory call agenda

The third call in our 3-step sales process is called the Strategy Presentation and in this call we give our prospects a customized sales presentation that relies on our having gathered some critical data about each prospect’s company.

Below is the list of questions that we use to guide this discussion.

Lead Generation

  • What kind of leads are you trying to attract?
  • How many new customers do you need per month to hit your goals?
  • How many meetings do you need for that?
  • How many new leads do you need for that?
  • Do you have a way of tracking your sales reps prospecting activities?

Current Marketing Activities

  • How much website traffic are you getting now?
  • How many leads are you getting from your website now?
  • Are you blogging?
  • What other marketing activities are you doing now?
  • What is working best?
  • Have you considered starting/stopping blogging?
  • Do you have any premium content offers?
  • Do you have any landing pages?
  • Are you using social media?
  • Do you have a subscriber list?
  • Are you using webinars?
  • Are you doing any partnership marketing?
  • Do you do any speaking?

Planned Marketing Activities

  • What new marketing activities are you looking at starting?
  • Do you have someone on your team with the necessary skills?
  • How much does that person cost?
  • Would you be open to working with an agency instead of hiring?
  • Have you thought about the budget you have to work with for these activities?
  • Where is that money going to come from?
  • Who else will be involved in the decision to allocate these funds?

Sales Process

  • What is working for you for lead generation now?
  • How many sales reps do you have now?
  • How do you pay your reps?
  • Do you feel like your reps are performing well?
  • Who is your top sales rep?
  • Do you have a documented sales process with supporting systems?
  • Do you have sales scripts now?
  • What does the sales process look like?
  • Do you have content that supports that process?
  • Do you have positioning statements?
  • Do you do market research and then create content from that?

Financial Metrics

  • What are your annual sales now?
  • What is the goal for a year from now?
  • How much is a new customer worth?
  • How long do you tend to keep a customer?

Effective customer interaction starts with pre-call planning and preparation.  Prepared sellers have a better chance of getting the information and commitments they need to create, qualify, and advance opportunities. – Dario Priolo

Please note: when we do our exploratory calls, we don’t ask each of these questions every time. Instead, we keep this list in front of us so that we don’t ever miss any of the most important questions for a given prospect. If you want more detailed training like this, you can get it at HubSpot when you become a HubSpot partner. I’ve adapted my process from HubSpot’s Agency Sales Training series

Common Pitfalls

By the end of this call, your prospect is likely thinking one of two things:

  1. I’m really interested an need more information on pricing, timeline, etc..
  2. I’m not really serious and am only curious about how much this costs.

Regardless of which one they are thinking, the most common thing a prospect says at the end of this call is, “This is great. Can you send me a proposal?”

After 20+ years of B2B selling, I can assure you that when a prospect asks you for a proposal, they are most likely only curious about the price and not very serious about moving forward, so, if you invest the time to send them a proposal, most likely, you will have wasted your time.

Instead of agreeing to send a proposal, here’s what we say:

You: Ok, Dave, it sounds like we have identified that there are some things that you are interested in; some of the things that we talked about must have resonated with you. It seems like this is a priority for you, is that right?

Prospect: Ah..yes it is.

You: Dave, we actually don’t write proposals. We write contracts. Here’s what I suggest: now that I have learned as much as I have about your company’s sales process, I’m going to distill what I have learned into a strategy presentation for you and we’ll schedule another call for us to walk through that together. In addition to the strategy, I will also share with you all the details about pricing and a timeline for deliverables.

If, during that call, you determine that this investment makes sense for you, we’ll then make any adjustments necessary to our standard client agreements, and I’ll send it over to you, along with a copy of the strategy presentation. 

By the end of our next call, you will have everything you need to make a decision, and I’ll be expecting you to either give me a yes or no.

If they agree, book the 3rd call. If not, ask  why not?

What Comes Next?

Now that we have covered how to use qualifying questions to really dig into the nitty gritty details of a prospect’s business, we need to move on to step 3: the Strategy Presentation, which we will cover in an upcoming post.

If you have any questions or thoughts to share about what you have just read, please leave a comment below.

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