Sales: Knowledge call

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

The words we use just to request a meeting with a prospect or customer is the one variable that, more than any other single variable, determines the outcome of that meeting.

Take for example, calling an existing customer contact to request a meeting for what we refer to as a “knowledge call.” In this case, you want to meet with your good contact and truly do something different from what you normally do when you meet with this contact.

Let’s say Al meets with Charlie every month or so to work on several day-to-day service and technical issues. Things are going smoothly at the moment. No major technical issues need attention. So, Al decides that, this time, he wants to meet with Charlie to step back, go into homework mode and try to get his arms around the bigger-picture business issues at Charlie’s company (i.e. do a knowledge call). Al’s not going to get into the usual service/techie stuff.  In fact, he’s never really had this type of meeting with Charlie, so it really is something different.

What does Al say to Charlie when he calls to schedule the meeting? Could he say nothing and just schedule the appointment like it was any other? Sure, he’d get the meeting, but Charlie’s going to be confused at best when Al starts asking all kinds of questions about Charlie’s business.

Let’s look at some language Al might use. He might say, “I want to come in and do a ‘knowledge call.'” That could work, and Charlie will certainly let him in, but only after asking Al what new sales training seminar he just came from. 

Maybe Al should just call it like it is and say, “I want to do something different.” After all, he does, doesn’t he? Yes, but Charlie’s likely to view the meeting with a level of suspicion, or at best, confusion.

How about, “I want to come in and ‘ask you some questions’ about your business?” He is, after all, going to be asking plenty of questions about Charlie’s business. But it’s pretty much a guarantee that Charlie’ll ask Al, “Just what kind of questions do you want to ask me?” Now, Al’s dancing to reply.

“Information,” yeah that’s it. Al’s looking to get information. Why not tell Charlie? So he says to Charlie there’s some “information I’d like to get.” OK again, he’ll get the meeting, but not before Charlie says, “What information do you need?” “Well, it’s not exactly like that,” as Al finds himself dancing again. 

Try this one: Al says, “I’d like to come in and talk about business issues.” Now we’re getting somewhere. It is after all, business issues that Al’s looking to learn more about.  Except there’s one problem. Charlie thinks Al’s coming in to discuss some kind of pricing issue.

And finally, just to make sure Charlie knows this isn’t a ‘sales’ call, Al assures him with, “I’m not going to try to sell you anything.” Now, that’s comforting!

These are by far the most common ways the Al’s of the world would request such a meeting. Will they get it? Probably. Will it yield its desired outcome? Not likely. And it’s not for wont of good questions to ask; Al’s got a list a mile long.

What if Al was to call Charlie and say (after the usual warm-up), “Charlie, I’d like to get together. But this time, I’d like to go in a little different direction than we typically do when we meet. Normally, we get together and work on various technical issues. This time, I’d like to leave the technical issues at the door, take a step back and sort of go into homework mode so I can get a better understanding of the bigger picture business issues there at XYZ Company. I’m sure you can appreciate that the more we understand your company as a business, the more value we’ll ultimately be able to bring you as we look forward in our ongoing business relationship. Make sense?”

In the dialog above, Al is establishing that he wants to ask Charlie questions about his business, do something different, get some information, and of course, he’s not going to try to sell him anything. But he does so using words that paint the right picture and, as a result, sets himself up for a very successful meeting with his good contact Charlie.

Jerry Stapleton is the founder of Stapleton Resources LLC, a Waukesha-based sales force effectiveness practice. He can be reached at (262) 524-8099 or on the
Web at

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