First Contact: What to Do, Why, and How to Get Better Results

Depending on the selling approach you’re using, you are closing between .6% – 7% , regardless of size of solution or industry.

These numbers are far lower than they need to be: so long as your primary focus is on making a sale and you focus on needs assessment and solution choice (factors which are the buyer’s final considerations), and ignore the change management issues buyers must handle before they choose a solution, you are delaying a close by a factor of 8.

By using a different focus and changing your ‘first contact’ criteria, you can enter your prospect’s world and get onto the Buying Decision Team much earlier. And close more/quicker. But it requires a new skill to add to your sales model.


Here are some numbers my clients have given me over 20+ years:

When using a non-marketing-automation selling model (any form of needs-based consultative selling), and your first contact is to make an appointment as your first outcome, you close 2% from first call (with no idea who might be a prospect, you must start counting your ‘close rates’  from this first call – not from your appointment). It might show up as 15% if you track from first appointment.

When you go through lead scoring and lead nurturing, and then attempt to make an appointment, you are closing much less than 1%. And when counting from first appointment, the close rate shows up as 17% — real, only if the names ignored by lead scoring had no probability.

As a rule of thumb, any time you begin your sale with an attempt to get an appointment, you are being rejected by approximately 90 – 97% of perfectly good prospects.   

At least 50% of the people you are calling are viable prospects. Easily half of  these can close. Are you closing at least 25% of all of your raw leads? These folks are going to buy something similar to your solution within 2 years – but not from you. If you employ a change management model from the first call rather than attempt to get an appointment, you will close more, help put together – and become part of – the Buying Decision Team on your first call,  and making you invaluable immediately.

Note: until or unless the entire Buying Decision Team is on board, buyers will not have the full fact pattern to understand what a solution must include, regardless of what their need or ‘pain’ looks like to us. And generally, buyers do not know all of the Team members until they are close to the end, thereby delaying a purchase.

When you Qualify a lead via marketing automation, and use some sort of subjective lead scoring, you are omitting perfectly good leads that fall out of the marketing automation or lead scoring process. You are losing many of the leads that will eventually purchase your solution (probably from someone else) within the next two years.
If you first connect using a qualification process that includes change management criteria, you can turn around a lead from ‘potential interest’ to ‘qualified prospect’ within 10 minutes, and reduce the sales cycle by 50% regardless of the size of the solution.


When you attempt to Qualify using need, purchasing capability, or timing,  or use a Trusted Advisor approach, you are omitting all of those people who

  1. don’t know know exactly what they need yet and are not quite ready for solution data,
  2. have not managed the off-line change and are not ready to buy – but are indeed buyers and know they have a need,
  3. are doing their due diligence, but have assigned others to do on-line research for them and don’t seem to be relevant leads,
  4. have not the full solution criteria because they are still getting their Buying Decision Team members on board.
Once you Qualify using a change management focus – how will they go about becoming excellent, address what has stopped them until now, what will they need to do to ready themselves for some sort of change, how they can meld a new solution with the old workaround – you can actually create buyers very quickly. Remember that until or unless buyers are able to avoid disrupting their status quo, they will not buy. And the sales model is not capable of helping them walk through this, leaving them to show up as Not Qualified.

The last thing buyers need is solution information, and they need very little of this on the first contact. Until or unless they get feedback on all who touch the solution, and then know how to move forward with change and solution adoption in a way that will create few ripples in their system, prospects cannot buy – separate from their need.

Personally, you may not care about the private, back-end buying journey. But by collapsing the buyer’s journey between first thought and purchase, by helping them get ALL Buying Decision Team members on board early to define the solution and change processes, and get the right policies in place quickly, you can find more prospects, close a lot more sales (400-800% higher close rate over sales alone) and waste a lot less time – not to mention forecast more efficiently.


With a cold call and a good list, using the Buying Facilitation Method®, my clients close 35% from first call – often without an appointment, and always at least 50% quicker.

Buying Facilitation® facilitates the behind-the-scenes change management issues necessary prior to a purchase, puts you onto the Buying Decision Team immediately (first call) , and teaches the buyer how to recognize and manage their internal systems  issues up front. The model works in any situation in which back-end decisions get made:

  • Periodic upsell  for new solutions
  • Client recovery to re-engage with lapsed customer relationships
  • Prospecting, telepromoting/telemarketing, and follow up from marketing automation
  • Managing negotiations
  • Pipeline reviews/management
  • Qualifying – for proposal management, sales, marketing, pre-lead scoring
I can’t teach you Buying Facilitation® in a blog. But here are two questions to start your calls with:
How are you currently adding new capability to your X?
At what point would you and your decision team be seeking to add something new to what you’re already doing successfully?

Let’s add Buying Facilitation® to every sales process – as a front end to marketing automation, or a new skill for sales folks – and close in half the time, manage our pipeline in a timely way, find the right buyers immediately and get rid of the time wasters immediately. And start the process from the very first contact.


Call me. I can discuss self-directed learning, or site sales training, or the development of custom playbooks and sales scripts. We can also design front-end technology to enter the buying decision journey earlier. To help you learn:

Have Sharon-Drew speak on facilitating buying decisions at your next conference. Learn about her topics and see her in action on
Contact her directly at

7 thoughts on “First Contact: What to Do, Why, and How to Get Better Results”

  1. Sharon, thanks for the post. From my perspective, I think the key is patience. Opportunities don’t happen overnight. Marketers must realize they need to educate their leads/contacts until they’re at a point where they’re expressing interest. It’s a change in thought process really. If you’re impatient in sales or marketing you’ll find yourself moving through your database too quickly and you’ll omit possible opportunities. Marketers have to start thinking like buyers, not sellers. If you were the buyer what would you want to see? Educational material (use cases, analyst reports, 3rd party articles) or a sales pitch from a greedy sales guy who wants your business now?

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  6.  Combien de fois avez-vous été pris dans le cycle des services téléphoniques automatisés? Abercrombie Outlet, vous poussez 15 numéros et finissent par revenir au menu principal et n’a jamais parler à un représentant des ventes. Les gens sont avides d’une interaction personnelle sur le marché. Cherchez des fa?ons de rendre votre entreprise une expérience personnelle que vos clients apprécieront. Apprenez à conna?tre quelque chose sur les gens qui marchent à travers les portes. Laissez les gens qui visitent votre site web savez quelque chose sur vous. Yeh, il est plus facile de faire confiance à un individu d’une grande entreprise impersonnelle … et la confiance est cruciale pour la construction d’un bassin de clients fidèles.

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