How to make a good sales call

Adam Knights, Founder of, explains what it takes to make a good sales call.

When it comes to assessing sales effectiveness, there are so many selling models now that the world is confused. At, we recently ran an audit and found 11 different sales models. The truth is, whatever model you deploy, there is a before, during and after phase with any call. All we work on is being able to have an incredible conversation through remote in-call quality coaching at the point of need.

“The gift of the no is your opportunity to engage in the art of having a difficult conversation”


This stage starts weeks before the call, often through well thought through semantic priming and engaging emails, along with a wider social intelligence that enables the key account manager (KAM) to walk into the customer’s environment with full confidence of an outcome.


This stage consists of three main phases:
1. The value introduction: a mini elevator pitch that frames the meeting or call as one of immense value to the customer.
2. Summarising joint actions: a neat way of closing and influencing with integrity, while using advance objection handling techniques.
3. Recency: a closing 60 second statement that leaves the customer’s little black book open with the KAM’s name at the top!


In order to maximise impact in front of customers, the KAM needs to objectively assess their own performance to celebrate what they did well, and learn from what could have gone better.


Taking precedence above all this is mindset.Belief systems in sales can be so limiting:
“They don’t see us”, “They don’t like pharma”, “I have the hardest region!”
I feel for many KAMs at the moment as the environment is tough – but it’s not impossible. Some companies have an incredible mindset and belief in their model.


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At, we’ve designed a simple framework following many years of leading, developing and studying successful salespeople – Fast Yes v Slow No®. We’ve discovered there are two key areas that you really want to play in: the ‘fast no’ or indeed even the ‘fast yes’. Avoid the ‘slow no’!

1. The ‘fast yes’ Top performing KAMs build trust/like very quickly. If the company proposition is strong, sales nirvana has been reached – congratulations.
2. The ‘slow yes’ The proposition is strong but there is a low level of trust. The sales will happen in the end – it may take a while though.
3. The ‘fast no’ The customer trusts/likes the salesperson but the proposition is weak. For successful salespeople, the ‘fast no’ is better than the ‘slow yes’ – it’s indicative of a good relationship with the customer and a high level of trust.
4. The ‘slow no’ The proposition is weak and there is a low level of trust. This is the worst position to be in. Organisations know that nothing is going to progress yet they’ve invested so much time and resource already, they continue in the account hoping the position will change.


For a great salesperson, a ‘fast no’ will happen frequently. The customer is comfortable to say ‘no’ quickly if the proposition is not right for them, which provides an opportunity to thank the customer and to clarify the objection. This helps to really understand what the customer is thinking, rather than constantly seeking agreement (most KAMs tend to do this, it’s easier).
For a sales organisation, harvesting data on ‘fast no’ customers can provide invaluable insights to help refine propositions, target lists and call patterns.
In one of my previous companies, we created the ‘getting to NO you’ list of target customers across the country who we knew always said ‘no’. This is a really powerful tool that we still produce today.
On many occasions, we’ve gone in and actually said to customers: “It’s great to see you again. I have a feeling this may be a ‘no today’ and in truth, that’s okay as long as we can have a reasonable conversation, and if it’s a ‘no’, what would make it a ‘yes’?” Giving the customer the freedom to say ‘no’ often leads to a far more reaching sales call.


First and foremost, you have to validate the ‘slow nos’. You usually get a gut feeling based on the time, investment and personnel you’ve put behind a project, and also the language that’s being used by an individual or salesperson: “There’s another meeting next month”; “The meeting has been delayed by two months”, “Someone new has moved into the role” etc. Poor salespeople often like to hide behind the ‘slow no’ box. It means they can create longevity to the project or problem that is developing locally.
Business reviews are ideal in these types of scenarios. By writing down a list within the company of each ‘slow no’ and their value, you will drive huge efficiencies across the system by identifying which accounts are worth focusing on in terms
of return on investment.
Check the internal numbers to establish that something isn’t sticking somewhere, and secondly, go to see the customer or customer group to confirm how they view the situation. Sometimes a ‘slow no’ can actually be rescued.


Going back to the principles of Fast Yes v Slow No®, in this scenario, one of two things is happening:
1. The customer hasn’t understood the proposition properly and doesn’t know what it means for them.
2. The customer is struggling with the salesperson in terms of a trust/like factor.

If the proposition is the problem, then it needs to be addressed as it clearly doesn’t fit that local economy or the customer’s needs.
If the KAM isn’t landing the deal due to trust/like, then there’s a training and development issue concerning the individual’s performance. Assess how many ‘slow nos’ they actually have or are in charge of in their area. Are they purposely creating ‘slow nos’ to create longevity? They might have just had a personality clash with the customer, which has led to this environment.
Ultimately, all of this can be addressed through a decent business planning proposal and process. Remember – the gift of the ‘no’ is your opportunity to engage in the art of having a difficult conversation.

Adam Knights is Founder of
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