Editor’s note: This post is written by Julie Persofsky, Partner at Winning by Design, a premier strategy consulting and coaching provider for SaaS sales, customer success and other B2B sales organizations.

No matter how automated our lives become, one-to-one human interactions are still incredibly important, particularly in B2B sales. Getting those interactions right is critical, especially at the outset of a relationship when you’re trying to make a good impression and set the tone for the whole experience your company hopes to deliver. Since most of those interactions happen over the phone and are led by sales, you’ll want to make sure that your sales team is conducting each call in the best way possible.  

The good news is that doing so doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, simply remembering the mnemonic ACE can go a long way toward starting any sales call off on the right foot. From there, it’s simply a matter of setting your agenda and connecting the dots at the end of the call.

Let’s take a look at how to ACE your next sales call.

A stands for “appreciate”

Any time you begin a sales call, it’s important to let the person on the other end of the line know that you appreciate their time. They certainly didn’t have to give it to you, so take a second to acknowledge that. Saying something as simple as “I appreciate your jumping on the phone with me today” goes a long way toward setting the right tone for your call.

C stands for “check the endtime”

Have you ever been on a call, and just as you were getting to the most critical part, the person on the other end said they needed to go because they had another meeting? Scenarios like this is why it’s always important to quickly confirm how much time everyone has for the call before you get started. Sure, you may have agreed to an hour call when you set things up weeks ago, but when the call finally rolls around, your customer may no longer actually have that much time. By checking the end time of the call, you can put people’s mind at ease so they’re not worried about the call running too long. Meanwhile, it’s also a way to ensure that you’re able to use whatever time you do have as effectively as possible.

E stands for “end goal”

Setting and agreeing on an end goal that is customer focused, but still aligns with your goals (if they are different) is essential to making sure your meeting stays on track from the start. It also allows you to summarize at the end of the call and set things up well for your next meeting. The best part of agreeing on an end goal at the start of the call is that it’s a way to give your customers a chance to commit to a decision while also letting you know if you’re aligned with them early on.

Bringing it all together

You should be able to bring the various components of ACE together in just a few short sentences. Here’s an example of how you might kick off a call using the ACE method:

“Hey Liz this is Dan, I appreciate you getting on the phone today. I believe we agreed to spend the next 45 minutes reviewing your business’s requirements. Does that still work for you?”

[customer responds]

“Great. Our end goal for today’s call is to determine the best solution for your team to achieve their targets this year. Does that sound good to you?”

Moving on to the agenda

After you’ve opened the call with ACE, it’s time to discuss your agenda for the call. Don’t go into too much detail — just three bullet points will suffice — making sure to ask them what else they’d like to cover:

“So, as part of our agenda today I’ll first be asking you about your requirements. Then I’ll share some insights about how we’ve worked in the past with customers with similar needs. Finally, if it makes sense, we’ll talk about potential next steps in terms of how we might partner together. Is there anything else you would like to cover?”

Asking ‘what else they would like to cover’ rather than ‘is there anything else’ is much more powerful and puts the microphone directly in the customer’s hand. By doing so, you will ensure that you get straight to their number one priority and tailor the conversation to whatever it is they really want to talk about.

Connect the wagons

At the end of the call, it’s time to connect the wagons, which simply means summarizing what you and the customer spoke about, confirming if the goal you set was achieved, and setting up a next step. It might sound something like this:

“As we approach the last five minutes of this call, I just want to make sure we’ve achieved our goal, which was to make sure I have an accurate understanding of your requirements to recommend a solution that will work for you. Do you feel like we achieved that today?”

[customer responds]

“Great, as a next step, I’d recommend that you talk to one of our experts that has been working in your industry for the last five years, specifically helping clients implement that solution. Are you free for a call next Friday at 2 pm?”

The final word on “ACE”-ing sales calls

Sales calls are so important because they establish a relationship with the customer and open the door to long-term relationships. However, since you’ll only get one shot at them, you need to do whatever you can to make them count. By following the steps outlined in this post, you’ll help give prospective customers the confidence they need to want to move forward with you and your business.