7 call planning tips – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

Although sales people may not do it as often as they should, most would rally around the notion that call planning is a good idea.  In this discussion a distinction is made between call planning and account planning.  Exploring account planning is a topic that deserves its own discussion and will be postponed for another day.  What this post does cover is the two components of call planning – pre-call planning and post-call planning.

Let’s begin with some best practices for pre-call planning.

1. Determine the call objective. The first step in pre-call planning is setting the objective for the call.  The objective should be formulated in terms of the commitment desired from the customer that moves the sales cycle forward.  Examples include: an appointment with a more senior person, an opportunity to present your solution to the buying committee, or a trial placement of your solution.  The appropriate commitment is determined by where you are in the sales cycle and the person with whom you are meeting.

2. Keep it simple. If sales people are asked why they don’t do a better job of pre-call planning, the answers heard most often are “No time” or “Too much paperwork.”  Sometimes the complaints are partially justified but when some sales people say “I just do it in my head” – that doesn’t hold water.  You have to write stuff down.  The key is keep it simple – no format for a pre-call plan should be more than one page or take more than 15 minutes to create.

3. Adopt a standard way of pre-call planning. This idea is correlated with the “keep it simple” notion.  Standardizing pre-call planning is a great way to keep it simple and to get better at doing it.  Here are six topics that work well as the basis of a pre-call plan:

  • Call objective
  • Questions you want to ask
  • Questions you might be asked
  • Points to communicate
  • Likely objections
  • Possible advances or commitments

4. Rehearse key calls. In a major sale, all calls are not of equal importance.  Those one or two key calls during the sales cycle that are most important demand more attention when it comes to pre-call planning.  On these calls, top performers not only complete a pre-call plan, they rehearse the call in a role-play with a colleague or sales manager assuming the customer role.  Yes, it takes time but this is one of those cases where time is well spent. A small difference in how a specific segment of the call is conducted can make a huge difference in the outcome.

Now let’s turn to post-call planning.  Although most sales training programs and sales managers give a fair amount of attention to pre-call planning, post–call planning is often the forgotten country cousin.  Yet in a major account, it’s a big deal too. So, let’s take a look at a couple of best practices.

1. Do it now. Perhaps the biggest trap is either not doing it at all or postponing post-call planning so long that it just turns into an exercise of completing a call report form. The best idea is to complete the post-call planning right after the call to ensure nothing falls “between the cracks”. When the call is still fresh in the sales person’s mind it’s easier to decipher what the notes and scribbles penned during the call actually mean. Again 15 minutes should be all that is needed.

2. Assess next steps. Think about what happened on the call and assess what needs to be done next.  Analyze how the results of the call might impact the overall account strategy for moving forward.  Remember great account strategies are always a work-in-progress.

3. Play it again. One insight that can be gained from post-call planning is determining what went right and what went wrong.  Ask the question: “If I could do this call again, what would I do differently?” Since “this call” will probably occur again in another account this brief call assessment should result in the call being executed a little bit better the next time.

Top sales performers are always getting better – call planning is one simple way to execute on that idea. The reason call planning is such a big deal is not just about what you write down or key into your iPad.  It’s taking the time to systematically think about what you are about to do and to learn from what you just did.  The larger the account, the more important the idea and the greater the payoff.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Sales management – the power of culture

sales cultureConsider this …

“If you create an environment that inspires people in the good times and bad, they will figure out the right strategy and will do the right things from an execution perspective. I used to think strategy, execution and culture were a three-legged stool. Now I realize that if you create a great culture, the other two will follow.”

In a recent New York Times article Robert Reid CEO of Intact goes on to point out -  “Almost everyone goes to work to do a good job. And if they’re not doing a good job, most organizations step back and say, “I’m not sure they’re going to make it here.” We think the opposite — that we’ve done something to let them down. We either haven’t taken them through the right process, or trained them appropriately. If somebody is not doing something the way you expect, you need to seek to understand what’s going on and help them.”

We thought this was an interesting idea for sales management to consider as they start a new year. Traditionally, we have talked a lot about best practices for sales strategy and sales call execution – we have positioned them as the hallmarks of sales success.  But if we consider Reid’s point perhaps we have put the cart before the horse.  Perhaps sales teams would be even more successful if greater emphasis were directed towards putting in place a culture that supports individual excellence.

At a minimum we thought it was worth a look.  So what might sales management do to help put in place a more supportive culture?  Let’s take a look:

  • Help people learn versus telling them what to do.  When it comes to establishing a culture of support one of the biggest traps for sales managers is coaching to their favorite plays – that is suggesting what they did in a similar situation.  First, that was then and this is now – a lot has changed in the world of Sales.  Second, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, so your sales rep may not be able to pull of that play that was so successful for you.
  • Reward creative attempts as well as results.  Today sales reps must function in a very disruptive buying environment.  To succeed they must try out new ideas; they must improve what they are doing and also do some things they are not doing.  This requires risk.  Sometimes they will get it right; sometimes they won’t.  But a manager should create a culture where taking a well-planned risk is rewarded.  
  • Encourage team efforts.  Customer expectations are changing.  Today customers are looking for sales reps to be trusted advisors versus product facilitators.  In many cases the sales rep alone cannot reasonably supply the desired expertise – hence the emergence of the team sale versus the lone-wolf model.  But effective teams do not just spring up on their own; they require a culture where team efforts are encouraged, trained, and rewarded.
  • Provide sales a seat at the table This is where top management needs to come to the party.  It is hard to imagine that one can optimize a culture that supports Sales unless Sales has a seat at the table.  This step is also practical because too often top management puts a lot of time into planning company wide initiatives that tend to fail when it comes to execution.  A better alignment between strategy and Sales is one step for minimizing that problem.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Sales managers – are you ready for 2015?

According to Bain & Company, B2B sales executives have seen a tremendous disruption in recent years – and there’s every reason to believe the trend will continue.

In most B2B markets the buying process has changed dramatically.  At the center of change is the fact that buyers have access to more and better information about you and your competitors then ever before.

As Bain points out: “Many buyers will have researched a supplier, queried some of its customers and screened the supplier out of consideration before the supplier’s rep has an opportunity to contact the prospective buyer.

They go on to point out – “The traditional role of the sales rep identifying needs and communicating product features is waning, and the ranks of quota-carrying reps without relevant expertise in an industry, function or offering will disappear.”  Companies want sales reps that can function as trusted advisors who can provide fresh insights and new ideas for solving business problems.  There is a decreasing need for sales reps that function strictly as product facilitators.   

So how ready are most companies to respond to this new state-of-affairs?  Well, unfortunately this is where the bad news starts to unfold.  According to Bain, few companies are prepared for the structural changes taking place. They surveyed 550 B2B sales executives – here are the results:

  • 60% said their companies do not consistently do a good job of aligning offers to target customer segments.
  • Only 40% said their sales reps have a strong understanding of their company’s differentiation.
  • Only 35% said their marketing and sales organizations have strong operational alignment.
  • Almost one-third said the majority of their reps do not have the requisite skills.
  • Three-quarters have made significant investments in technology—but less than a third have realized marked improvements in sales effectiveness from those investments.

Bain argues that companies must take a fundamentally new approach to Sales – and quickly.

From our perspective Bain’s sense of urgency is well taken.  In addition, for many companies the change is not about a little tweak here and a little fine-tuning there.  The change will more than simply doing a better job doing what you are doing; it will be about doing something different.  So what are some things a company can do right now to do a better job getting ready for 2015?

  • Selection.  A first step would be to take a fresh look at the selection profile for hiring new sales reps. If customers want trusted advisors rather than product facilitators, then hire sales reps with a different skill profile that would include skills related to executing a consultative sale including industry, customer segment, and technical knowledge.  A correlated thought is to remember that bigger and better onboard training is a great next step.
  • New product launches.  A second area of focus for getting starting would be to up your game when it comes to the sales training associated with new product launches.  This is an excellent case in point for trying out ideas for better alignment between Marketing and Sales.
  • Technical personnel.  Many companies have a cadre of engineers and technical staff who have extensive expertise for providing the insights and ideas the customs are asking for.  The challenge is to provide these people with the sales skills required to get actively and effectively engaged in the sales process.  In many cases the knowledge customers are demanding is simply not going to be acquired by the sales people; it is just an unreasonable demand.  So leverage the power of a team sale versus staying with the lone-wolf model.

In any period of disruption new winners and losers emerge.  The trap is changing too little – too late.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Sales leadership programs – four common mistakes

leadershipMcKinsey reported an interesting research study on leadership training.  If you are a Senior VP or a Training Director, the study is a must read.  Although it related to leadership programs across functions, we thought the finding would be particularly important for Senior VP’s of Sales and Sales Training Managers.

There is little doubt that companies get it – leadership training is important.  This is made crystal clear by the yearly investment that U.S. companies direct to leadership training. The McKinsey study estimated 14 billion dollars a year in the US.  The bad news – the programs are not universally successful.  When surveyed only 43% of CEOs felt confidant their investment would achieve the desired payoffs.

Because of the importance and because many CEOs have concerns about success, McKinsey interviewed hundreds of chief executives in reference to successful programs and those that failed to live up to promise.  As a result, they isolate four common mistakes that distinguished success from failure.

Let’s take a look at the findings translated to Sales

  • Overlooking context – Just because someone is a brilliant leader in one environment does not mean they’ll have the same success in another. In other words one-size-doesn’t-fit-all when developing sales leaders. So, rather than compiling a laundry list of competencies to include in the sales leaders program start with questions like: Who will be attending the program? What is their existing performance profile? and What are the specific challenges they will face in the coming year? Then focus on providing the three or four competencies that will make a significant difference in performing the activities they will be required to achieve.
  • Decoupling the training from the real work – Tie leadership development to real, on-the-job projects.  Build in the specifics related to your industry and company.  Make sure the training is up-to-date in regard to what is happening in your customer base.
  • Underestimating mindsets – Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behavior rather than just getting better at doing what your are already do. This, however, can be uncomfortable – yet given the changes occurring in many buying environments it is unlikely success can be achieved without doing something different – and that requires a new mindset.  This means the senior leadership needs to think long and hard about what to do before, during, and after the training to create and sustain that new mindset.
  • Failing to measure results – No training initiatives will be a success in the long run without post-program assessment.  Here it is important to note the multiple purposes for post-program assessment.  Yes, you need to do some type of summative evaluation that informs you how will the program worked – did it do what you said it would do.  This needs to be carried out while recognizing that the results should be measured over time.  However, formative evaluation is equally important – that is what do you need to do to reinforce the results and what do you need to do to make the program better the next time.  It is important to recognize these are two types of evaluation require different methodologies.

Many industries are going through transformational changes in what they buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it.  Such changes cannot be ignored on the sales side of the table.  And the changes are not about a little adjustment here and a little fine-tuning there.  It is about fresh insights and new ideas planned and executed skillfully – that requires new leadership from the top.  And, unfortunately the required sales leadership training is involved and expensive – so you have to get it right the first time.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Sales management – coaching for the Lombardi trophy

Lessons for Sales Coaching

Lessons for Sales Coaching

We’re in the midst of the NFL playoffs as teams compete for the Lombardi trophy.  So we thought it would be a good time to see if there were lessons to be learned for those of us in the world of sales.  Sure enough there was an interesting point about coaching introduced by Tom Pelissero in the USA Today sport section last month.

In a nutshell: At Stanford, Andrew Luck was the quarterback and Pep Hamilton was his coach. When they sought to resolve disagreements, Hamilton often would say – “because I say so.”  Now fast-forward to today.  Luck is the Indianapolis Colts quarterback and Hamilton is the team’s offensive coordinator.  So Luck and Hamilton are still together but their relationship has evolved.

What particularly caught our eye was a key point made by Hamilton: “We both have to feel good about any given play that is called. But it’s more important that he feels good about it than I do.”  The relationship between the quarterback and the play caller is one of the most important one in sports – few other relationships have as great an impact on team performance.

Mike McCarthy at Green Bay makes a similar point – “The biggest mistake I ever made was trying to call plays that I liked.  There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting on Monday after a big lost knowing that I sent in a play that I liked – but knew the quarterback would not be comfortable with.”

Let’s transition all this to sales and sales coaching

As is the case with the NFL, the coaching relationship between a sales rep and their front-line sales manager has a direct and immediate impact on sales success.

It is also true that sales coaching isn’t just a question of doing or not doing what the sales manager calls up.  A coaching session which leads to a sales rep going into an account and not being comfortable with what the sales manager suggested will almost always lead to a lack of success.

One of the biggest traps for sales managers is coaching to their favorite plays – that is suggesting what they did in a similar situation.  First that was then and this is now – lots of things have changed in the world of sales.  Second, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, so your sales rep may not be able to pull of that play that was so successful for you.  This is why in the big leagues, great sales coaching is more about helping people to learn – then telling them what to do.   

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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4 tips to raise sales networking up a notch in 2015

Sales Networking

Sales Networking

As 2015 starts and the need for new business opportunities emerge, sales reps will be finding themselves at industry conferences and other meetings where they can  and should  be on their networking game. To optimize these opportunities, let’s look at some networking tips, so sales reps don’t end up spending their time in line to share a moment with a keynote speaker or attending yet another breakout session which is all about nothing.

So, what are some things to do or thoughts to keep in mind to make these events more than just another three days where no selling is going on?

First, determine your purpose for networking. For example, are you seeking to make new contacts? Generate  new leads from existing customers? Get a feeling for what’s going on in your area?  Promote a new product.  You can’t be doing everything, with everybody, all at once – focus is key.

Second, think about with whom you want to network.  Not all networking interactions are equal. Let’s take a look at 6 types of people you might meet when networking:

▪   Wallflowers  They keep their head down, avoid eye contact and are uncomfortable making conversation. It’s tough to engage a Wallflower, but this is a case where some homework can pay off.  Sometimes these folks may not be great at conversation but are key players in their organization.

▪   Handshakers  These are people who value quantity over quality. They are trying to find as many people to contact as possible and usually have a pocket full of business cards. With Handshakers, be polite but recognize it’s likely the conversation won’t go very far

▪   Socialites  People seeking social meetings – looking for or offering great parties – not business meetings. If you’re looking to have a good time at the meeting, then Socialites are for you.

▪   Power Networkers  These are high-level people who have connections and genuinely want to make a few more; they are buttoned up in how they approach networking. They seek 3-5 quality connections vs. a pocket full of business cards. These people can be a big help because their mindset is – “As I go through my day, I meet a lot of people; tell me how will I know when I’ve met a perfect referral for you?”

▪   Connectors  Connectors seem to know everyone and everyone seems to know them. They like to help others and they’re good people to meet at networking events. They attend because they need to, not necessarily to do any business. They’ll listen to what you do, ask intelligent questions and introduce you to others who might be helpful.

Third, once you know “why” you are networking and know “who” you want to target  Think about how you might interact with the people you’re be meeting.  Do a little informal pre-call planning.

Lastly some of the time will be spent in formal sessions so what can you do to optimize that time. In that regard a colleague of ours, Scott Nelson at Medsider, shared some tips on becoming a Conference Ninja. Here’s a quick look at some of the points on Scott’s list.

▪   Think about thoughtful questions you might ask during Q&A sessions  –  It’s a great way to gain 30 seconds of airtime and create a basis for subsequent networking post session.

▪   Use breaks as time to meet people – Don’t just snack on the munchies or chat on your iPhone.

▪   Be prepared – When you engage a target contact, know what you want to talk about.

Networking isn’t easy. Nonetheless, networking is critical in Sales. Whether formal conferences, informal association meetings, or other networking opportunities, salespeople must network – it’s one of the ways to generate leads.  So if you are going to do it – do it smart – make the time worthwhile.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Sales management – balancing micromanaging and abandoning

Balanced Strategy LogoWhen asked about his early management challenges, Roger Ferguson – CEO at TIAA-CREF – shared: “You have to get the balance right between leaving them alone and micromanaging.”  Although Roger was discussing management in general, we thought his advice was particularly relevant for sale managers.  So we borrowed some of Roger’s ideas and added a few of our own related specifically to sales management.

We all know from experience that when we’ve been micromanaged, the results are usually less then positive.  The negative reactions can vary from disappointment, to lose of confidence, to lack of motivation and in some cases to push back.  Regardless of the management area these reactions lead to reduction in performance and in sales the results can be truly telling.

But swinging to the other side of the pendulum isn’t the right answer either. Just leaving sales reps to their own devices to “figure it out” regardless of the situation surely doesn’t lead to optimal performance.  If sales managers follow this path, sales reps are left only with a “reinvent the wheel” option. The consequences are time spent inappropriately; increased frustration levels and the feelings of a lack of institutional commitment to professional development.  

So where is the balance?  What are some steps that sales managers can take to get the balance right for the various people on their sales team?  Let’s take a look at a short list:

  • Respect individual differences.  One overarching notion for getting the right balance is recognizing that one size does not fill all.  There is a substantial body of research on the psychology of individual differences and it is a body of knowledge worth investigating.  One pitfall to avoid is unconsciously adopting “soft stereotypes.”   For example – superstar performers do not want coaching and don’t need recognition – neither of these statements is universally true.
  • Establish a strategic coaching protocol.  It is difficult to get the balance right if you don’t spend time with each member of your team.  So the question is how best to spend the time and achieve multiple goals.  One answer with a great track record is to set up a protocol for periodic strategic account reviews with sales reps about the strategy for one or two of their key accounts – that is accounts with a high revenue potential. Providing the right type and amount of help for driving key account potential is great place to get the balance right.
  • Recalibrate for pivotal events.  There are special times when it best to err in the direction of providing too much, as opposed to, too little management.  From time to time pivotal, trigger events occur which represent new challenges – just doing more of the same won’t work – such as:  launching a new product, shifting from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution or just after a merger or acquisition.
  • Leverage available analytics.  Today sales managers have more data, and in most cases better data, available than ever before. The challenge is how to translate that data into useful information for getting the management equation right – which as any manager will share is not so easy.  Here the company needs to help. A collection of support folks need to help provide managers the metrics that are easy and useful to use.  The sales managers’ role is to apply the numbers to improve their management effort.

Time management is an important challenge for sales managers – because very few have enough time in the first place.  The worse situation is to use too much time, a resource of which you have too little, to micromanage an effort.  You end up with the time being misspent, possible negative consequences and no time left where it is needed.  This balance thing matters.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Happy Holidays – Happy New Year

seasons_greetings51Thank you for reading the Sales Training Connection.

We’ve decided to extend our holiday break this year – so look for your next blog on January 5, 2015!

Wishing you a happy holiday season and a happy new year,

Janet and Richard

 

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Consultative selling and selling consultatively – don’t confuse them!

Every once in awhile in any field it is useful to get down into the weeds – explore language, word usage, and other things that go bump in the night.

In this case, the weeds involve drawing the distinction between the term consultative selling and the concept of selling consultatively.

As starters, Mark Hanan established the branding this term in his brilliantly written book Consultative Selling – an early and extremely important work about selling consultatively.  Because of the branding, Consultative Selling has become one of the “ings” in our field like: SPIN Selling, Conceptual Selling and Solution Selling?

Now, why is it worth making this point about confusion in regard to selling consultatively?

We would suggest there are at least two.  One relates to the just noted language distinction; the other to an important trend in the world of buying.  Let’s first look at the language point.

Language. The failure to draw the language distinction becomes important because it can be assumed that a sales model other than the branded one is not somehow as well designed for selling consultatively – and that is clearly not the case.  Take, for example, SPIN Selling.  The SPIN model for questioning, as well as, the other techniques in the program are fundamental for selling consultatively.  We would suggest this is equally true for the best of all the modern day selling models.

In regard to this distinction point, the really important distinction is between all the models that provide help for selling consultatively and those approaches that are mainly about tips, tricks and product pitches.  They are not about selling consultatively; they are basically about manipulation.

Buying trends. The second point relates to an important trend in the world of B2B buying and it is the strategic reason for making a big to-do about selling consultatively.  Let’s take a look.

Recently Ian Altman published a Forbes article entitled – Top 10 Business Trends that will Drive Success in 2015.

In the article the author makes the following point when discussing trend Number 1: “customers don’t value old-school high pressure manipulative sales methods.  In fact, many executives say they have decided not to select a vendor because of a negative sales experience.  Customers value subject-matter experts.  As customers increasingly value subject-matter experts, salespeople need refined consultative skills.”    

In 2015 and beyond your sales team will need to be able to sell consultatively at a very high level of competency in order meet customer expectations and to differentiate you from the other guys who have gotten the message.  This means you have to be very good at the following:

Consultative Selling Skills.  Today customers have changed dramatically in regard to their expectations of the role of the salesperson.  They are not looking for a product facilitator.  They want a trusted advisor that can help bring fresh ideas for redefining their business challenges and new insight for formulating innovative solutions.  You have to be able to position the value of your solutions and company for being a business partner helping to solve business challenges.  This requires competency in at least three consultative selling skill domains:

  • Fundamental consultative selling skills.  These are the competencies that are addressed in those aforementioned programs.  They are based on great questioning and active listening skills – the ability to determine fit between the customer’s decision specifications and preferences and your capabilities and emerging skills like: working effectively and efficiently as a member of an expert-based team and being able to leverage the new technologies for designing and delivering value-based customer interactions.
  • Second-level product knowledge.  First-order product knowledge is all about features and functions. The second-order refers to the application of product knowledge to the customer’s business challenges. How do your products individually or collectively solve the problems likely to be encountered by your customer base?  How do they impact productivity, risk, expense and revenue?  Can you relate a customer story or describe the research that demonstrates your product does what you say it does?  And can you fine-tune these narratives based on whether you are talking with a Marketing Manager or Engineer or Chief Information Officer?
  • Customer knowledge. Today, customers expect salespeople to know more their company and industry than ever before. They expect sales reps to provide new ideas, imagination, and insights to: manufacture products more quickly, improve product quality, shorten order times, or improve the customer service experience.

Consultative skills.  The second set of skills relates back to Ian’s point in the article.  Selling consultatively requires more than selling skills; it requires consulting skills.  Here is a short list:

  • Subject-matter expertise.  If you are selling enterprise software, then you have to understand the technology and applications in order to bring the expertise required to help the customer solve their business challenges.
  • Business acumen.  Being able to integrate a business and economic perspective into customer interactions.
  • Adaptive thinking.  Coming up with creative and innovative solutions that are not rule-based.
  • Computational thinking.  Being able to translate vast amounts of data into useful information.
  • Transdisciplinary competency.  Knowing how to integrate knowledge and concepts across disciplines and areas of expertise.

As VPs of Sales and Sales Training Directors sit down to explore the training needs for 2015, we would suggest that meeting customer’s expectation in 2015 does indeed require your sales team to be able to sell consultatively. If one buys the notion, then the 2015 sales training for most companies needs to be more than just a little adjusting and upgrading here and there.  While it is it is easy to learn tips and tricks; it is extremely difficult to learn to sell consultatively.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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How to accelerate your sales by avoiding empty sales touches

Amp-Up-3D-coverOur colleague, Andy Paul, has just published a new book – Amp Up Your Sales. We thought it was interesting – and asked Andy to share some of the ideas contained in the book in this guest post …

Sellers and buyers alike want to accelerate the sales and buying processes. Both parties can realize measurable gains in productivity if these processes were shorter. So, what’s holding them back?

On average, how many meaningful, substantive sales touches do you have with a prospect in your typical sales cycle?

First, subtract all the meaningless one-sided “touching base” emails and “checking in” voice mails that you send to a prospects and then count how many meaningful sales touches you have in your average sales process where you actually interact with and deliver value to your prospect.

The number will vary by the nature of the product and service being sold. But in general, the answer is “not many.” And that number is shrinking as customers put more pressure on sellers to help them navigate their buying process is a shorter period of time and with fewer sales touches.

If you waste just one of those sales interactions without delivering meaningful value to your buyer, what percentage of your sales cycle will you just have wasted?

It is absolutely essential to avoid empty sales touches, which are sales interactions that consume your buyers’ time without giving them anything of value in return. Waste your buyers’ time and it will make them reluctant to invest more time in you. If that happens, you’ll be on the outside looking in with your nose pressed against the glass as the buyer moves forward with your competitor.

Two Important Value Questions

Here’s a simple way to avoid empty sales touches. Answer these two questions before each and every interaction with a prospect:

  1. “What value I can deliver today that will help move the customer at least one step closer to make a purchase decision? (Another way to frame the question is to ask ‘What information does the buyer need from me today to move at least one step closer to making a purchase decision?’)
  2. “What’s the very next action that I want the customer to take as a result of receiving this value?”

If the answer to either question is “I don’t know,” then don’t do anything with that prospect until you do. Each time you interact with a prospect they invest some of their limited time in you and they expect to receive something of value in return. If you train a prospect through empty sales touches to expect not to receive value from you, then you can expect not to receive any more of their time in order to sell to them.

You’re better off sitting on your hands than calling the customer without a plan to deliver value.

Are You Prepared To Deliver Value?

Let’s look at how this works in practice. Let’s assume that your typical sales cycle has five actual interactive touches with your buyer. Last week you met a potential prospect at a business event and scheduled a time to meet them at their office to follow-up on their interest in your services. You showed up at the meeting two days later but you hadn’t adequately prepared in advance. You hadn’t spent enough time learning about the prospect, their products, their industry, the people you were going to meet and the challenges they faced in their business. In short, you weren’t ready to ask the probing questions that would get to the heart of the prospect’s requirements and, as a result, you missed out on uncovering their key pain points.

The prospect exited the meeting without learning substantially more about your services than they knew going in. They had doubts about working with you and your company because you didn’t deliver anything of value in the meeting that would help them move closer to a decision. As a result the meeting didn’t produce an outcome that was satisfactory to the buyer or to you. The customer felt that you unnecessarily wasted their time. And, you didn’t secure a commitment from the buyer to move forward in their process.

This is the point in the sales process where salespeople often trip up. That empty sales call just wasted one of your five meaningful sales touches. 20% of the opportunities you have to deliver value to a buyer just disappeared for good. Suddenly, you’re behind the curve with the prospect. Not only did you fail to deliver value you didn’t provide the prospect with a compelling reason to move their buying process with you to the next step. When this happens, it’s extremely difficult to make up lost ground and in all likelihood you will be fighting for second place. And, as we know well, there are no medals for coming in second in sales.

Remember: start by answering this simple question before every sales touch: Am I going to deliver value to the prospect in this interaction that will move them at least one step closer to making their decision? Don’t waste the prospect’s time, or your time, until the answer to that question is yes.

You can access the book here - and learn more about Andy Paul here.

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