As the calendar hits mid-June and I can hear the kids in the neighborhood celebrate the last day of the school year I ponder what they learned about life as well as their scholastic advancement. Those ideas provoke thoughts about what salespeople learn from one year to the next, or are they just repeating their earliest days in sales over and over, not really growing from the experiences along the way. So often when I am working with a sales team someone will complain about a prospect that will not return a call or a customer that expects to buy everything at the lowest possible price. Inevitably someone says that is just the way sales is and that complaining never makes it different. In other words, just live with it because that stuff just goes with the territory.
Bob was exhausted after seeing over 15 accounts in the past week. He had talked about football, politics, family and even some industry news in order to get the client engaged in a conversation that might give him an opening to pitch his latest and greatest widget. He was convinced that his skills at relationship building would pay off big time when all his new "friends" decided to buy something. When his boss asked how his activity could be so high, yet his results so mediocre, all Bob could say was "Yes, but they really like me!"
It's all too easy to spend a lot of time making "Howdy" calls with people you know and that are willing to talk about anything but business. Professional visitors like Bob don't have a plan to move the sales process forward because they are afraid they might lose a friend that could one day turn into an order. Worse yet, many of Bob's clients are probably too polite to tell him that they don't have time for idle chatter, and that they really wish that he not call on them anymore. Bob could get more production out of every call if he learns some ways to define his objectives and outcomes for every conversation and meeting. Even if he doesn't get an order, he would find his results would improve dramatically if he could just make a "sale of the moment" on every call.
Obviously, there are times when admin or service calls are warranted, but here are just a few ideas to "Name the Meeting" when the objective is to get a sales process going. Below is a mix of our standard meeting names and some expanded ones that still fall into our in the ways, updates and discovery type meetings:
Fact Finding - This is a qualification visit; a discovery meeting where we are looking for Problems/Priorities, Authority, Investment issues and Timeline. Does this account qualify for our time?
Decision - All the decision makers will be in the room with the understanding that at the end of the meeting they will trade your presentation/demo/proposal for a decision.
Fortify - Purpose of the meeting is to fortify our relationship with an existing customer. Preparing them for competition assault. Investing time to get to know upper management and/or support people in case our direct contact leaves.
What do I have to do to lose you? - This would be with existing customers to recommit them to continue their business.
Close the Conversation - The best way to get a stalled deal moving is to gently try to take it away by offering to never, ever bring it up again.
Alignment - Need to make sure we are on the same page. Prospect/Customer is saying one thing but doing another. Assumption is the mother of all mess-ups! The end result is clarification of expectations, agreement and understandings on any aspect of the sales process.
Face the Music - This is a bottom line visit! This is a meeting where the prospect/client is trying to either pull a fast one or take advantage at our expense. We will approach this meeting as an adult, not an angry child. We are calling them on their bad behavior. We will not be a victim. Resist the urge to prove yourself right.
Decision by Committee - Our proposal is being presented to a higher authority. We want to be the one making the presentation. Our fall back position is to do artificial decision making with our inside sales person by rehearsing their presentation. We also suggest being a fly on the wall by sitting outside the door and can be brought in as technical consultant to answer questions.
Let's make a deal - Prospect has committed to do business, but also wants to negotiate. This meeting needs to have the upfront agreement that the prospect is sold and we are just working out details. Never do anything unless we know the next step.
By the way, you might find these meetings go better if you find a way to gently tell the prospect ( or ask permission) the name of the meeting too, so that they have an expectation of where you are going together.
What are the names of the meetings you have most often, and what are the names of the meetings that are the most important? Can you think of a situation where NAMING THE MEETING would have helped in the meeting?
Final Thoughts for the Morning:
As a leader, you must consistently drive effective communication. Meetings must be deliberate and intentional - your organizational rhythm should value purpose over habit and effectiveness over efficiency. Chris Fussell
The majority of meetings should be discussions that lead to decisions. Patrick Lencioni
Your Top 3 Goals & Tactics for the Week
LAST WEEK: Update us on how things went last week with your stated Goals and GD Tactics.
THIS WEEK: Please share your Top 3 Goals for this week and the GD tactics you plan to deploy.
“The weather is changing; flowers and trees are popping out and I am exactly the same” thought Sam. Sam has been in sales for her entire career. She knows she does well enough as she has climbed the ranks through various companies, but she tends to plateau with medium accounts. Sam has yet to earn some of the major accounts and or territories that make salespeople’s careers. She has always been one to read all the top business books, listen to podcasts every chance she got, attends conferences, and even enrolled in a few training classes that promised to help her reach the next level, but nothing ever changed, despite putting all the things she learned into practice immediately. Sam felt ready to make some significant life changes on her own and earning more commissions would make it all possible. Now, she really wanted to see if it was her turn to be one of the big-time players.
Forget desperate housewives. What really scares buyers are desperate salespeople. How many times have you run into a salesperson that is not in sales for the love of the game, or to be the best at what they do? They act as if they need a sale to pay their bookie by Friday! Buyers have come to loathe this fast talking, pushy pitchman stereotype.
“Here we go again,” Jim thought as he walked into his last call of the day. He always scheduled this monthly call to be the last of his day as it left him annoyed, angry, and confused when he walked out the door. Jim just could not create the type of relationship with this business owner that he felt was key to his success with other clients. There were never issues with products, pricing, or communications from Jim, his agency, or the manufacturers, but these monthly update and prospecting meetings always ended up making Jim feel like a complete failure. Jim’s positive, enthusiastic, and lighthearted approach obviously missed the mark with this client, and Jim was sure the client disliked the meetings as much as he did.
Donna hated feeling like this. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t figure out what she was supposed to do when she got back to the office after being out for a couple of days making calls on new prospects and checking up on some existing clients. Her to do list had a bunch of things scribbled on it, but Donna didn’t know which items were most important or when the people she had been talking to were expecting her to follow up.
Symptoms:Abby prided herself on the level of customer service she delivered after the sale, and loved the loyalty her customers expressed to her. That loyalty also had a troubling side and it was beginning to show. She was having some problems in her territory and as customer base grew, so did the problems. Because of her history of being so responsive to their every need, many of Abby’s customers became dependent upon her and began asking her to do things not normally her responsibility. When she didn’t have time to deliver on these extra requests, Abby felt bad about failing her customers and they, in turn, began to express some dissatisfaction. Abby could see years of her good work in developing her territory slowly starting to unravel before her. Her best efforts were turning into the source of her biggest problems.
Bill and Pat were returning from their monthly poker game and while riding back in the car they both agreed they had witnessed a situation that they could apply as a "lesson learned" to their business careers. Everything had started out very similar to an everyday business meeting or sales call with socializing and normal banter between participants, but about half way through the event something had gone bad.
A simple mistake had been made that resulted in some subtle and not so subtle accusations leading to lines being drawn about who was right and who was wrong. All of a sudden everyone was very uncomfortable with the tone in the room.
The "accused" had snapped back with a defense based on fairness and leniency (not results) that almost guaranteed a confrontation between the two sides. The emotions ranged from excuse making to embarrassment to anger and then to withdrawal and alienation as the aggressors piled on the wrong-doers. When the game broke up early, everyone knew it had been caused by too much bad behavior.
James was feeling discouraged and wasn't sure how he could make it through another week like he had last week. A new prospect had made him wait over 30 minutes before he would see him, and then asked James to sell to him at his cost. Another client had told him he was backing out of a deal they had just made 2 days before, and that the reasons for the change were none of his business. This wasn't the first time that people had treated him this way and he was beginning to wonder just how much he had to grovel before he could do business with folks like this.