Though I haven’t been in a traditional sales role for some time, a project has me back in the saddle again. Not in person, but on the phone. I think phones sales is even harder than faceto- face communication, though the process for each is the same.
Whether you are a sales coach, manager, trainer or sales professional, developing and refining a defined sales process allows you to self-evaluate and determine missed opportunities and areas for growth. I train and coach the LEVL 7 Sales Methodology. While I know the process inside and out, using it fully and consistently is a horse of a different color.
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When starting the journey on my current project, I already had a leg up on who my target customers were, and why I would be contacting them. In addition, I had a clear understanding of what has worked for others, as far as gaining access to accounts and effective messaging. The rest of my success would be defined by my pre-call planning (PCP), call delivery and post-call follow-up (PCF). Do you know who is in your target audience and why they are the priority targets? What do you know about each client or prospective client? What will be the easiest way to gain access and build a relationship? What value can you provide and HOW in the world are you going to communicate it?
If these questions sound familiar, they should. Regardless of whether we are working on inside or field-based sales, our pre-call planning must be targeted, specific and actionable.
My first cold call was a complete disaster. During the introduction on my second call, the receptionist asked why I was talking so loud. I was horrified. Wow! And I’m a trainer. The old adage reverberated through my soul: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, consult.”
I settled down and took a deep breath. … I was out of control. I’d been here before. New role, new environment, new information. I also knew I just needed to keep at it.
After documenting and sending any required information after each call (there is NO WAY to ensure you capture important nuances and details when delivering follow-up calls if you put that off till later), I truly reflected on my delivery, or lack thereof. What did I do well? What information did I gather? What held me back? What did I miss? What information did I gain? Did I, did I, did I? Sure, I could have kept going, immediately made more calls and continued to deliver the same information. But why would I, when upon reflection I could improve on my delivery?
Even if you are a seasoned sales professional at the top of your game, self-evaluation and tweaking your delivery can ensure healthier results. When was the last time you had a constructive coaching conversation regarding your sales skills? When was the last time you were able to HEAR your calls or sales dialogue? If this technology is available to you, use it!
I took this advice to heart, and the response to my opening statements and subsequent connections improved dramatically. Despite knowing why I was calling, I didn’t clearly and specifically communicate the value of WHY I should gain access. I was vague. My vagueness resulted in a ho-hum response. My comments or questions were not specific, action-oriented or value-driven. I made a cheat sheet, used it and began to feel confident and armed going in. Done.
Many times when calling on an office you will hear, “We’re all set,” or “Our inventory is fine.” This is a clear sign that a “customer service mentality” has set up a roadblock. Respond by saying “Oh, no, I wasn’t calling to check your inventory. Today I’m calling to share some insights on …”
When you hear, “What do you have for us today?” instead of the “We’re all fine” commentary, you’ll know you’ve made the transition from order taker to a trusted business partner and consultant.
The signs are all there. Are you reading them? Are you self-evaluating and tweaking your skills based on a defined sales process? If not, you may need to brush off that saddle and get back on the sales improvement horse. I did, and I’m a much more effective and empathetic sales coach because of it.