Whether it is your prospecting call, a follow-up meeting or an actual sale, how are you setting yourself up for future success?
In my previous column, “Ask the ‘Did I?’ Questions,” I addressed how to self-evaluate your sales skills, post-call. I purposefully left out how to set yourself up for success concerning future calls, because that warranted the time and space of a separate column.
CREATIVE IDEA / ISTOCK / THINKSTOCK
It’s all about this question: What area of opportunity will you explore that leads you into the next call, meeting or cross-promotional sales opportunity?
During a recent trip, I was walking through the Delta terminal when a salesperson, selling the Delta SkyMiles credit card, caught my eye and asked, “Can I ask you one question?” I replied, “You just did.” His colleague started laughing and I kept walking. Those who know me know that I enjoy random sales banter and will gladly engage in sales dialogue — if for no other reason than to gain insight or tips on what to do or not to do. I simply love sales.
Clearly, this salesperson had not been professionally trained. Or if he was trained, the training didn’t stick. We’ve all been there. We get complacent. We’re ill prepared and wing it. Think of the last trade show you attended. What was your opening line when customers or prospects walked by? You shouldn’t have to think too hard about this because you’ve had to plan for openings like this many times. What will be your attention-getting question or statement at the upcoming ADA meeting?
Don’t know? You should.
So, how are you setting yourself up for success now and for future calls?
As sales professionals, we are fully aware that it is easier to sell a current customer on incremental business than it is to close a new customer. Where do you look to expand your sales growth within your current customers’ product portfolio? How strong is your desire to assist clients in gaining new patients, addressing business priorities or facing the myriad staff challenges? When was the last time you asked your customers what they thought might be their biggest growth opportunities? Go ahead, ask the question. Take a deep breath and allow them to answer. Then be prepared to dig deeper and seek to understand the real driver behind the need. Whatever the challenge or opportunity, it will relate to one or more of the three P’s: Profitability, Productivity or Perception.
After your calls, ask yourself, “Did I offer vacuous filler or thought-provoking questions?” Be honest in your answer. Truth is, if you plan ahead you have a higher probability of success during the call, while setting yourself up for continued success. You’ll also have stronger clarity in your subsequent interviews.
In addition to being planful in your approach, it is critical to have a backup objective in reserve. Many times we are so hyper-focused on our main objective that we are at a loss for words and ill prepared to transition to another opportunity when we get shot down. A more effective approach would be to have a backup objective planned and staged BEFORE going in. Depending on the specific product/service line that you represent, I am sure you have differing categories/buckets/product focuses. Ask yourself, “Where will I head if my primary objective is off?”
This same planful approach will ensure that cross-selling opportunities are being closed sooner rather than later. I hear over and over during sales call coaching that, “I didn’t want to overwhelm or seem pushy by asking another question.” My standard response is this: “OK, so let’s pretend we had all the time in the world. What would your next question have been?” If there is not an immediate, relevant and compelling response, then we both know who’s fooling who.
Knowing that it takes nine to 11 touches to gain a new user, why would you not do your best to shorten this cycle, and set yourself up for greater and faster success? All it takes is a bit of preparation. I would suggest that you need only a handful of questions in your back pocket, grounded in the customer’s situation and your product/service differentiation. Yet we still see 80% of sales people winging it.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons salespeople lack the commitment to actually set themselves up for future calls. It means they have to follow up. Truth is, if you are one of the rare people in sales who actually sets yourself up for success and effectively follows up, you are in the top 10% of sales professionals. What’s your next move? The choice is yours.