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Taking Shortcuts

by David Brock on April 16th, 2012

We all take shortcuts.  We want to find the path of least resistance, we want to get to the goal in the shortest time possible.  It’s natural human behavior.

Too often, however, the shortcuts we take are the wrong ones.  It’s too hard to research a company and individual before a prospecting call, so we just call and talk about the only thing we know–ourselves and our products.  We’re pressed for time, so we don’t prepare for a sales call–we shoot from the lip, after all, we’ve made hundreds of calls before.  It takes a lot of time to develop a sales strategy, so we just go to meetings, respond to the customer in meeting after meeting, hoping they will buy at some time.

But it turns out, these aren’t shortcuts.  In fact, they take more time, they slow us down, they adversely impact our effectiveness.  We make unresearched phone calls, blabbing on about ourselves, not understanding the customer need, wondering why we can’t get a meeting with a prospect. We ramp up the number of calls and emails.  We find ourselves making dozens to hundreds of calls, only getting a couple of meetings.  

If we took a little time to research—Are we calling customers in our sweet spot?  Do we understand what they might be interested in, based on researching their companies and them?  Have we thought of new ideas, insights that we might provide which would have a great impact on them?  Have we thought of the questions we want to ask to better understand what drives them?  It takes time to do this, but it enables us to connect more effectively with the prospect.  As a result, the number of calls we have to make goes down tremendously.  And when we talk to the prospect, they’re engaged, they’re interested, they want to hear what we have to say.  They may invite us to a second meeting, then another….

Sales call planning—we know we’re supposed to do this, but we’re busy, and it’s just another call–we’ve made hundreds.  Research tells us that sales people make as many as 3 times the number of calls necessary to close a deal.  The reasons, poor preparation and execution.  Think about the last call you went on, after the call did you say to yourself, “I forgot to ask this,” or “I should have done this.”  This doesn’t happen if you prepare and plan the call.  Think about it from a customer point of view.  If we use their time poorly, if we aren’t prepared, they don’t want to meet with us.  If they don’t meet with us, they may not understand our solutions and might not buy from us.

We don’t take the time to think about our deal strategy–again, we’ve done lots of deals before, we can do it on autopilot.  But after a number of calls, we’re surprised–there are people involved that we didn’t know, we don’t really understand the customer buying or decision making processes.  The competition does something unanticipated, we didn’t really understand the customer requirements.  We didn’t take the time to develop a business justification then find the customer is struggling to get funding approved.  We find there’s a lot of stuff we need to know, we have to schedule more meetings, but the customer is impatient—“Why didn’t you do this the first time around?  We’re almost finished with our evaluation, you are slowing us down?”  or worse, “You really don’t understand what we are trying to achieve.  We feel more comfortable with your competitor?”

It turns out the “easy” shortcuts aren’t really shortcuts at all—we have to re-do things, we have to add more meetings and more time.  We test the prospect’s or customer’s patience, we never get their confidence or engagement.  The odd thing about these “shortcuts” is we never have enough time to achieve our goals if we keep using these shortcuts.

The real shortcuts involve work—research, planning, preparation.  Understanding our customer and competition, taking the time to understand what they need.  Figuring how we can strengthen our competitive position and create great value for the customer.  Thinking about how we can accomplish more in each call, how we can compress the buying/selling cycles.

Are you taking the right shortcuts?  Do they really enable you to maximize your impact in engaging and creating value for your customers?  Do they improve your ability to win and reduce your sales cycle?  If they don’t then they aren’t shortcuts.

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