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Let Me Get Back To You…..

by David Brock on March 21st, 2013

You’ve finally gotten a meeting with that key executive.  It’s taken weeks to arrange calendars, the meeting has been rescheduled once or twice, but the time has come.  You’re face to face with her–the key decision-maker.

The meeting’s going well, but there it is, the question the customer asks–and you don’t have the answer.  In the good old days, it used to be perfectly acceptable to respond, “That’s a great question, I’ll have to go back to the office and research it.  Let me get back to you tomorrow (or whatever time period is acceptable)”

As I said, in the old days, that was a perfectly acceptable response, but today, it’s increasingly unacceptable.  People are busy, they are pressured to move forward, they want answers and they want answers now!

Or maybe, they can wait, they graciously respond, “Get back to me when you can.”  We get the answer then we got through the arrange a meeting time cycle.  Her calendar is booked, no time for another conversation until three weeks from now, we set the time, it’s rescheduled, we finally meet, she’s forgotten the original question, we recover.  But our sales cycle has been lengthened by weeks.  Go through this cycle a few times with a few people at the customer, all of a sudden our sales cycles are lengthened by months.

As my friend Jill Konrath is fond of saying, “Everyone is crazy-busy!”  We just don’t have time for lots of meetings.  Time is money!  It’s money for our customers, it’s money for us!  The perfectly acceptable practice of getting back to the customer is no longer viable.  We have to find some way of compressing this cycle, of being prepared to respond to the customer in real time with real answers.

How do we manage this?  How do we eliminate or minimize the “Let me get back to you response…….”

Being Prepared – You And The Customer!

The most obvious way, which too few sales people execute is to “Be Prepared!”  Do  you have a written sales call plan for all your critical sales calls?  Have you agreed on the agenda and objectives with the customer before the meeting?

Most sales call plans are done in the car on the way to a meeting, in the elevator ride to the customer’s office, or while you are sitting, waiting for the customer to invite you into the office.  Too often, sales people prepare for sales calls, if they prepare, just in time.  Some years ago, we surveyed over 1000 sales people.  We found sales people made as many a 3 times more sales calls than necessary to close a deal.  The underlying reasons were poor or non-existent call planning and poor execution.  Test yourself on this, ask yourself these questions, “How many times have I left a meeting, or hung up the phone and said ‘I forgot to ask this question?'”  and “How many times have I had to say, ‘I’ll get back to you?'”  Think about all the sales calls or meetings you’ve had in the past 30 days, how many times did one of those things happen?

We can’t afford to waste our time or the customer’s.  We have to maximize the impact of each interaction with the customer.  This means both we and the customer have to be prepared for the meeting and producing results.  From our point of view, it means having a clear plan–documented.  What are our objectives?  What do we need to learn?  What do we need to prove?  What questions might the customer ask?  What objections might they raise?  What information will the need?  What proofs will they want?  What is the worst possible question they might ask?  Developing a plan, anticipating what might happen, and being ready is critical to maximizing our impact and effectiveness in the meeting.

But it’s insufficient that just we are prepared.  We want the customer to be prepared.  We want the customer to be ready to engage us in a productive meeting.  Agreeing on an agenda prior to the meeting is one of the most impactful ways of helping make sure the customer is prepared.  The customer responding, “Let me get back to you…” is as destructive to achieving our shared goals as it is for us to respond in that way.  We want the customer prepared and ready to accomplish something in the meeting.  So we can’t develop our plan, show up and expect the customer to be ready to use the time productively.  We have to help them make sure they are prepared.

Are you preparing for these meetings?

Are you preparing the customer to prepare for these meetings?

Are you both agreed on the goals and expected outcomes?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, you aren’t ready to use your time or their time effectively.

Bullsh#t Dave! 

Yes, if you’re paying attention and being critical, you know we can’t anticipate everything.  We have to do everything we can to anticipate what the customer might ask.  But there are going to be times when we just can’t anticipate everything.  As well as we prepare, there are some legitimate questions we won’t be able to anticipate.  How do we avoid “Let me get back to you?”

Let me shift my message to top Sales Execs and CEO’s.  It’s critical that you invest in the tools and capabilities to help your sales people minimize the “Let me get back to you…” response.  Time to responding to customers is critical to our success and impact.  Customers want answers and they want them now.  The ability for sales people to provide informed responses as immediately becomes not just a competitive differentiator, but significantly improves your relationships with customers  and accelerates revenue generation.

Smart organizations recognize mobility is critical.  Providing your sales people access to information, data, resources in real time, wherever they, are on whatever device is critical to their success–and your customers’ success.  Time to response will become a critical metrics and differentiator.

No sales person can anticipate everything.  They need to prepare well and make sure the customer is prepared, but we need to arm them.

If you aren’t investing in mobile you are losing opportunities, you are losing revenue.

There’s some terrific insight and great market research supporting this.  We’ve developed a Mobility Sales iGuide, a resource with trends, data, information, and customer experience to help you understand the importance of mobility to maximizing the impact of your sales people in each interaction with their customers.  It’s free, download and share it.  If you have any questions about getting started, just contact me.

 Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. David,

    This is a good post.

    There is so much wealth of info in this post.

    I completely agree with this line, “We have to find some way of compressing this cycle, of being prepared to respond to the customer in real time with real answers.”

    The problem here is not just preparation but sales skill alone is not sufficient today. For example, a sales person needs marketing skills since to compress time it is the sales person who may have to produce a content (blog, video) that is timely, relevant and impactful for the prospect he it talking to. You know them well so your content should be so well targeted that they end up saying, “this is us; we have to talk right away.”

    There is lot here to think about.


    • Jay: sorry for the slow reply, but these are great comments! I think you are really pointing out the need for much tighter integration between sales and marketing. Marketing needs to provide tools and content a salesperson can leverage, perhaps customize to achieve the impact you identify. Thanks for adding this great view!

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