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Prescription, The Double Edged Sword

by David Brock on December 2nd, 2015

Being prescriptive with our sales teams and our customers is a hot topic these days.  Prescription, done well, can be very powerful.

It helps focus us on the most effective ways to achieve our goals and objectives.

Prescription enables us to leverage our past experience, learning what’s most effectively, constantly refining, and tuning it to improve the results we achieve.

It helps us leverage best practice or experience across the organization, driving higher levels of performance and greater consistency in execution.

It’ very helpful with buyers.  They struggle with identifying the most critical things they must be doing opportunity-solving, including buying.  We can provide great leadership by being prescriptive, leveraging our experience of helping customers solve similar problems.

In sales, we see all sorts of prescriptive approaches to help sales people.  The sales process, in some sense is a prescriptive approach to aligning with the buyer, executing the most critical steps to achieve a positive outcome.  Scripts we may use in prospecting or other calls are prescriptive.  Even templates, checklists, playbooks are all prescriptive tools to help us improver our impact, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Done poorly, prescription has devastating consequences.

Adopted blindly and thoughtlessly, sales people robotically read scripts.  They go through the motions, not listening, not engaging.

Relying on the scripts, they miss cues, a raised eyebrow, a yawn, or an attempt by the customer to be engaged in a conversation.

Sales people don’t understand why they are doing what they are doing when things are overly prescriptive.  As a result, when things inevitably don’t follow the script, they don’t know what to do  They don’t know how to handle challenges, questions, unexpected responses.

Too often, sales people robotically following the prescribed steps gets derailed, losing opportunities they never should have if they were able to pay attention, analyze the situation, and adapt.

We can never anticipate everything a sales person will face in developing and executing a deal strategy, in making a prospecting call, in questioning/probing, in handling objections, in negotiating and moving to agreement.

Yet there is no end to prescriptive advice offered by self proclaimed sales gurus.  “Do it this way, don’t do it that way, I guarantee you will overachieve your quota!”

Over prescribing is confining, doesn’t recognize reality, and most importantly eliminates one of the most important attributes for sales success:  Critical Thinking  And Problem Solving.

Likewise being too prescriptive with customers can be perceived as too controlling, pushiness, or bullying.  Customers want to do it their way, even if they don’t know what that is.

Prescription done well, forces thoughtfulness and critical thinking.  Effective prescription provides general guidelines, but recognizes each person and situation is different.  It forces people to think about the specific situation, the people involved and how to execute in the most effective way possible.

Are you being thoughtfully prescriptive or overly prescriptive?

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