In a sales world that seems to be dominated by ever increasing volume, it’s ironic to realize one of the greatest sales hacks is actually to have fewer but more impactful conversations.
Some years ago, conducted a survey of buyers and sellers. One of the findings in that research was that sales people tended to make 37% more calls than necessary to close. As we drilled into the data, we found the fundamental reasons were they weren’t designing and executing high impact sales calls.
Let’s pause for a moment, think about the last 10 calls/meetings you had with a prospect or customer. When the call was over, did you think, “I forgot to ask this, I should have done that, I wish I had remembered, If only we had so and so in the meeting…..”
Each of those “coulda-shoulda’s” result in needing additional calls or meeting, extending the buying/selling process.
Think of the impact on your time, and more importantly the customer’s time. Adding more conversations is a distraction, it takes them away from doing their jobs. It takes time that both we and they can be doing something else.
Then pile on the difficulty and time delays in scheduling yet another meeting or call. It may take weeks, even months to schedule a meeting with a certain executive, or get a group of people together. If the meeting was designed and executed properly, in the first place, you wouldn’t have to go through this.
Some of you—-far too few—will say, “I plan my calls, I think about my goals and objectives, I think about the questions I want to ask…..”
That’s a great start, but all too few sales people do this (The time you spend in the elevator or waiting area, the time you spend while the phone is ringing doesn’t count). But there is a flaw in this thinking, it’s focused on you and what you want to accomplish. While you might be prepared, the customer may not be, or the customer may have an entirely different view of what is a valuable use of their time.
Alternatively, the customer may not be prepared to help you achieve your goals. Think about how many times a prospect or customer has said, “I’ll have to get back to you with that information…..”
Designing great conversations requires clarity in what both you and the people you are meeting with want to accomplish. It requires alignment of expectations and goals for the meeting. It requires all parties to be prepared to achieve those shared goals. It requires the right people participating–perhaps deferring meetings until the right people can participate.
Some of you might be thinking, “That takes too much time and work, I’ve done these calls dozens of times before, I can just shoot from the lip.” Again, the flaw in the thinking is you are thinking only of yourself and what you want to accomplish, not the customer’s readiness or willingness to accomplish the same things.
All of these things result in wasted time and the need for more conversations, but not necessarily better quality conversations.
Another flaw in our thinking about our conversations with customers is that we tend to think just of what’s next, we don’t take a longer view, thinking, “How much can we possibly accomplish in this conversation? How can we leverage this discussion to help the customer move much further through their buying journey? How can we help them accelerate their own process, accomplishing more in less time?” (After all, there is huge benefit to the customer because they start realizing the benefits sooner.)
We need to extend this design thinking into our prospecting conversations. We need to make fewer prospecting calls, if we are making the right calls to the right people at the right time, engaging them in relevant conversations.
Managers need to rethink metrics around number of calls, meetings, conversations. These metrics tend to stimulate volume, but not better quality. It’s easy to have 50 or 100 conversations a day, but those may be meaningless conversations, wasting both the prospect’s and sales person’s time. Perhaps a more meaningful call metric is “number of conversations to close.” We’ve been tracking that in our own company for a number of years–over that period, it’s reduced by 50%.
While it’s counter intuitive, designing your conversations to accomplish more in less time, thinking about having fewer higher quality conversations, frees up sales time to have more high quality conversations with more customers about more high quality opportunities. And isn’t that what we are really trying to achieve?