A retainer client of mine asked me to listen to a recorded sales call of one of his reps and offer coaching. The recording is of an initial meaningful conversation scheduled after an inbound inquiry off the client’s web site. My private comments and notes to the seller included both positive things he did well and areas of improvement (in workshops, these are called plusses and deltas as taught to me by @LeadStrat).
These coaching points are what gets lost in the drive to fix a sales organization merely by metrics. Too many organizations make changes in their sales teams after only reviewing the stats or metrics: Number of leads, the value of the pipeline, number of calls held, emails sent, etc. They don’t get in the weeds with their sellers. Yet, improvement only comes from listening to calls, debriefing, and reviewing recaps – the weeds.
What follows are ten coaching points after getting in the weeds with a seller.
Note: I’ve edited for confidentiality.
1. For these “inbound interest” calls start with a very simple – “Why am I here?” Nothing else. Less is more. You want them to start talking and feel part of the conversation. Many prospects dread having to deal with a salesperson because of past experiences where they feel the seller just got on the call and droned on and on.
2. Research the prospect prior to the call. After they answer you “Why am I here?” question you need to deliver a business insight that you expect they haven‘t thought of that would drive business value if only they embraced it.
3. After you deliver your insights, ask metric-driven questions to both qualify them on their level of interest, needs, budget, timing, and how they will measure success. These questions will a) make them feel that you are treating them as unique, b) show your expertise, and c) allow you to judge YOUR level of interest in this opportunity.
4. At some point in the conversation, you will need to describe your Proven Process. Here’s how I do it. You need to deliver it concisely as if you do it successfully over and over again. Project confidence.
5. When the prospect asks a direct question, answer it directly. Don’t beat around or explain your answer before giving the answer. Answer. Pause. Explain. For this call, the prospect seemed impatient and somewhat arrogant. Be aware of this. By giving her direct immediate answers to her questions, then explaining, you’ll be matching her urgency. You did the opposite which could annoy her.
6. Once they ask for a proposal, manage the prospect’s buying process by asking “assuming you want to move ahead with our proposal, when would you want to get started?” “Yesterday” is not a meaningful response. Pin them down on the timeline. If it’s delayed, ask why.
7. You began answering a question on pricing with “Typical partnerships…” -Watch it. This is borderline vague marketing-speak. What do you mean by “partner”? Do we share in profits? We hope they become clients or customers, not partners. Unless they use the term “partners” first, you risk them thinking you are insincere or full of yourself, and you’ll never know it. Often when prospects hear that you want to partner with them, they think “I better watch my wallet.”
8. When asked about typical customer spend, you take a long time to get to the answer. Earlier you talked confidently about your expertise and depth of customers, so this answer should be easy and confident as well. Know the range ahead of time and give it without hesitation.
9. Watch the “that’s a great question” response to a question. Were their other questions not so great? Here’s an even better explanation of why from Dave Stachowiak.
10. At the end of the call, they ask for a proposal. You surprised them by saying you need to do some research and it will be about a week before you can get it to them. Your reason for the delay sounded like you will be doing black magic between this call and producing a proposal. Can you go over what data points you need in order to generate a proposal? Do you have a checklist or formula for proposal creation? Share it with them. Again, you will project confidence and competence when you can describe exactly how you would build a proposal and their role in it. Ask those questions now. “Here are the ten pieces of information we need to write a proposal.”
Need to Create (incomplete list due to SalesReformSchool confidentiality):
1. Insights that drive business value.
2. Diagnostic questions to understand their current situation; consider sending in advance.
3. A concise description of your Proven Process for delivering success for your customers.
4. A concise recitation of the cost range for the customer base and levels of sophistication i.e. Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.
5. A checklist of items you need to create a proposal.
So how are you getting in the weeds with your reps? If you are a salesperson yourself, is anyone in the weeds with you? Have you invited them in?
SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought
A Polymath is a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning who is brilliant in a lot of things. While this BBC article describes why polymaths are so talented, it also argues that us mere mortals can make better use of our time by switching between skills or subjects. The author instructs, “nurture your inner polymath.” So, read a work of fiction, a business book, and a history. Find a new hobby while also sharpening an old one. While most of us are not polymaths, we should strive to be.
Sometimes we see a show or watch a movie and it merely entertains. Other times, it awakens or surfaces feelings or insights unexpectedly. A few weeks ago, Mrs. SalesReformSchool and I took our son Third and Final to see Dear Evan Hansen. As some of you know, we are getting very close to being empty nesters. The musical is fantastic and really got to me. Especially this number.
I’ll leave it at that.