There are hundreds of books and articles on planning for a sales call.
They principally focus on decision makers, the decision-making process, money, delivering a value proposition, risk and positioning from a competitive standpoint.
What doesn’t get addressed to the extent it should be is planning for the conversation and what the dialogue will be
I was working with aclient who needed a sales manager to change the way they delivered critique. The problem was they tended to sound as if “nothing was ever good enough”.
On a side note, most sales leaders struggle with this. It’s frequently not the message it’s the delivery. Impatience, pressure, urgency and other factors drive this.
When planning for the conversation you need to put yourself in the prospects shoes, or in this case the managers. What do we know about the situation that can help with this?
- It’s potentially a sensitive issue; people’s feelings are involved
- Feedback is encouraged in the organization
- The manager was trying to do the right thing
- The manager needs to empathize with how the salesperson is feeling
- This empathy needs to conveyed to the salesperson
One of the most helpful tools for conveying a message is the use of stories and analogies. Because they are third party and hypothetical the message can be conveyed, received and understood without an emotional reaction.
Remember we are working with people who bring emotions, defenses, experiences, judgment and vulnerabilities to the conversation.
So how can we bring this topic up in a productive way? Here is an example.
“I was hoping we could take advantage of our agreement to openly discuss areas for improvement. Do you mind if I share something with you?”
“I know we have been under a lot of pressure lately. My experience is when I react to the pressure I lose sight of the big picture. This can make me less aware of how others perceive me even when I’m trying to do the right thing.”
How does this opening help?
- It reminds both parties of what has been agreed too
- The person receiving the feedback has agreed to the conversation
- The dialogue sounds and feels more mutual
- The issue is put on the table without sounding like an accusation
Since you don’t know what the response will be and it can vary widely practice and role-play are needed to properly prepare. By rehearsing various scenarios in advance you will acclimate yourself to possible responses. Dialogue without some practice can get off track. Imagine what would happen if actors didn’t know their lines. Selling should be a conversation and planning for that conversation deserves more attention.