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I recently conducted several two-day sales intensives with dozens of successful veteran salespeople. We spent much of the time discussing how their thinking impacts what they do and don’t do on sales calls.
As with most of the salespeople with whom I have worked, their pre-call planning was woefully incomplete and focused on what the prospect wants to accomplish. Understanding the prospect's agenda is critical, but developing and confirming a meeting agenda will usually result in a positive step forward. That is consistent with a defined sales process and a required sales best practice.
Examples of desired outcomes are:
- The prospect is 100% committed to changing how they buy something
- If certain things happen the prospect will get the financial decision maker involved
- Agreement to fully discuss the cost of the current problems
Assuring that meeting outcomes are win-win requires salespeople to challenge or push back on their prospects. Early in the sales cycle, salespeople tend to accept the amount of meeting time a prospect offers instead of respectfully asking for the amount of time needed. Later in the sales cycle, instead of defining the parameters of a successful trial and what happens when it’s completed, salespeople are often OK with simply reaching the trial stage.
The actual lessons from the training, submitted by the salespeople below, illustrate why salespeople fall short.
- Always make sure key decision makers approve next steps.
- It is okay to say “No."
- Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions – you can always apologize.
- Stop wasting time - Reach higher in the organization.
- Bring a conversation to your level or terms to establish equality.
- Be skeptical of good news.
- I assume I’m further along in the sales process than my customer is.
Behind each of these lessons is a belief which strongly influences behavior. Because these beliefs occur without us being fully aware of them we “think” ourselves into the wrong action.
If you don’t recognize that spending time with non-decision makers is a waste of time you won’t reach higher in an organization. When you are not OK saying No, you will work only on the prospects agenda. Getting excited when you hear what sounds like good news prevents you from verifying that it is actually good news.
Identifying and becoming aware of non-supportive selling beliefs is the only way to change behavior. Take a few minutes right now and evaluate your beliefs and how they impact you as a salesperson or sales leader and read Dave Kurlan's terrific article for his slant on sales beliefs.