The Importance of Action
I’m just here looking for a little action…
Many sales trainers, authors, and speakers express the importance of time as it is one of the few elements in the realm of sales that is under a sales person’s control. Time is deathly precious and proper management is vital to our success. It’s an investment and must be protected if you wish to maximize returns. This idea is obvious and really can be applied to almost any area of anyone’s life. So how do we manage time in sales? At the end of the day, we have to make time investments on every call, demo, proposal, etc. and we expect that not every deal will close and that investment will be lost. It’s the nature of the business so in those famous words of Mr. Lebowski, “What in God’s holy name are you blathering about?”.
Indeed, not every deal we touch will close. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to recklessly invest in getting to that “no”. In fact,throughout the sales process many opportunities are presented for you to get a “no” from the customer. Many sales people avoid these opportunities as they want to keep a full pipeline and manage the metric of simply won or lost. My process teaches that through discipline and honesty with one self, you will change how you manage your time and sales metrics. In fact, getting to the “no” will help you and will no longer be viewed as such a negative outcome. Instead, it becomes an important metric that you will need in order to gauge your success. That’s a different topic, however. So collect no’s as fast as you are trying to collect a “yes”. Whether you want to admit it or not, it’s part of the process so embrace it where you can.
Every time you communicate with a customer, the goal is to advance this courtship towards the next step of a more serious relationship. From your initial contact and information gathering through the demo and proposal all the way to close you are simply soliciting reciprocated action on the participant’s part to dignify your continuing to invest time in this mutual process. So how do we best navigate this in a way that will ensure we are investing wisely and to also be assured that this will help your metrics towards a predictable outcome?
For starters, be helpful if nothing else. Remember, a good sales person only seeks to help potential customers and to guide them through a decision making process. However, your job swings both ways. In many cases, you are helping them to realize that this might not be the solution for them through your honesty and questioning. They may benefit more from a different offering you have, or another approach that won’t involve you. Either way, you are further solidifying your place in the industry and as a member of their network for the future so take that win and grow with it. This opens up a plethora of future possibilities for yourself and the potential client.
Along with your questioning and information gathering, you should be soliciting action on their part. This action can be anything so long as they are demonstrating to you that they are investing time themselves in advancing the sales process towards an outcome. Upon your initial call, they may agree to accept your deck for review. This gives them the opportunity to see what your organization does, who your target customer is, etc. and gives them something in hand to share with other stake holders on their end.
Naturally, the next step might be a demo , trial or proposal. All you are seeking here is their action to review the document while making them aware of your intent and expectation of follow up communication towards one of these next steps. During this follow up, you need to ask them if they reviewed the document and let them speak. Give them the opening to say no and let you know your service may not be a fit. Whatever that reason is, just be sure they elaborate a bit to be certain they did not misunderstand your offering.
Next you are seeking their action to take time to see demo. Or maybe you are needing to spend time with them to gather information you can use to propose your solution for them. Either way, if action on their part stops that can be very telling. If the engagement falls off, call them and find out why. Be honest with yourself if you are losing their engagement. Maybe this isn’t an opportunity right now and that is OK. Again, with good questioning you can learn their game plan and help them along the way. They may not be telling you no, maybe they are reviewing options for when an existing agreement ends or maybe they are going through a budgeting process. Help them with what they need and get to the “when” for them. Rule out the “no”, find out the “when”, circle that date and be at the ready to jump in when it makes sense.
If you do those things you will greatly increase your proposal to sale ratio which your leadership will love when they are trying to project revenue. They can trust your deals are real or you wouldn’t have let it get that far down the pipeline. You have already proven the service is a fit and the timing is good. All that is left to talk about is pricing and that is likely the one place you may have the flexibility needed to get the deal done. As you fine tune this discipline, that quote to close ratio will get closer and closer. This also serves to more self scrutiny as you seek to close the gap between every stage of the sales process from prospecting to initial conversations, info gathering to demos, and so on. My upcoming book explores each of these areas towards predictable lead to close metrics dominance. It’s fascinating stuff I could talk about for days.
By being honest with yourself, asking good questions, and helping this person, you can be assured that you are using your time in a way that is best for you and the guy writing your check. In addition, you are showing respect to the potential customer which can really pay off in unforeseen ways down the road.
Solicit their action, expect engagement, and act accordingly.