Some years ago, we did research on the effectiveness of sales calls and meetings. We focused primarily on meeting on qualified opportunities, not prospecting calls. The results were shocking, though not surprising.
We found sales people tended to make 30-50% more calls than necessary to close. I suspect that number is far larger today.
In trying to understand this, broadly, it came down to two reasons: Poor or nonexistent call planning, poor execution.
To do a quick self-audit, think of all the sales calls or meetings you’ve had on qualified opportunities in the past 2-3 weeks. Ask yourself these questions:
- After leaving the meeting, did you suddenly remember questions you forgot to ask or should have asked?
- Did you accomplish your goals? Could you have accomplished more?
- Did the customer achieve their goals, could they have achieved more (or did you even know the customers’ goals for the meeting?)?
- Did you and the customer agree on the next steps in moving through their buying process?
A Yes to the first question or No’s (Or even a “Well…” rationalization) to the others means you failed to accomplish what you could and should have.
As a result, you and the customer have lengthened the selling/buying cycles.
You are taking more of each other’s valuable time because you didn’t take the time to design your meeting for success.
Some of you might be getting a little pissed off, you’re thinking, “Well I know what I want to accomplish in the call, I know the questions, I know what I’m going to present, I know the next steps I want to achieve….”
That’s a great start, too few sales people actually do this much, preferring instead to pitch or shoot from the lip.
But designing a meeting is more, and can produce more powerful results.
First, it’s about thinking bigger about what you want to and can achieve. Most of the time, you are focused on “what do I have to do next?” You go through meeting after meeting just focused on the next thing. But what if you stepped back, looking at the whole picture—the steps your customers must go through to ultimately buy, your sales process. Look at the journey and consider, “How much can the customer and I go through in this next meeting?”
Second, but related to the first point, consider, “Is your customer as prepared for this meeting as you are?” Usually, we focus on what we want to achieve, then meet with the customer hoping we can achieve those goals. But what if you and your customer were more purposeful? What if you collaborated in designing the meeting in advance—sharing each other’s goals/expectations for the meeting?
What if you and your customer designed the meeting with the common purpose of “How do we move forward on this project as aggressively as possible?” The customer would be prepared, the customer would make sure the right people are participating in the meeting. You would be prepared, with the right folks from your side. You and the customer would have a common goal of what you are trying to achieve and will have thought about/prepared for achieving it.
There’s real magic in the process, it forces you and the customer to think, purposefully, about what you want to achieve and how to best achieve it. It makes sure each of you are using that time as effectively as possible. For customers struggling with their buying process, it helps them think about what they should be or need to be doing.
Often, when I present this to sales people, the reaction is, “I can’t tell the customer these things, I can’t reveal my strategy……”
I struggle with this, it doesn’t make sense. The customer knows we are trying to sell (hopefully by focusing on them and their problem), why then do we try to hide our strategy from them—who does it serve, how does it help us move forward?
Imagine how much more we and our customers could accomplish, if we were more transparent about our goals for each meeting and aligned with what we are trying to achieve. Imagine how that would shift the relationship.
What would happen if we moved from planning sales calls and meetings, to collaboratively designing these meetings to achieve a shared outcome?