After working with sales people, I learned sales people do not always know what is truly important to monitor. Now I know a loaded statement when I see one and the above statement may be loaded. However, it is also very true. Most sales people are missing an important element to every sales call they make.
Now, before moving on I need to clarify a very assumptions. First, I’m talking about business to business selling which over 95% of successful sales opportunities require multiple calls. This is not a single call and get an answer sales environment. Second, each sales call needs an outcome to monitor the success rate of the sales process. And, finally, some preparation and thought is required for the multiple call process to work. Winging it is not an option in b2b sales.
So what is an sales ADVANCE?
It’s an outcome that involves the customer to take some form of action. It could include a next step where they have involvement in its success. It is important the customer has a solid role in action. To often, sales people do ALL THE WORK leading up to the next meeting. And then are amazed when the meeting is canceled or rescheduled or missed by a key player from the company.
Without the involvement from the customer, there is no advance. The technical term for this inaction is continuation. The informal term is stall! Always remember this equation: involvement equals commitment. Without any involvement the customer has nothing in the pot- using a gambling term. There is no investment of time, energy or effort into the sales process – so little should be expected regarding the buying decision other than a “no deal.”
There are five factors that involve some form of action from the customer:
- Date – Set a date for the next meeting and check the calendars of both the contact and anyone else expected to be in the meeting.
- Time – A definitive time is established for the meeting. A call me next week or next month to set a time and date does not count as an advance.
- Person – If any person should be in the meeting – a user, an evaluator, a technical expert, an advisor, or a decision maker with budget authority is needed for the next meeting, then your contact makes the arrangements with this person(s) for you.
- Place – a location is selected, a conference room is reserved or a plant tour is arranged. There must be a location established or plans will fall through especially if travel is involved.
- Research – This involves data or information from the customer side of the table. This requires their time and effort rather than the sales person using Google or the library to get information about the company. Only internal information counts in this step. The contact needs to provide you with information such as plant or product schedules, parts listings, machinery used in their process, or specifications for a special project.
There are other possibilities you can use for your specific sales environment so limiting to the above five is no issue. However, the key to an advance working is the customer must be involved in the process. You doing the work for the customer does not count as an advance. It does count as a time waster and you lose your time and probably the sales. Sorry, it is the true.
In review, you need a customer involved action to create an advance from a sales call. If you involve the customer, you get a higher level of commitment from the customer as the process moves through the sales process. More advances leads to more sales success.