Lawrence Taylor. Steph Curry. Mickey Mantle. These guys are some of the greatest players of all time. They weren’t just great for a few weeks, or a quarter—these guys came to play, and lead their teams year in and year out. Getting to this level requires a lot of practice and preparation. I’m talking about shooting free throws ’till your wrists cramp up, batting practice five days a week, watching competitive game footage, etc. And, what were these teams fantastic at? Having a game plan.
Sales is the same way. If you are trying to be one of the best sales people in your organization, you should be quarterbacking each and every sales cycle you enter. For each sales cycle, think of your team as yourself, the customer, and your Sales Development Rep.
That’s right. You and your customer are on the same team. It is not you vs. them. Your goal, as a united team, is to see if your product is the right fit for the customers’ business. Sure, you and your SDR hope you get a sale, but the customer also wants to improve her business. If you make the sale, the customer will hopefully be more effective and efficient in achieving her goals. It’s a win for the whole team.
If you, as a sales pro, fail to lead this sales cycle effectively, then you will not get that shared win. In order to effectively lead a sales cycle, you must establish clear goals and agendas throughout the sales process and align the customer around that agenda and those goals.
The Wrong Way to Lead a Sales Cycle
So what should goal setting in a sales process look like? Well, first let’s look at an example of what it shouldn’t look like. This example is very one sided. In the agenda that I have below, it is probably clear to the prospect that I am only interested in telling her about my product. This example agenda only gives me an opportunity to talk at her, with little room for the customer to tell me how my product can help. Let’s take a look:
Agenda For Todays Call
- Discuss and review EverString with Acme Corp
- Identify possible fits with EverString for Acme Corp
- Next Steps
Now, let’s talk about why this is a bad agenda.
There are two problems with the above example:
- It is clear that the sales person is just trying to sell his product, no matter who the customer is
- No established goals for the call
Let me explain why these problems are present and why each of these issues will get in the way of a successful sales cycle.
This Sales Rep Is Clearly Trying to Just Make a Sale
There are no introductions in place, no room for the customer to talk about her needs or what she is working towards with her team. There are very little details here about how the product can help the customer and very few incentives for the customer to agree to a follow-up call.
So, how can we make this better? The way to lead this sales cycle properly is to create an agenda that helps inform the customer about the benefits of the product and to help her make an educated buying decision. Try to transition from thinking about closing the deal and put yourself in the seat of the customer–what would you want to hear? Why should this customer give you an hour of her time to hear you talk only about yourself?
Side Note: If you haven’t read Simon Sinek Start With Why, please buy it today. Great book and it helps you understand the different motivations for making a purchase. To understand the motivation behind why your prospects are even speaking with your company, you need to ask yourself why they are buying and what is in it for them? Stop thinking about your check book until after you get the commission!
There Are No Established Goals
What is another major issue with this bad example of an agenda? No Goals! My former self would assume everyone knew the goals of the call and that a brief agenda was enough. Everyone should know what I’m thinking, right? Wrong! Don’t make this mistake. Establishing goals for the call will go a long way as a motivator and it will continue to drive the customer through the sales cycle.
The Right Way to Lead a Sales Cycle
Ok, now you are ready for the right way to lead a sales cycle. Here is a better example of an agenda (including goals) that I would send to a customer. Keep in mind each agenda will change as the sales cycle progresses. Each sales cycle has different priorities, different stakeholders, and different steps each time. You’ll need to account for that.
Agenda For Todays Call
- Brief round of introductions from the Acme Corp, brief intros from EverString
- Develop understanding of Acme Corp’s initiatives surrounding content marketing and delivery
- Review customized demo material for Acme Corp by EverString
- Discuss synergies between the solutions offered by EverString and initiatives of Acme Corp
- Define next steps and timeline
Goals Of The Call
- For EverString to help Acme Corp understand offerings and use cases in relation to the Acme Corp road map
- Determine if Acme Corp initiatives are in alignment with EverString offerings–if so, define next steps in the process and who should be involved
- Set time for next interaction
- Answer any outstanding questions from Acme Corp related to offering
There is a big difference here right? Presenting an agenda and a set of goals has so many benefits for the customer. It clearly tells her what she should expect, what you’re thinking, and what she should think about to accomplish the goals of the call.
As a sales pro, or just a good business professional, being prepared in this way can, and will, lead to smoother sales cycles, more effective communication, and a real solid buying experience for the customer.
I challenge you to build out some outlines like the above. Some can be canned/templates, and some need to be customized each time. As you do them more often, it will get faster and easier.