This is about developing a mental framework that allows you to conduct a structured conversation in a sales engagement.
Why is this important?
How will you know where you are in a conversation without a roadmap? Think about it, how would you drive to a destination without a map or without a GPS system nowadays? – Over time you will remember the route and be able to get to your destination without it, however, especially early on it is almost impossible to navigate without this framework.
In sales we all love referencing sports when making analogies, so I’m going to indulge. You can also think about this framework as a way to keep your head in the game. It allows you to cut out all the noise and focus on the conversation you are having. The fact is that the desired outcome of this conversation is clearly generating a sale. Now, it’s not unreasonable to admit that it’s nearly impossible to read people’s minds. It’s also logical that if you are able to control the majority of the variables in any situation, you’ll be able to influence the outcome.
Think of this framework as a method of controlling as many variables as possible. It’s simple: if you are able to guide the conversation, you will be able to understand your prospect better, identify trends, and increase the chances of the outcome being more favorable to you.
So here is a simple outline that you can use to develop a mental framework or roadmap for yourself:
1. What is your starting point? What is the first thing you are going to say to a prospect the moment you see them, connect with them on the phone, SKYPE, Google Hangouts, etc? This can be anything in the rapport building category or related. Examples are things like thanking them for taking the time to meet/speak with you, asking how their day is going, or how the weather is. It does not matter what the topic is, the important part is that it is a question or comment that you are comfortable with and is coming from your genuine self. This is important so it doesn’t sound scripted or fake. It is something that you will say at 100% of your sales meetings. This is your internal queue for beginning your mental journey through the sales engagement. Trust me, use it, it will help you settle in and alleviate the nervousness that sales meetings can sometimes cause.
2. Set an Agenda: I know this sounds elementary however a lot of us forget to provide an agenda and end up beginning a sales engagement or conversation without the structure and context that an agenda provides. This a simple way to capture the prospect’s attention and get them ready for what you are about to say. It will allow you to also make sure you are covering all the topics that they want to learn about; this is particularly useful when speaking with inbound prospects; or prospects that came to you via marketing channels versus you calling on them.
Remember, the “setting an agenda step” is also a guidepost to continue to keep you on the right track and stay focused.
3. Questions, Answers, Needs, Wants, and Investigation: Ok, so now you have hopefully developed a bit of rapport, set an agenda or items that you want to cover, and now are ready to get to the good stuff. In this step you should be asking questions that are geared at uncovering needs, desires, issues, etc — that you are not aware of yet. This is also where you strategically ask questions intended to elicit particular responses.
You might ask yourself why do I want to elicit particular responses? Why is this important?
Well, here it is. The objective of using this technique is to simply guide the prospect to a realization about a need, want, and/or issue, desire that they have. It is much more effective that a person come to a realization on their own versus being told what they should be thinking. You can do this by asking questions, LISTENING, and then once you hear those key responses, simply repeat what you heard and help them understand how your solution is the logical way to improve their current situation.
This is a step intended to help you and your prospect remember the conversation, action items, likes/dislikes, pain points, needs, etc. This is also where you can take the prospect’s temperature around how interested they are in your product or service. You might say things like:
“Well, Joe, it sounds like you are having issues with X, Y, and Z — and as I explained, my product can really be helpful.
5. Close on Next Steps:
Congrats, you have made it through the conversation and now are ultra focussed on setting up next steps and moving the engagement forward. If you have done a good job, the previous step should merely be a formality. DO NOT FORGET to set up NEXT STEPS! This is the core purpose of every sales engagement. This might be as far as going to a contract stage or simply setting up a check-in meeting – the point is to move the engagement forward, by closing the prospect on that next step.