Too many sales conversations finish with sales people uncertain about next actions.
These next actions might be needed from:
- Us (for instance, “I will get a first draft written proposal to you by the end of tomorrow”)
- The customer with whom we’re speaking
- One or more of their colleagues
- Other stakeholders who have a role or interest in this situation
- Run out of time – When we’re having a great conversation with a customer about their interest in our product or service, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the possibilities. Unless we’re paying attention, we’ll run out of time to agree next actions.
- Coach next actions – We can help customers to buy from us if we coach them about required next actions.
- Not aware – Especially if they haven’t bought from us before, they may not be aware about what needs to be done.
- 3 key reasons – We need agreed next actions because:
- Without next actions, the sale will not happen!
- We need to include these agreed next actions in our follow up email or proposal document
- The quality and range of agreed next actions will strongly influence the date and probability numbers in our sales pipeline
- Always be aware – The most important part of agreeing next actions is always to be aware that this agreement will be needed before we get to the end of the conversation.
- It is our responsibility as sales people to remain aware of the need for agreed next actions.
- Ask yourself throughout the conversation; “who will need to do what by when?”
- Both simple and complex – In simple sales situations, there will be relatively few required next actions. In complex sales situations, sales people need sophisticated project management skills.
- Negotiate next actions – sometimes it will be necessary or useful to negotiate next actions. For instance, “If I get a written summary of this discussion to you by the end of tomorrow, shall we agree to speak again by phone on Monday morning at 11am?”
- Selling takes time. If we spend too small a proportion of our limited time actually selling, we will fail to achieve our sales targets.
- Selling activities include; prospecting, approaching brand new customers, coaching these customers to identify and articulate their needs, co-creating proposals and account plans, securing purchase orders and keeping our CRM system accurate and up to date.
- Non-selling activities can include; resolving existing customer issues, attending colleagues’ meetings, resolving IT issues, etc.
- People in sales roles are typically helpful and considerate.
- When we come across situations where we can help customers and colleagues, our natural response is often to pitch in and do what we can.
- However, delivering customer service and the fulfilment of customers’ orders must normally be left to colleagues.
- We should only permit ourselves time to help colleagues when we are confident about achieving our sales targets.
- Get some evidence – It can often be useful to make a record of where we spend our time for a typical week. People in sales roles are often surprised to learn how little of their time they spend actually selling.
- Stop helping customers! We might spend a lot of our time helping customers. Although it feels good to be helpful, and it feels a lot like selling, it may be better to refer the customer to our colleagues in customer support roles. Their job is to help customers, our job is to win sales. (It can be very hard to step away from helping customers, especially when we’ve worked so hard to build relationships and win their business.)
- Proposals and Account Plans – Having the ability and permission to step away from helping customers is one key reason why our proposal documents and account plans are so important. We take care to ensure that customers know that their continuing day to day support will come from our colleagues, not us.
- Make time decisions continually – Throughout every working day, continually ask yourself this key question:
What is the best use of my selling time right now?
- Evidence is the data, analysis and information that should underpin every 3CSelling conversation and proposal.
- Evidence balances the necessary emotional engagement.
- Together, evidence and emotion will enable customers to have the confidence to proceed.
- Far too much selling is based merely on enthusiasm and hopes, both from buyers and especially from salespeople. By contrast, 3CSelling puts evidence at the heart of our compelling proposals.
- The bigger the opportunity or sale, the more likely that somebody with a professional financial, legal or scientific background will need to see the evidence.
- The more compelling the evidence, the more compelling will be our proposals.
- Every conversation – We should put the need for evidence from all stakeholders at the heart of every 3CSelling conversation.
- Seek evidence from customers – We can query significant assertions made by customers and seek evidence.
- One of the best questions is to ask how this particular evidence is changing over time; getting worse, better or staying the same? What does the data say?
- What evidence do we have? We need credible evidence to support every key claim about our products and services.
- ROI Evidence – We should seek always to present credible evidence to prove the ROI (Return on Investment) about the budgets that we are proposing.
- Need support for non-standard terms? If we need to convince colleagues about non-standard terms in our proposal, we need the supporting evidence.
Assertiveness in 3CSelling means having the communication skills, courage and knowledge to lead the conversations that your customers need, instead of the conversations that they are expecting.
3CSelling conversations are very different to what most customers expect. Customers typically expect people in sales roles to talk about their products and services.
If you are insufficiently assertive, your customers will set the agenda and you will run out of time to coach, co-create and conclude.
Being assertive means communicating in ways that are always respectful, and balanced between never being submissive or aggressive.
Assertiveness is always relative. Depending on the circumstances, we must make active choices about when to be more or less assertive.
Better 3CSelling understanding and skills will help us to be more assertive in setting the agenda and achieving the outcomes of each part of 3CSelling.
- Coaching outcomes – Better customer objectives and the confidence to proceed
- Co-creating outcomes – Compelling proposals
- Concluding outcomes – Agreed next actions and alignment of stakeholder expectations
As we become increasingly skilled in 3CSelling, we will develop the communication skills, courage and knowledge to lead the conversations that our customers need, instead of the conversations that they are expecting.
We will become increasingly assertive.
Empathy – Put yourself in your customers shoes
Without empathy, we will fail to make the deep connections to each customer and their unique circumstances and needs.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, typically referred to as “putting ourselves in their shoes”.
- Pause before every conversation – Before every conversation with a customer, pause and put yourself in their shoes. What are THEIR hopes, fears and priorities right now?
- During every conversation – Whenever you hear them say something significant, consider it from THEIR perspective.
- Do your research – Don’t just guess about their concerns and priorities or make assumptions. Even 2 minutes in your CRM, on their website or social media profiles can make a big difference.
- Expect differences in perspective – As our life experience develops, one of the biggest things that we learn is how different we are to each other. We all see the world so differently! What seems obvious to us is not obvious to everybody else. The pursuit of empathy will enable us to learn so much from the people with whom we speak.
- Empathy in coaching – When we deliberately put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, our coaching with customers will inevitably be more effective.
Sales Plans for Success
Connect next actions with required results
- “Sales planning for success” means that we’ve taken time to understand what we’re seeking to achieve and how we’ll get there.
- When we have clear sales plans, we can make accurate judgments about whether or not we are on track.
- Clear and effective sales plans enable us to stop and celebrate when we’re successful, or to make changes (either to our plans or what we’re doing) if we don’t achieve our plans.
- Working life is full of distractions. Without clear plans, it’s inevitable that we’ll lose focus and spend our time less effectively.
- Too many sales people make the mistake of being busy but ineffective in terms of sales results.
- Sales plans enable us to make the best decisions about how to spend every minute of our working day.
- Define sales success – What are you seeking to achieve?
- Crunch your numbers – Connect the sales results you need over different timeframes. To achieve your sales target this year, quarter or month; what must you achieve this week, today, this hour?
- Connect sales results with activity – What must you DO that will most likely lead to the sales results you need?
- Stay focused – Now that you have your sales plan for success, don’t allow yourself to be distracted. This is easier to say than do!
- Review your progress – Work out how you will remind yourself about your plan when you have the inevitable distractions. An alarm reminder on your phone at the end of every morning and every afternoon: “Am I on track to achieve my sales plan for success”?
Over the last four weeks, we’ve started a programme of online workshops with The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. We work with the commercial team who sell RICS membership, training, data services, sponsorship and related products.
It was in one of these workshops that we developed the idea for regular weekly emails. (Particular thanks to Tamsin, Rob and Samiul!)
Here’s the summary:
- Twice weekly short emails that give bite-sized reminders and insights.
- Start the week with a focus email that introduces the week’s theme in the format; what, why, how.
- End the week with a reflection email that asks people: what happened, what was the impact on sales results and what was learned.
- Links to 3CSelling Discussions to ask questions and develop related conversations.
We hope that this resource will help you to understand and use 3CSelling better and to improve your sales results.
We’d really welcome your comments and suggestions about the themes we write about and how we might improve any aspect of what we’re doing.
What topics might you find most useful to improve your sales results?
It’s the end of April 2018. During this coming week we’ll be inviting team members from our current clients to join our brand new 3CSelling Academy. We’re really looking forward to receiving our first feedback on all that we’ve been preparing. Our goals are clear:
– Equip and Inspire people in sales and business development roles to lead significantly more valuable conversations, create compelling proposals and win more business.
– Efficient and Effective Learning as we blend the best online tools and automated processes with our 30+ years of face to face sales training experience.
– Sustained Coaching as we provide the resources for sales team leaders to underpin their pivotal role of coaching and support for their team members.
We’ve concluded that it’s best to make a limited number of early resources available initially and to get feedback on our approach. This way, we’re more confident that our Academy will develop most effectively as we listen to suggestions from our early members. Although there are aren’t many courses, we’ve prepared lots of ways of having conversations! If you have any observations about any aspect of what we’re doing, it will be great to hear from you.
To start a conversation with us directly, click on the blue chat button at the bottom of your screen. To read or join our discussions visit our discussion forum
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Thanks for your interest. (And we’d love to hear you comments…!)