Winging It To Reduce Your Sales Cycle
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the last ten years, we have worked with thousands of sales people as sales
executives, consultants, trainers and coaches.
One of the most important things we have learned is that most sales
people are making as much as 2 times the number of sales calls needed to
close a deal. We constantly
challenge these sales professionals to reduce their sales cycles by up to
50% by doing a few simple things. When
I make this claim to sales executives and sales people, they look at me as
though I had three eyes and antenna sprouting from my head.
Some start to attack:
how can you make a claim like this? Do
you know what it would mean to reduce our sales cycle by 50%? Think of the time it would free up.”
I’ve been selling for many years, I’ve been the best in our company.
How can you tell me that I can reduce my sales cycle by half?”
is not rocket science and we do not subscribe to “get rich quick”
schemes of selling. However,
after diagnosing thousand’s of sales situations, we find it is very easy
for every sales professional to significantly reduce their sales cycles,
but it requires going back to a few basics.
is the sales cycle?
is timing and tempo to a sales cycle that is driven by the customer buying
process. While our
suggestions will have some impact on this, our focus is on the time the
sales professional spends in making calls on the customer.
we look at the sales cycle, we are focusing on the number of sales calls
the sales professional must make to accomplish the objective of closing
the sale. Based on our analysis of sales calls, virtually every sales
professional can reduce the number of calls that must be made by up to
causes long sales cycles?
people cause long sales cycles, not customers!
Think about it, customers don’t want to spend their time
listening to sales people, customers want to solve problems and get on
with their lives.
people cause long sales cycles. Be
honest with yourself, are you winging it in your sales calls?
Test yourself with some of these scenarios.
many times have you been returning to the office after a key sales call
and thought: “Oh no!
I forgot to ask this!” As simple as it sounds, we have found one
of the reasons sales cycles are too long is that sales people forget to
execute everything they had planned.
Guess what that creates? Yes,
you’ve got it, you have to make another sales call!
too, how delighted customers are with these extra meetings.
They probably think, “Why didn’t this #%?! cover these items in
our last meeting? Why is he
wasting my time because he wasn’t prepared?”
is it that we remember all the things that we wanted to make happen in the
sales call after the call, and not before we make the call?
Think about the impact of never forgetting and being prepared for
anything that might occur in the call.
How many calls could your reduce if you did this?
second biggest time waster also concerns poor preparation.
Think about the number of times that you have spoken with your
colleagues or the sales people that report to you and have heard these
comments: “We were
blind-sided by this issue.” “We
were calling on the wrong people.”
“We didn’t have the decision-makers in the room.”
“We didn’t have the right people with us to answer their
questions.” There are many
more excuses, but all of these are indicators of not preparing adequately,
and not anticipating what might happen in the meeting.
happens when you are not prepared? In
the worst case, you are thrown out, you lose, do not pass Go, do not
collect $200, go to Jail.
In the best case, guess what, you have more calls that you have to
make. Now, think about how
many times during the sales cycle this might happen.
This creates unnecessary sales calls and puts the relationship with
the customer at risk.
fear of failure or rejection also causes many sales professionals to set
low expectations, consequently low goals for many calls.
Most sales people want to move the sales opportunity forward, but
are concerned with moving to fast. This
is more often driven by the fear of failure than out of concern for
pushing the customer too hard. Our
experience is that many sales people are not aggressive enough in their
goals for calls. In most
complex sales situations, it is inappropriate to ask for the order on most
first calls, or even second calls, but many sales people fail to set
aggressive goals, again lengthening the sales cycle.
are many other factors that cause us to make more calls than necessary. The point, however, is that these calls waste our time and
that of our customer. If we
could reduce the number of these extra calls we gain the most precious
commodity available to us, time.
do we eliminate unnecessary calls?
people hate this word, but it is critical to maximizing our effectiveness. We eliminate unnecessary calls by Planning.
Yes, that’s it, we need to develop Sales Call Plans.
Planning enables use to be prepared in the sales call.
It reduces the chance that we will forget something or be
surprised. It helps us to
anticipate things that might happen or that we should do.
It helps us get the most out of every call we make.
Most importantly, it maximizes the value of the call to the
this point in speaking to audiences of sales people, a groan goes up and
someone inevitably says, “You don’t understand, we don’t have time
to plan!” My response is
usually a caustic, “You don’t have time not to plan!”
is the most precious commodity any business professional has today.
We do not have sufficient time to do all that is expected of us.
We absolutely do not have time to do duplicate or redundant work
because we have forgotten something, been blind-sided, or otherwise
unprepared. Our customers
will not tolerate us wasting their precious time, as well.
you say, “I plan my sales calls, I think about what I want to
accomplish, sometimes I even write it down so I don’t forget.”
In reviewing many of these “plans,” they represent casual notes
and reminders, but most do not represent focused, aggressive thinking
about how to maximize the results produced in the call.
we probe sales people about how and when they do their planning, we tend
to find three approaches:
the lobby while I am waiting to see the customer.”
the elevator.” (We’re
thankful for skyscrapers in New York!)
the windshield as I am driving to the customer.”
I am being tough, but the reality is many sales people probably cheat
themselves, and their customers, by not doing a thoughtful job of
preparation. Much of the
planning is unfocused, ad hoc, or inconsistent.
believe that a disciplined approach to planning calls will increase
effectiveness and the results produced in every meeting.
In developing a high impact sales call plan, you need to think of
five fundamental things:
is it that we want to accomplish on this call?
might impact our ability to accomplish what we want?
do we need to learn from the customer in this call?
does the customer need to learn from us?
is in it for the customer to invest his time in this call?
examine each area:
is it that we want to accomplish?
Most of us have objectives for calls, but in this element think
about a stretch goal for the call. Also, be very clear in identifying how you know whether you
have accomplished your goal. It
should be measurable and time-bound.
I like to think of my purpose and the desired outcomes.
might impact our ability to accomplish what we want?
All sales people do some form of SWOT
analysis. Think of this
as an analysis focused on the call itself.
Here is where you begin to think about potential surprises. You might want to think about whether the right people are
participating in the call, on both your side and the customer’s.
You would not believe the number of “closing calls” I have
seen sales people make when the Decisionmaker was not at the meeting.
Does this impact the ability to close?
Brainstorm everything that might keep you from accomplishing
your objective and develop strategies to eliminate or minimize their
impact. Likewise, think
of everything that might help you and be prepared to use them.
do we need to learn from the customer?
Sales people are good at asking questions, however this is your
chance to make sure that you are getting everything you need out of
the call. This is the
part of the plan that keeps you from forgetting a lot of the reason
that we are having the meeting in the first place.
Write your questions down, check them off as you ask them.
does the customer need to learn from us?
Much of the time, sales people forget about this, but the
customer may have some questions about our company, capabilities, or
solutions. Sometimes they
express those questions as objections.
Spend some time anticipating what they might bring up and be
prepared to respond directly. What
about the “question from hell?”
Customers always have a way of asking that one question that we
had hoped and maybe prayed that they would not ask.
Rather than praying, spend time anticipating and preparing a
what is in it for the customer?
Why should the customer invest time with us in this meeting?
As consultative sales professionals, it is critical that we
create value for the customer in every encounter.
If we cannot answer this final question, then we should cancel
15 minutes thinking about each of these issues has tremendous power in
focusing your call and producing results.
For most sales calls, you can develop a strong plan in just 15
minutes. For those tough
calls, spend more time, make sure you have a bulletproof approach.
Write the plan down. There
is something about committing your plan to paper that makes it real and
tangible. It also keeps you
from forgetting things during the meeting.
sales managers, it is our job to help our people be as effective as
possible. We need to coach our people, reinforcing great performance
and eliminating bad practices. Try
some of the following ideas to help your people maximize the results the
produce with each call:
make a call with one of your sales people without having a written
plan that you have reviewed beforehand.
If the call is not important enough for a well-prepared plan,
then it is not important enough for you to invest your time, and
certainly, it is not important enough for the customer.
the plan as a means to coach your people.
Are they accomplishing as much as they can?
What if they set more aggressive goals for the call?
your people are making a major closing call or a very difficult call,
review their plan before the call.
This is your insurance policy.
Help them bulletproof the plan.
Consider role-playing the call to help them anticipate and be
you have completed a call with your people, use the plan to debrief
them. Did they accomplish
their objectives? Could
they have accomplished more? What
could they have done better or differently?
What did they do really well?
are just as time poor as sales professionals, but these few steps will
improve the results your people produce, improving your time utilization.
more winging it!
best sales professionals never wing it.
They are disciplined, focused, and effective.
They use their time and that of the customer well, it is a valuable
commodity for both. The best
sales professionals plan everything they do, they want to avoid surprises
and to be certain that they are achieving their goals.
this process on your next 10 sales calls.
See for yourself the impact planning has on the results you
produce. If you do it well, we know it will have a dramatic impact on
the results you produce. Based
on our experience, you can reduce the number of calls you need to make by
up to 50%.
EXCELLENCE provides many training
programs focused on improving sales
effectiveness. For information on
Dimensions Of EXCELLENCE
training programs, follow the link.
free call planning checklist to coach you on making more effective sales
calls, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call us at (949)305-7146.
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