Did you hear about the US Men’s National Team coaches’ request to their players? The coaches asked these top professional soccer players to make deliberate decisions about how they spend each minute of their day by asking and answering a simple question: “Is this going to make me a better player?”
A similar line of questioning holds true for salespeople. Before every interaction you have with a customer, ask yourself: Is this action going to deliver value to my buyer by giving them exactly what he or she needs to move at least one step closer to making a purchase decision? If the answer is no, then don’t do it.
Don’t waste your buyers’ time with empty sales touches. It makes them leery of giving you more time. And, why would you waste your own limited time on actions that don’t move your customer at least one step forward in their buying process?
Productivity consultant David Allen offers concepts in his bestselling book, Getting Things Done, that apply perfectly to selling. The most relevant one involves how to breakdown a bigger task—i.e. getting an order—into a logical sequence of events to help the customer make a purchase decision—i.e. your sales process to move them forward.
This is where salespeople often trip up. They aren’t clear about what should be their very next action to move the situation forward. Just sending a follow-up email to the customer is not enough. You have to ask yourself: “What value am I delivering in this email that will truly make a difference to the buyer? And, what’s the very next action that I want the customer to take in response?”
To frame the importance of this issue, consider these two questions:
- How many sales touches do you have with a prospect in your average sales cycle?
- If you waste just one of those touches without a plan in place before you reach out, what percentage of your sales cycle have you wasted?
Let’s say your typical sales cycle has five touches, but you improvised the discovery phase without adequately researching the customer, their business, products, and markets. You weren’t prepared to ask probing questions that get to the heart of their requirements and miss out on uncovering key pain points. As a result, the buyer leaves the meeting with doubts about working with you because you didn’t demonstrate a clear understanding of their requirements and therefore the buyer doesn’t take the next step.
So, for all intents and purposes, you squandered 20% of your sales cycle. When this happens, it’s extremely difficult to make up lost ground and in all likelihood you will be fighting for second place. And as we know well, second place is not where you aspire to be.
Remember: answer this one simple question before each sales touch: Is this action going to deliver value to the prospect that will move them at least one step closer to making their decision?