I was only four prospecting calls into my target list. I was calling to talk about sales performance issues. Then, I got this response from a sales manager I reached:
“We don’t have any significant sales performance issues. We killed it last year.”
Now, think about the ways your BDRs, direct, or partner reps would handled this situation. The many — different — ways.
Fortunately, when I designed this conversation framework, I identified this as a potential scenario. I remember reflecting on and testing alternative approaches for different scenarios, over a couple of days.
In this particular situation, I selected a question:
“What possible constraints to hitting this year’s goals are you most concerned with?”
Bingo! I got this:
“Our reward for an outstanding year last year was significant increases in our quotas for this year. Last year most of my reps performed really well. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. And overall, the business climate was very good.
To meet this year’s expectations — not just the numbers, but targets on new and expansion accounts — we have to become even better.“
My next question was:
“What are your plans to do that?”
Short answer was essentially, none, yet.
A short conversation ensued. Certainly beyond what either of us anticipated with my initial, “cold,” introduction call.
This is just one example of many critical sales conversations that benefit when you design conversation frameworks. Call it the “why talk, or why meet?” conversation. Get it right, you progress to the next stage. Mess it up, you’re out.
You’re probably thinking, “my reps would do that.” Yes, the top tier would. The bottom tier probably wouldn’t — at least predictably. The middle tier? Who knows. On a good day, some. Others?
Actually, for me, this was a little more than a why talk conversation. I was conducting an “information interview.” This conversation was with a sales manager, not the sales VP I want to meet.
Before I’m ready to conduct the VP level conversation I need to know the answers to these questions. This informs how best to approach the sales leader. And, I want a referral.
This sales tactic emerged when I took time to design a conversation framework for this initial, why talk sales conversation.
The sales manager agreed that improving sales conversations was an interesting angle. Despite “messaging” work, he was concerned this could be a hidden weakness, and ripe for improvement. He thought the VP would be interested in learning about it, and agreed to make a referral.
Before we concluded this conversation, I explained “how I work” — another critical sales conversation.
I indicated I would share this article so he could review and consider what I was introducing.
I invited him to join me for a brief follow up conversation. We would discuss his upcoming conversation with the VP. I would provide him written conversation guidelines (a framework), along with some coaching on how to conduct an effective conversation with his VP about this topic.
(I might have suggested this was a technique he consider adopting for his team. 🙂 )
How to coach a customer resource to conduct their internal conversations (on my behalf) is another example of a critical “sales” conversation that benefits from a well-designed conversation framework. Few reps are even aware of this concept.
A referral did occur. A “first meeting” is set with the sales leader.
It sounds like it was easy. Of course, with the right responses, and when things that work out well, it does feel easy. But consider how easily this conversation could have quickly gone off the rails.
My point is, there are so many of these critical conversations throughout a lengthy, B2B, value sales process.
Why make each rep, partner, AND customer figure out the best way to conduct every critical conversation?
Design Sales Conversation Frameworks
Design and test those conversations. Document them as Sales Conversation Frameworks.
Reps and managers will know “what good looks like.”
It becomes clear if conversation problems are due to rep execution, or elements in the conversation design that need improvement.
Coaching for conversations, especially specific account conversations, is significantly easier and more productive.
Feedback can occur organically through the coaching process. Each component of every conversation is identified so it can be easily documented.
Set up a simple collection process, a “conversation owner” to conduct the improvement work, and you have a closed loop, continuous improvement process.
Do the math. For every ten reps who conduct your most pipeline-critical sales conversations every week/month, how long until you have a critical mass of experience? Incredibly quickly.
Compare that with how long it takes for each rep to acquire that experience. So how much collective experience are you currently wasting?
Design conversation frameworks for each critical engagement and you will experience rapid improvement to sales conversations AND performance.