How do Your Prospects Get to Know You Before they Commit to Working with You?

Arrows and blocksA lot of the work I do with my clients is to help them identify and confirm their sales process before we begin to figure out what specific training, coaching, and accountability they need for the coming months. By sales process I am referring to how their sales people find opportunities, secure meetings with those companies, and then go through the steps from first meeting, to follow up meetings to proposal, negotiation and close.

What I find often is that most of the companies I work with don’t have a defined process; their sales people just wing it when they are calling on prospects and customers. It sounds impossible, how could they not have a clearly defined go-to-market methodology? I believe it is a lack of understanding of the importance of helping to define this for their sales team. Leadership assumes that because (most often) their sales people are experienced that they should already know how to sell! Makes some sense, but it’s really not what I see.

Here is a sample sales process that you can think about for your company and industry as a starting point:

  1. Lead Generation/Pre-Call Research
  2. Gain the Meeting
  3. The First Sales call
  4. Follow Up Calls
  5. Proposal, Negotiation and Close
  6. Implementation

Every industry may have a slightly different spin on this: for example, one of my clients can only call on a certain type of company and they have already identified all of these companies, so there is no lead generation, simply pre-call research (which is a critical step, by the way). The other key difference amongst companies is the follow up steps in between the first sales meeting and the proposal. This is the time when a new prospect gets to know you, your company, and how you operate. One of my friends and colleagues, Judi Hughes at Your Planning Partners, calls this “tasting the chocolate.” What this means is to create some steps at this stage for your prospect to take you and your company for a test drive. It is also an opportunity for you to learn more about them before you present a proposal prematurely, opening you up to many objections because you don’t understand what is going on at the current time.

Here’s what I do after the first meeting with a prospect:

  1. Interview key sales people to find out the goals they have set and the challenges they face in the field – I also ask them to identify their sales process so I can hear it in their own words (this is how I know it’s not clearly defined).
  2. Present the interview findings to their leadership team to ask for their input.
  3. Lead a conference call with the sales team, along with their leadership, to overview the findings with them so that they can learn what I found out and the conclusions I’ve drawn.
  4. It is after this step that I present my proposal to the leadership team. Since they’ve been part of the process, they are well-bought-into the proposal and it becomes a situation of which option (I always give a choice) they prefer. Since I present all of my proposals in a live meeting, I can often close the sale right then and there.

So think about the steps you can add between first meeting and proposal so that you can learn about your clients goals and challenges more deeply and more importantly, they can get to know you and how your work.