A Very Pleasant Conversation, Quickly Going Nowhere

To succeed in sales, you have to know the outcome that you want from the actions you are taking, and you have to have a single-minded focus on achieving that outcome.

There are two areas where salespeople commonly fail to focus on the outcome, and both of them derail their efforts to obtain their dream clients. The first area where the lack of focus on outcomes causes problems is in cold calling; the second is in advancing the opportunity.

Just Getting In

Getting in to see your dream client is more difficult than ever. They are busier than ever, they are being asked to do more with fewer resources, and they have had their time wasted by salespeople in the past. Your dream clients are more and more skeptical of spending time with salespeople unless and until they know that you are someone with whom it is worth spending their time. When you are cold calling to schedule an appointment, you have to understand that all of this is true—and you have to act accordingly.

You also need to know that the single outcome of cold calling is to schedule an appointment.

It’s easy to get caught up in a conversation about your dream client’s business, their needs, and some of their challenges. Your cold calling effort starts to sound like discovery work; it starts to sound like a needs analysis. It feels good that you are having a conversation.

And then, your dream client thanks you for your time and suggests you call back in a couple quarters to see if things have changed. By failing to maintain your single-minded focus on scheduling the appointment that was the real (and much desired) outcome of your call, you have undone yourself.

When your dream client asks questions during your cold call, your response should be to refocus the conversation towards the desired outcome that will ultimately be better for both you and your dream client: a face-to-face visit. Instead of asking and answering questions, you say: “I’d love to tell you more about what we do in that area, but first I’d like to learn a little more about you and your business. What does Thursday look like for a 20 minute appointment to explore this together?”

If you want an appointment, focus on an appointment. If you want to complete a needs-analysis, complete a needs analysis, but first determine if that is the right outcome for a cold call.

Moving Forward

Too often some salespeople allow opportunities to stall and unnecessarily extend their sales cycle by failing to focus on the outcome of the sales calls. In some cases, poorly crafted sales processes are to blame because they fail to provide the salesperson with a range of commitments that they might obtain to advance the opportunity.

But in many cases, the salesperson collects information and leaves without even attempting to schedule an opportunity-advancing commitment from their dream client. When asked, we tend to feel good about sales calls that were pleasant, but where we didn’t obtain the advance. We say things like: “That call went great! We got along famously, and they have exactly the kinds of issues we help clients improve!”

Then, when asked about a future commitment, we say things like: “Well, they told me I could call them in two weeks to schedule something.” So we made a commitment, and our dream client made no commitment that advances the opportunity.

This is a pleasant conversation that is going nowhere quickly.

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