When planning a sales call, you might want to start by creating an agenda, the topics you want to cover with your dream client. You might also want to make a list of questions you want to ask to gain clarity on where your prospective client might need help and how you may assist them. It’s also helpful to make a list of the questions your prospect may ask you, based on any prior conversations or promises you made. While these are good and necessary, it isn’t how you plan any client interaction. Instead, you start with the end.
What do you want to happen at the end of the meeting? What do you want your dream client to agree to do next?
You start with the outcome and design the agenda and plan the interaction to deliver the result. You work backward from there.
What Is the Outcome?
At the close of the meeting, what do you want your prospective client to what do you want your dream client to say yes? In almost all cases, you want them to agree to take the next step, and the next step is almost always another meeting.
If you have a great first meeting, what you might call The Commitment to Explore, the next meeting may be to Collaborate or start building Consensus around Change (you can find more about how to gain these commitments in The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales). Alternatively, you might need another meeting to go deeper into why your dream client should consider changing.
Everything you do should lead to what you want to happen next, even if the nonlinear nature of sales requires you to be flexible enough to make adjustments that move you forward when your prospect needs something different from you.
How Do You Get There?
What has to happen in a meeting to make it likely that your prospective client agrees to take the next step?
First, you increase your odds of getting to your next yes if you prepare for the meeting. Do you have insights and ideas you are prepared to share with your dream client? Have you done enough preparation to have a theory about why they should do something different? Do you have a robust value-creating agenda? Can you create enough value in this meeting to earn the next meeting?
Second, you need a next step that is valuable enough for the contacts you are meeting with to agree to the next one. Your sales process might provide reliable guidance on what you need to do next to increase your chances of winning a deal, but if you can’t translate that next step into words that cause your client to believe that it is valuable for them, you are going nowhere fast.
Why should they follow you down the path you are taking them? What do they get out of the meeting, even if they never buy from you? What do you have to trade in value to tip the balance in your dream client’s favor so much that a yes is not only likely but all but certain? When you can answer this question, you improve your odds of linking meetings together in a way that enhances your control of the process (a critical concept and skill for salespeople).
Without knowing the outcome and how to achieve it, you jeopardize the result you want. You also lose control of the process, and you increase the odds that you chase your dream client. Focus on the outcome, and work backward from there.