I’ve been consulting at many sales meetings where sales professionals report the status of their prospects. What I hear too many times is, “This deal is going to close. Soon.” Instead of a discussion of what “soon” means and why, the sales manager accepts this report as an indication of future success. Nothing could be further from the truth! Here’s how to run a productive sales meeting which actually moves your team’s sales process forward.
Learn to speak the same language.
One of my first recommendations when I attend these sales meetings is that each team member talk the same language. You no longer can say that a deal is closing soon. What does that mean anyway? I might think soon is tomorrow and you might think soon is next month.
Sales meetings should be a discussion about the progress salespeople are making with each one of their prospects instead of talking about when deals will close. The first requirement to have that type of discussion is that salespeople present viable prospects to sales managers. That means salespeople have to be able to identify viable prospects and what needs to happen and when to ensure that they do have a viable prospect.
Talk about specifics.
Start by identifying the sales stages you have for your product or services. There really are no more than 3 sales stages. Stage 1 is the work a salesperson does to identify a viable prospect. Think of Stage 1 as connecting to a viable prospect. Stage 2 is the work a salesperson does to explore the prospect’s business and get prospect’s approval to consider your company as a supplier. Stage 3 is when a salesperson advises the prospect why he should select your company and the prospect agrees.
Here’s what happens in each stage. In Stage 1 the salesperson gathers basic information. He identifies the decision maker or makers, the decision making process, customer needs, the competition, budget and buying potential. In Stage 2 the salesperson works towards getting approved. He gets product approval if needed or gets on a vendor list. The prospect agrees that there’s a reason to continue the process if the salesperson can offer a solution to his need. The prospect has identified his requirements and the salesperson is able to identify his supporters and detractors if any. In Stage 3 the salesperson offers the solution and work towards the prospect accepting it.
Now prove it.
Now that all work in each stage is defined, your sales meetings become discussion about what stage the salesperson is in and what he is doing in that stage. There’s no discussion about “I think it’s going to close.” Instead salespeople discuss what need they’ve identified. They discuss whether they’ve offered a solution or not. They identify the obstacles they’ve encountered that they’re working to eliminate.
I tell my clients that the only information that a salesperson can use during this discussion is what the prospect said or did. What the salesperson thinks does not count. When I hear a salesperson say, “The prospect agrees with our proposal” my response is always, “What did the customer say or do that leads you to believe that?” It’s the prospect who is going to buy, not the salesperson. I want to know what the prospect thinks and more importantly does. Sales are made when prospect’s act, not when salespeople think they will.
You may have been in sales meetings where you’ve heard “the deal is going to close.” Those meetings were a waste of everyone’s time. Instead, it would be helpful for sales managers to get input from other sales professionals on the obstacles salespeople face or hear ideas on how others are moving forward in sales. Salespeople can then implement new ideas and actually move forward into the next sales stage. That’s the best way I know to run productive sales meetings that actually help salespeople get business.