One idea that can help sales reps is to always set a next action:
- when leaving a voice mail message
- when sending an email message
- when talking directly to a prospect
- when talking to a strategic referral partner
- when talking to a vendor
- when planning your work day / week / month
Think of the "next action" as something that you do that causes a series of events to happen. When it comes to business conversations how you set things up will help you move forward and close business in the future.
Real Life Example
I received a call from a rep last week. She was in a panic. She has a huge sales opportunity with someone who asked her for a contract - not a proposal. This is someone she spent two detailed conversations with and presented information back so that they could do business. He is not talking to anyone else. But the prospective client did not call back when he SAID he would - has that ever happened to you?
My advice to her was to reach out to her prospective client and let him know that she's planning the next eight weeks (easy to discuss with summer in our midst) - and from a planning perspective she is looking to get input from him about their pending project. It is a non-confrontational way to get the buyer to talk and interact and let you know if he has concerns or has been busy or just forgot.
Her big mistake is that she DID NOT SET A NEXT ACTION. Here's how it would go -
Prospect: "This looks great. I'll give you a call by Wednesday. "
YOU SAY: "Great, and if for any reason I don't hear back from you or we don't connect, I'll call you on Thursday - does that work for you? "
By adding in this ONE statement, you now have permission to call back. You won't need to wonder, "should I call today, tomorrow, or next week?"
Both parties know what to expect. This is what professionals in business do. Regardless of who is working to sell what, you must communicate with business professionals in a manner that you keep the conversation moving forward.
Sales is about give and take. It is not pushy, but rather a scenario where both parties support each other and when they do that, the chances are that it will be a good relationship. So if I agree to wait to hear from you by a certain time, it's OK for me to ask you what to do if I don't hear from you.
Always Set the Next Action!
By setting next actions in your sales career, you will see how helpful it is for all of your relationships - in and outside of the sales position.
Ed I will call you Thursday at 8:15 if I have not heard back - Does that work for you?
Lori Richardson helps mid-sized companies grow revenues by solving key issues in their sales department - like recruiting, retention, diversity hiring, process, pipeline and leadership. She speaks at CEO groups on topics of sales growth. Clients include companies in the technology, telecom, manufacturing, distribution, and professional services industries. Subscribe to the award-winning blog, follow her on Twitter
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