Wednesday 17 December 2014

Are You Wasting Your Time And Your Customer's Time?

In today's busy commercial world sales professionals cannot afford to be wasting their time. The highly successful sales professional makes maximum use of their time, working efficiently and effectively.

However, poorly planned and qualified sales visits to customers happen far too often. Far too may sales people are visiting their customers without a very specific goal for the meeting and wasting time as a result.

This also wastes the customer's time. If the customer perceives the meeting as a waste of time they are not going to agree to another meeting!

So what should we do to make sure that we have very specific goals for our customer meetings?

The amount of research that has been done into goal setting and its impact on performance is impressive.  One of the most robust conclusions to come from all of this research is that goal setting improves task performance.

As I state in my book “The Inner Winner”:

“Goals influence performance in a number of important ways:
  • Goals focus attention and action on important aspects of performanc
  • Goals set specific standards that motivate individuals to take action
  • Goals increase not only immediate effort and intensity, but also help to prolong effort and increase persistence
  • Goals also prompt the development of new problem-solving and learning strategies”
In short, setting a clear goal (or goals) for your meeting gives your brain something to focus and lock onto.  On a day to day basis our brains are bombarded with sensory information, and in order to manage this certain information is “filtered” out.  

A part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System is decides which information is important to pay attention to and what can be ignored.  It helps the brain to decide what to consciously focus attention on. 

People who live close to airports or railways are not as aware of the noise that the planes and trains as their Reticular Activating Systems dampen down the effect of the repeated stimuli.  This helps to prevent the brain being overloaded.

By contrast, if you have ever become interested in purchasing a particular model or colour of car, because the goal that you now have in your brain influences what your Reticular Activating System pays attention to, the world will seem to be full of exactly that model and colour of car!

Therefore, to maximise your chances of sales success it is very important to have clarity about the goals that you have for your meeting so that your brain is fully focused on the result that you want, and is highly receptive to information that will help you to do achieve your meeting goal.

 Fundamentally, every customer meeting should have one of four goals:
  • To close the sale
  • To advance the sale towards a close
  • To identify a new opportunity
  • To qualify an opportunity
In many industries, particularly where the sale is more complex or where the level of expenditure is high, it is not practical to close the sale in one meeting.  It will take several meetings for the sales process to be concluded. In these cases you need to have a clear goal to advance the sale.  This will prevent unproductive meetings and the sales cycle being lengthened more than is absolutely necessary.

Your ultimate goal is to close the sale.  This goal can be broken down into several sub-goals that will support this.  The sub-goals could include information you need to gather in order to move the sales forward, understanding the buying process that will be followed, identifying who will be involved in the buying process, determining what it is you want the customer to believe about you and your organisation so that they feel comfortable about working with you, and so forth.

It is important to make these as clear as possible so that you have clarity over what the goal is.  Without some clear evidence you cannot know if you have been successful or not. 

Poorly articulated objectives such as “build the relationship with the customer” or “keep in touch with the customer” will deliver poor meeting results, waste your time and, most importantly, the customer’s time.  Make your meeting goals very specific.  Give you brain something to lock onto.

Here are some examples:
  • At the end of this meeting I will be able to articulate the nature of the customer’s specific challenges and problems and gain the customer’s agreement to these.
  • At the end of this meeting I will be able to articulate the financial cost of the customer’s specific challenges and problems in both the short and long term and gain the customer’s agreement to these.
  • At the end of this meeting I will have identified the steps in the customer’s buying process and which people will be involved at each stage and gain the customer’s agreement to these.
  • At the end of this meeting I will have defined the criteria that the customer will use to determine which supplier they wish to place the business with and gain the customer’s agreement to these.
  • At the end of this meeting I will gain the customers agreement that they believe we have the experience, expertise and capability to be their new supplier.
By having a very clear goal for the meeting, with evidence that you can use to determine if you have met your goal, you give your brain something very concrete to lock onto.  You will have opened the specific sensory filters that will support you in achieving your meeting goal, making your brain more attuned to noticing the information that it needs to locate.

The simple but powerful step of defining the specific goal or goals you want to achieve in every meeting will powerfully support your sales success.

Good luck and good selling!

Simon Hazeldine

Simon Hazeldine MSc FinstSMM is an international speaker and consultant in the areas of sales, negotiation, performance leadership and applied neuroscience.
He is the bestselling author of five business books:
  • Neuro-Sell: How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success
  • Bare Knuckle Selling
  • Bare Knuckle Negotiating
  • Bare Knuckle Customer Service
  • The Inner Winner
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