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Debriefing Buyer Meetings
FROM BULLETPROOF SELLING:
Chapter 17: The Sales Meeting Debrief
IF YOU’VE SEEN the movie 300, the dramatic story of the Spartan stand against the Persian army at the gates of Thermopylae, you may remember the scene where King Leonidas is departing Sparta with his group of 300 warriors, headed to certain death. His queen said something that was often told to departing warriors in Greece. In its original Greek, it was, “E tan, e epi tan.”
Translated into English, it means, “Return with your shield or on it.”
For ancient and modern warriors, not returning home doesn’t constitute failure if their sacrifice was a worthy one. While salespeople are not heading into actual battle, they are battling each day for commissions, battling against the ignorance or apathy of some prospects, and battling against everything else their prospects have on their schedule besides an interruption or sales meeting.
And yet no matter how tight our pre-sales meeting brief is, no matter how flawlessly we execute our Bulletproof Offer, we still won’t win them all. Alternatively, our next sales meeting might close the biggest sale of our careers. Regardless of the outcome of a single sales meeting, what we can bring back, regardless of a meeting’s outcome, is a lesson. Whether a sale was made of not, being better next time is a salesperson’s version of returning ‘with their shield or on it.’
A requirement of Bulletproof salespeople, then, is to return from every sales meeting with ways they can improve, especially if they made the sale. If we pay attention to challenges encountered in our outreach and on every sales call, we’ll never be short of ideas to make our sales teams better for the next sales meeting.
If we want to have any hope of taking on better-known competitors, operating with less resources than our peers, or (gulp!) selling higher-priced products and services than they do, we must take the time to examine sales conversations for ways to improve what we do. There is a way to Bulletproof our future sales meetings:
Enter the Meeting Debrief.
The Sales Meeting Debrief System
Trigger: Conducted immediately after a sales meeting.
Bulletproof Impact: Capturing exactly what went right and wrong with each qualified sales meeting and capturing those lessons in a way that benefits the entire team. Ensures salespeople are using best practices, and regardless of whether a sale was made, ensuring success with future sales.
This system allows salespeople and sales managers to ensure the systems, training, and tools provided for their sales meetings were brought to bear, that all necessary information about the prospect was discovered and confirmed, that the salesperson owns the next step of contact, and that anything learned from a success or setback is captured for everyone’s benefit. If an item was missed during the meeting, the sales meeting debrief will capture it for that salesperson’s future improvement, as well as for potentially salvaging that account before the sale is lost.
It turns out, every Bulletproof team I’ve studied across industries – whether in the military, wildland firefighting, law enforcement, sports, performance, business, or sales – used a debrief system to capture not just their losses but also their wins. While we covered the format and flow of an operational debrief in the book Pivot Point: Turn on a Dime Without Sacrificing Results, the sales meeting debrief is unique in the world of sales so let’s systemize it for your team.
Systemizing Success with Sales Meeting Debriefs
For debriefing high value sales meetings, the sooner the debrief occurs, the better. That might mean your salesperson calling in as soon as they get into the car after the sales meeting or as soon as their sales manager is available. The more time that passes between a sales meeting and its debrief, the more Lessons Learned will be lost, which is why it’s imperative the debrief happens quickly.
If, as a sales manager, you’re wondering if it’s worth adding these debrief sessions to an already-packed schedule of administrative duties, consider this: the debriefing system allows us a window to see our sales teams’ behavior in front of prospects and even gives salespeople the leverage to salvage potentially lost sales after their sales meeting ends. As a sales manager myself, I can think of no better use of my time than learning more about how my salespeople are interacting with prospects during critical sales meetings and helping them improve. Here’s what the debrief system accomplishes from the perspective of a sales leader:
· Ensure salespeople are following company standards of professionalism
· Ensure decision makers are confirmed
· Confirms the decision-making process
· Confirms a buying window or timeline
· Confirms the number of employees or customers that could benefit from the product or service in that company
· Discovers the strategic and tactical objectives of the buyer
· Reviews the prospect’s ability to accept our Bulletproof Offer pricing model or learn what items need to be removed to meet the budget
· Ensures value-adds or upsells are offered to ensure faster ROI
· A follow-up date is confirmed in your CRM so your salesperson maintains the next step
· If additional decision makers or buyers are discovered, additional account profiles are created for future outreach
If you could ensure your salespeople were accomplishing each item above in every sales meeting, it’s almost a certainty closing ratios would increase. It’s also a certainty that your salespeople would begin consistently doing the things on that list they may not consistently be doing today. What gets measured gets managed.
The Sales Meeting Debrief Format
As soon as possible after the sales meeting, hop on the phone with your salesperson and run through your debrief checklist (we’ve provided a sample checklist in the Bulletproof Resources section at the end of this book). This debrief meeting is all about speed and efficiency – any systems that need updating can be captured and saved for the weekly sales huddle and Lessons Learned program. Keep this meeting focused on the sales meeting that just occurred. Your checklist will include items specific to your organization and industry, but here’s a basic example to model. We’ve entered background information in italics to help explain why each item is important to review.
Using a checklist format keeps the debrief short. For instance, when a sales manager asks, “Did we confirm whether we’re dealing with a sole decision maker or a committee?” the salesperson’s response should be, “Yes, Bob said he was the sole decision maker.” or, “Yes, Bob said that he is the chair of the selection committee, a group of 5,” or “No, I didn’t confirm whether he was the decision maker.”
The more succinct we can train salespeople to be during these debriefs, the more value they’ll get out of them and the faster they’ll get back to driving more sales meetings. Let’s dive into the outline of the sales meeting debrief:
Review Primary Objective:
Confirm decision maker and decision-making process, and secure agreement to send our Bulletproof Offer proposal to the buyer with a decision deadline.
(It’s imperative that you set a #1 priority objective with your salesperson prior to the sales meeting and then review it when the meeting concludes. This lets them know what to focus their efforts on.)
Review Secondary Objective:
Confirm decision maker and decision-making process with follow-up date to provide any missing information, and get permission to send Bulletproof Offer proposal for consideration with a decision deadline.
(If the sales meeting does not generate a request for a proposal, it’s also imperative that the salesperson knows what success can also look like – and that’s securing a second meeting where any missing info can be presented and a proposal can be generated.)
_____Confirm whether we’re dealing with a sole decision maker or committee?
(This will be important when sending any proposals, scheduling follow-up meetings, etc.)
_____Confirm the decision-making process?
(It will be important to discover how a buying decision will be made as it will affect follow-up steps after the meeting.)
_____Confirm buying timeline?
(When will they plan on making a decision? If it’s tied to a certain date, we need to know that in planning specific follow-up events.)
_____Confirm number of employees or prospect customers our product or service could affect?
(A question that is often overlooked, this data will be critical if we enter negotiations for our Bulletproof Offer. We need salespeople to be able to refer back to specific metrics in helping prospects understand the impact of our product or service across their organization and even down to their own customers.)
_____Discover and confirm objectives for our product or service?
(Critical in justifying any investment, we want to ensure our salespeople take the time to ask what success looks like to the prospect so we can customize proposals and any follow-up material to those objectives.)
_____Discover or confirm upper limit of budget?
(Critical for being able to ensure a deal’s value is accurately reflected within the salesperson’s pipeline, the Bulletproof Offer system will reveal how much the prospect is actually willing to pay for our product or service even if they can’t stroke a check today. That number will allow a salesperson to modify their Bulletproof Offer to give sales managers an accurate idea of sale value.)
_____Review ability to accept Bulletproof Offer pricing or the need to remove items to meet the budget?
(We need to know if the Bulletproof Offer pricing fee was accepted, and if not, what specific items did the prospect want removed to see if we could meet their budget?)
_____Offer additional product lines?
(If you have product lines that are outside the reason the prospect agreed to meet but that could also impact the prospect’s objective, were they mentioned during the sales meeting? Which ones?)
_____Confirm follow-up date and time for next point of outreach?
(In line with our earlier system of always owning the next step in any prospect interaction, this ensures the salesperson has a follow-up date and method listed in their CRM to ensure they don’t allow the account to go stale.)
_____If going to a committee for decision, did we offer to customize a message for them and confirm what date it needed to be delivered by?
(We find that if we’ve met with a decision maker who needs the consensus of a committee before making a decision, it’s always a good idea to produce something specific for that committee to review, whether it’s a video, individualized set of proposals, etc.)
_____Is the salesperson connected to the decision maker on LinkedIn?
(If the salesperson isn’t connected to the decision maker by the end of the sales meeting, they should be!)
_____If the decision maker asked for a proposal, who is moving this account into an Active Opportunity?
(Whatever you call your ‘accounts receivable’ process, ensure that the deal is moved into that status – the vertical of your pipeline that is closest to generating closed business.)
_____If a proposal was requested, which departments will be CC’d?
(Depending on your internal processes, some deals will need to have others tagged in for follow-up steps. Ensure that if that is the case, your salesperson understands who will need to be made aware.)
_____Were referrals requested? Received?
(For the truly dedicated salespeople out there, a first-time meeting is often the first time they have an opportunity to ask for the names of anyone else in the prospect’s organization or network who might also benefit from your product or service. Contrary to what your brain may tell you, you can ask for referrals in your first sales conversation. If we don’t ask, we don’t get.)
_____Did we capture anything that could be considered a Lesson Learned concerning the salesperson, prospect, or sales manager? If so, what?
(We have devoted a whole chapter dedicated to this information and what to do with it to drive change – it’s that important. If a sales leader has the ability to be present for the sales meeting or sales call, here is where to review anything that was off-system or off-script, as well as established sales systems that could be improved.)
Notice the flow of the debrief checklist can also serve as your salesperson’s meeting agenda! Feel free to add any items unique to your product or service, industry, or sales systems in your debrief if it’s critical to assessing, selling, delivering, or maximizing value of your product or service.
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