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Setting Next Steps With Prospects
FROM BULLETPROOF SELLING:
Setting next steps with a prospect starts with knowing the journey prospects take on their way to becoming customers. Too many salespeople hope they remember all the steps a prospect takes on that journey, but Bulletproof salespeople operate differently. They know what the next step with any prospect before they ever pick up the phone, write the next email, or send a social media message and ensure that their language guides the prospect to the next landmark on that sales journey.
We call these ‘micro objectives’, and they are specific to where a prospect is in their buying journey.
From Chapter 9:
Systemizing Success With Prospect Interactions
MANY SALESPEOPLE CONDUCT a lot of activity over the course of a given day, week, and sometimes even a month but have almost no pipeline movement to show for it. This means a lot of calls made and emails sent to the same accounts without getting one step closer to the sale, even if they are talking to a person who can say ‘Yes’!
David Allen, one of the most prolific time-management trainers in the world, is famous for saying, “You can do anything, but not everything.” Too many salespeople are attempting to accomplish all their goals with every prospect conversation. For prospects that convert on a single call or meeting, that’s great – but few do.
Salespeople are often under the assumption that they must accomplish everything on a single call, which is one of the chief causes of call reluctance.
Instead of turning on the Bulletproof sales vehicle you’ve built and simply asking salespeople to sell more, we’ve seen the best results from our clients when clear objectives are provided that are achievable with every prospect interaction.
The Micro-Objective System
Trigger: When establishing campaign systems and call scripts.
Bulletproof Impact: For many salespeople, not making a sale on every call can be demoralizing even if they sell a high-cost item in an industry with a long sales cycle. This comes from not understanding the data that must be in place before they can be ideally positioned to ask for the prospect’s business. Gathering that data can serve as micro-objectives for salespeople to strive for in every prospect exchange, allowing them to change their definition of success from ‘selling something’ to ‘being better positioned for a future sale than we were yesterday.’
For the teams I embedded with around the world, their work was dangerous, demanding, and done in rapidly changing environments. Each mission always had a primary objective such as ‘clear these four city blocks,’ just as our salespeople are told, ‘meet this minimum sales goal.’ However, there are also ‘even better if’ goals Bulletproof teams are asked to pursue on every mission. These could include such items as bringing back high-value prisoners, gathering additional intelligence to help other teams in the area, and of course bringing everyone back alive.
Bulletproof teams have minimum/maximum objectives to pursue; not just one benchmark for success, but many. And of course, the more objectives a team can achieve on a single mission, the better off their organizations will be.
Let’s contrast that with the way most salespeople are taught to set goals for calls and scheduling sales meetings. Some organizations give their salespeople training, leads, and a sales quota, then tell them ‘go out there and sell’ and wonder why turnover and lagging results are an issue! Few organizations give their salespeople objectives for each client contact such that even if a sale isn’t made, measurable progress occurs toward an eventual sale.
Instead of complicating sales, these types of micro-objectives allow salespeople to have verifiable proof of progress while also creating forward movement in their pipelines. As a sales manager myself, it’s imperative for me to know that if every prospect contact doesn’t generate a sale, it should at least get the account closer to one in the future. Simply hearing a salesperson report, “The prospect isn’t buying now,” tells me nothing about the account’s value, decision makers, decision-making process, etc. Basically, that statement means we know nothing more than we did before we made the call or stopped by the prospect’s office!
While your organization’s micro-objectives will differ depending on your industry, customer buying cycle, budget, etc., there are always things your salespeople can leave a prospect conversation with that will prepare that account for a successful conversion in the future.
This is where Bulletproof selling systems come in, specifically the separate deal stages that make up the verticals in your pipeline. Micro-objectives are the trigger mechanisms that move an account from one campaign system in your pipeline to another even if a sale doesn’t occur.
For instance, if we call on a prospect we know very little about, the salesperson has an opportunity to discover who makes buying decisions in that organization for our product or service, specific challenges they’re suffering from that our product or service alleviates, how the company makes decisions to purchase, when they make those decisions and at what budget ranges. That’s five micro-objectives a salesperson can leave a call having achieved even if the prospect didn’t purchase today. Having that data easily accessible in a CRM will make any future sale in that account much smoother. When a salesperson checks what campaign system a prospect is in, they’ll know what deal stage they’re trying to move a prospect into next. That will reveal exactly what secondary or tertiary objectives they’ll need to pursue in their next outreach to move the account forward and consider that interaction a success.
Systemizing Success with Micro-Objectives
Below are the series of data points we advise our clients use to form their outreach objectives, but you may have others that are required to ensure your product fits in the prospect’s floorspace, maintains compliance with local and state regulations, does not conflict with client policies, etc. In other words, modify your micro-objectives depending on your unique product or service’s customer requirements.
To train your salespeople in their use, roleplay with a sales leader acting as a prospect. We make a game out of this with our clients’ new salespeople and encourage bonuses on the sales calls where salespeople to capture all their micro-objectives, even if a sale isn’t made. The more questions salespeople can ask and get answers to, the closer they are to being able to position your product or service as an ideal solution when a prospect is in a buying window or capable of purchasing.
Objective 1. Identify the Decision Maker
Many people in an organization have the ability to say no, but few can say yes. The more expensive or wide-reaching your product or service is, the fewer people there are who can say ‘yes.’ In order to maximize your time and your salespeople’s time, it’s vital the decision maker(s) for what you sell are quickly identified and/or updated within your CRM. Confirming a decision maker – or reconfirming one from a legacy account – is an awesome micro-objective for any outreach attempt.
Objective 2. Confirm Need
Few people care about the product or service you sell. They do care about the problems they’re suffering from or growth they want to achieve. In order to earn the right to offer your product or service as a solution to their problem, confirm a need actually exists. Asking for and capturing needs and challenges from a decision maker or even a gatekeeper within an account is a micro-objective that will serve a salesperson well in later conversations.
Objective 3. Confirm the Impact of the Prospect’s Challenges
While this could be considered objective 2.5, it’s valuable enough to stand alone. In order to justify the cost of your product or service, especially a service, you need to know what the ROI is likely to be for your prospect. If it’s impossible to determine the exact financial impact of your product or service because much of it depends on client implementation, then you can at least determine how many individuals your product or service will touch and calculate potential impact to $X dollars of payroll, $X dollars of lost revenue if nothing changes, etc.
Objective 4. Confirm Buying Timeframe
In many organizations, there will be cases where bureaucracy or a budgetary cycle or a contract renewal period prevents some products or services from being purchased at the moment your salesperson is in a conversation with the decision maker. In that case, a micro-objective can be to confirm a follow-up date with that decision maker and schedule a meeting when they will be empowered to make a buying decision.
Objective 5. Qualify for Budget
Why is this question not earlier in the list? It’s a moot point to discuss a $5 million-dollar widget if a decision maker doesn’t know they have a $200 million-dollar problem the widget can solve. Additionally, budgets sometimes change for decision makers between now and whenever they can make a buying decision, just as our fees may change from one year to the next. This is why confirming potential budget or budget range is a micro-objective always worth pursuing after needs have been identified or reconfirmed.
6. Examine Other Opportunities Within the Organization
While you or your salesperson may be speaking with the main decision maker, it doesn’t mean they’re the only one with fiduciary power in the company. This applies for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales. A great micro-objective is also discovering any other divisions, offices, events, or branches of that company that might also be suffering from that need or desire those improved outcomes your product or service provides.
7. Examine Opportunities Outside the Organization
We do advise this question be saved until the end of the conversation, as it’s used to generate external referrals. While many salespeople are uncomfortable asking for a referral before their product or service has even been sold or delivered, sales experts from Zig Ziglar to Grant Cardone advocate asking for referrals from prospects early and often. A salesperson who doesn’t leave a call with a sale but does leave with qualified leads can absolutely consider that call a success – making this a micro-objective worth pursuing.
If your salespeople create questions that elicit those answers and actually ask those questions when in conversations with decision makers, here’s what they’ll be able to accomplish that they may not have been doing before:
· Confirmed who in the account should be contacted via email, phone, LinkedIn, carrier pigeon, etc.
· Fleshed out exactly what that organization’s or individual’s challenges and growth goals are that can be used as future call premises and research points to continue to add value
· Quantified the impact of your product or service for their organization (this will be specific to each buyer, even if there are multiple decision makers within a single account)
· Confirmed when the buyer would be willing to buy, allowing your salesperson to project potential revenue in their pipeline, often down to the month or week
· Confirmed this buyer has the budget to invest in the product or service, avoiding the ever-present ‘unqualified account’ that stalls most salespeople’s pipelines
· Identify other buyers within the organization to add to the salesperson’s pipeline and begin pursuit with
· Generated at least a few referrals to scrub and get into play
Sales managers would be overjoyed if every conversation with a decision maker yielded half of those above results – but all of them? For every conversation with a decision maker? Even the top salespeople in the top sales teams on the planet rarely produce results that consistent, so it’s easy to imagine the impact it would make if every salesperson on a team was able to leave each conversation with that much actionable intelligence, even if the sale couldn’t be made that day to that prospect.
If you’re a solopreneur/entrepreneur, striving for micro-objectives in every sales conversation will easily put you into the top 1% of entrepreneurs on the planet and ensure you are pursuing quality prospects that are generating revenue sooner, paying what your product and service is worth, and generating new prospects for you to pursue.
How do we define what micro-objectives our salespeople should be pursuing on each call? Let’s go through the different deal stages or verticals of a pipeline and outline what micro-objectives are possible even if a sale isn’t made. Again, your sales cycle may have more or less steps so feel free to add to or subtract from these stages based on what you and your sales team have identified as the stages of your prospects’ buying journey.
Cold Outreach Stage:
Definition of this stage: The prospect is unfamiliar with us and/or most of their leadership team has transitioned since our last contact.
What we should walk into the conversation with: Names of likely decision makers, direct phone numbers and emails if they can be found online, LinkedIn profile URLs.
Primary objective: Make the sale.
Micro-objectives for prospects in this stage: Confirm the name and contact information of the person responsible for buying your product or service. Discover challenges they’re experiencing that your product or service could alleviate. Discover budget. Discover buying process (single person, committee, what they need to review, etc.). Discover buying timeline. Set next meeting.
Decision Maker Known Stage:
Definition of this stage: We know the decision maker’s name and likely their direct contact information, but may not know the specific challenges they’re experiencing, what budget they have for our product or service, or what their buying process or timeline might be.
What we should walk into the conversation with: Name of the decision maker and their contact information.
Primary objective: Make the sale.
Micro-objectives for prospects in this stage: Discover challenges our product or service could help alleviate. Discover personal goals of decision maker as it applies to the solutions our product or service provides. Discover budget. Discover buying process (single person, committee, etc.). Discover buying timeline. Discover number of people affected by their challenges. Find out if there are any additional buyers within other departments of their organization. Set next meeting.
Definition: We know who the decision maker is, we’re in the timeframe they said they’ll be buying in, and we know their potential budget justifies further conversation.
What we should walk into the conversation with: Decision maker contact information, notes from previous chats. Budget range. Buying process (single person, committee, etc.)
Primary objective: Make the sale.
Micro-objectives for prospects in this stage: Confirm latest challenges and what they’re looking for in our type of product or service before purchasing. Re-confirming buying process is a great one to get at this point as well (single person, a committee, what they need to review, etc.), as the prospect is close to purchasing and may have changed the buying process since last contact. As these accounts are in active selection mode, if they’re not ready for a proposal or invoice, then another goal is to assess what the prospect still needs to see or receive to be ready for a proposal or invoice. Set firm follow-up appointment.
Could Not Reach Stage:
Definition: The results of our outreach attempts in another campaign system were not responded to. We target this vertical of our campaign to the executive director or CEO if possible as we weren’t able to get traction with a lower-level decision maker.
What we should walk into the conversation with: The name of the decision maker and their contact information AND the executive director or CEO’s name, as well as their contact information (this is the decision maker’s boss if they’re not the CEO themselves).
Primary objective: Make the sale.
Micro-objectives for prospects in this stage: To have a conversation with the executive director or CEO to confirm whether the decision maker you have still works there and if they’re still the ones responsible for deciding about purchasing your product or service. Discover the executive director or CEO’s ideal outcomes that your product or service could play a role in delivering. Get their permission to CC them in an email to the decision maker to restart the conversation about setting an appointment with you or the salesperson. An executive or mid-level manager getting a message from their boss saying ‘have a conversation with these folks’ is a great way to restart a stalled deal with someone who wouldn’t respond otherwise. [SR1]
To scale our sales efforts, progress is not always measured by today’s actualized revenue. Rather, progress is defined by being better prepared than anyone else to do business with that account when they are purchasing what we sell.
For a Bulletproof sales team, every interaction with a prospect should result in forward account movement.
Notice that we are attempting to ‘fill in’ any missing details of our prospects’ information with every outreach attempt, regardless of their buying stage in our pipeline. While a phone call can often move a prospect from one end of the pipeline (we know very little) to the other end of the pipeline (we have all we need to issue a proposal or invoice) in a few minutes, moving towards those micro-objectives can be achieved through questions built into every email, LinkedIn message, voicemail, and direct mail letter.
[SR1]Serena, we need a section spacer here as we have done when we are differentiating between a new paragraph and a new section. It’s a small space J
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About Bulletproof Selling
We are a leader in systemizing sales processes and solutions for salespeople, teams and organizations. We systemize selling processes so salespeople can replace hope with certainty, close more deals and provide more value to their clients.