Are You Making These Common Sales Call Objective Mistakes?
I find that people often have difficulty articulating exactly what they were hoping to accomplish in sales calls and meetings. It’s almost like they are thinking, “I’ll engage them and just see what happens.” This is just hoping that something will happen, and as the late Rick Page used to say, “Hope is not a strategy.”
Call Objective Pitfalls
There are some common mistakes made when setting call objectives, and it is easy to fall into these pitfalls. The three most common are:
- The call objective is too general and not specific.
- The call objective is unrealistic.
- The call objective is not really an Advance.
Let’s explore these in a little more depth.
The Call Objective is too general – Call objectives should be specific and measurable. When the call objective is vague or general, it is all too easy to depart the encounter not really knowing whether or not it was achieved. Vague call objectives such as “keep the momentum going” will leave you completely unclear about the direction you’ve gone and the progress you’ve made when the encounter is finished. Each call objective should be specific enough that it is a simple matter to know at the end of the call whether or not it was accomplished.
The Call Objective is unrealistic – Initially when asked, most professionals will state that the objective of their call is to “close the deal.” But in all but the simplest transactions, actually closing the business is only realistic on the last step of the sale. It is also possible to set call objectives that are farther along the sales cycle than the prospect is ready for. For example, it is unlikely that your call will result in scheduling a site visit to a plant located on another continent before you have discussed your initial value proposition. Your call objective must be realistic from the client’s perspective.
The Call Objective is not really an advance – An advance is a significant action that requires energy by the client, either during or immediately following the call that moves the sale toward a decision. That means that call objectives like, “demonstrate the ABC module,” or “persuade Dave of so and so…” are not advances, because they are not client-driven. Rather, the salesperson is thinking of what they (the salesperson) will do rather than what the client will do. Setting a call objective that is not an advance is a very common pitfall. Remember that the acid test for an advance is action and energy. By setting call objectives that require both action and energy on behalf of our prospective client we will get a clear understanding of their commitment level while continually moving the sale toward closure.
Focus on What Clients Will Do
Until professionals receive training it is extremely common for their call objectives to focus on what they, the professional, will do rather than being client-focused and centered on what we want the client to do. Ignoring the client, their buying cycle, and considering only your own activities and sales cycle is one of the biggest mistakes in professional selling. Here is the challenge it creates in relation to call planning:
When you complete your planned action (giving a presentation, let’s say) you tend to feel good about yourself, and your prospective client may even reflect this good feeling. This can blind you to assessing their true commitment level, since good feelings are not the acid test for an advance—only action and energy are. And because no action or commitment on behalf of the client has been given, we may leave the encounter thinking there is solid interest, when in fact, we have no real evidence of that.
Our Goal as Professionals is to Facilitate Action on Behalf of our Clients.
Embrace your role as a leader and change agent. Your prospect is meeting with you because they want to improve in some way, and they are looking to you for guidance and leadership. Through your knowledge, skills, and facilitation you become the catalyst that empowers them to reach their goals. The actions that will best improve a client’s condition will vary from client to client and will change over time. This is why we need to have a clear understanding of what constitutes a win for each specific client and articulate that in our overall sales objective.
In a generic sense, every sales encounter has the same goal — to get the prospective client to commit to an advance and move closer to their desired outcome. In this sense you are a coach helping them get from where they are to where they want to be.
The way to achieve your ultimate Sales Objective is through the completion of incremental Call Objectives (Advances). By setting appropriate call objectives for each visit and encounter we will achieve an unbroken chain of successful advances that will ultimately lead to closing the sale and getting the order.
Having preplanned advances as your call objectives will multiply your effectiveness many times over. And planning your call does not need to be complicated. In our next post we will explore answering three magic questions you will help you advance and make every meeting inherently valuable.
Closing Tip: By setting appropriate call objectives for each encounter we will achieve an unbroken chain of successful advances that will ultimately lead to closing the sale.
Until next time!