By now you know that conversations are essential to your sales team’s performance. (If you don’t know this, go back and read this post.) Conversations — which we at LevelEleven define as calls with prospects or customers where we learn something that helps us advance the relationship — are controllable, measurable and vital.
Last time I wrote on the topic, I suggested that you consider making conversations one of your main sales KPIs. Let’s say you do. You set a goal for each of your salespeople to have 20 conversations a week. That’s step one. Step two is optimizing their performance around the behavior. Here’s how you can do that…
Optimizing Your Conversational Sales KPIs:
1. Take note of all details in conversation with prospects.
My belief is that all the little puzzle pieces of information that don’t at first seem important become very important. If you treat a deal like a giant puzzle, and suddenly you learn that the procurement group has added two new heads to it, then when you are working on the deal and the prospect tells you they are slammed because they are onboarding two new people, you can say, “Yeah, I knew that.”
The closer you are to the business, the better and quicker the deal process will be, resulting in revenue earned on the lagging end. The only way to stay close is by having those conversations.
2. Become an extension of the customer’s team.
Everyone talks about being an extension of the customer’s business. I want somebody new to get hired in one of our customer’s businesses and call our rep, because we know everything that’s happening around the team’s sales performance. They call us. That’s an extension. And the only way that happens is through personal conversations.
3. Talk to key people within the organization.
With most of the organizations we work with today, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people that could talk to, and I’d argue that we need to talk to all of them. Whether they are close or far away from the deal, we need to get as close to the culture of the prospect’s company as possible.
Let’s say we find the ideal customer. As an account executive, I need to learn everything I can about the business. I can’t just go ahead and call the CEO. The only way to learn the CEO’s needs, buying process, etc. is by talking to the people that work for him or her and learn things like what the most important sales KPIs are to that business.
4. Ensure conversations feature an appropriate value transfer.
My nightmare is for one of our reps to call a prospect and say, “Hey, I just wanted to check in, and I’m asking for 30 minutes of your time so that you can explain your business to me.” There is no value transfer in that.
One of the things we focus on very heavily here is being able to make the prospect smarter without asking for anything in return. The goal is to tell the customer something that they could not find on the internet. I call it “free value.”
By the time you hang up the phone, you want a prospect to say, “that’s great, and I appreciate that,” which is a whole start to a strong relationship. Then in two weeks when you actually need to go back to them to figure out who’s got the ability to push things through you’ve already got an element of trust established.
5. Learn to speak your customers’ language.
We primarily sell to the VP of Sales. Before even talking to one of them, I want to talk to five front-line sales managers — five guys that are out there with the team — and figure out what they track and what verbiage and acronyms they use. I want to be on their level. Then, when I approach the VP, I can speak their language. I know that X, Y and Z are the most important things that they’re doing today and that they believe they can help get more of that by doing X, Y and Z. Going in with that language brings serious value.
6. Get directions for steering.
Steering is important, because just as we steer vehicles, you have to be aware at all times. If a prospect says, “I’m not the right person, but here is that person” this will push you up, down or sideways, and you have to steer accordingly.
There are always changes within companies and sales leaders who want to focus on new things. Any context around what is going on is helpful and will determine whether you need to brake, signal or step on the gas. You need to uncover that type of information in your conversations.
7. Ask the right questions.
Ask questions that accomplish more than one objective at a time. You could spend all day learning about the nitty gritty of a prospect’s business but, most of the time, you have limited time and so does the person on the other end of the line.
So, ask questions that show you sincerely care about helping their business grow AND help inform you on how to solve those issues. Ask things like, “can you walk me through the last time you bought something like this?” or “how does your sales leader run their business?” Everyone loves talking about themselves or their own business. This gives insight into whether the way they run their business fits your solution greatly or not at all.
When it’s all said and done, conversations are the lifeblood of your sales team. All great businesses solve a real-world problem and do so by understanding their customer inside and out — which happens through conversations. But don’t just have conversations. Use these seven tips to make the absolute most of them.