Sales Conversation Frameworks Must Be Skeletons, Not Cages

By Bob Apollo

I first published this a few years back. I’m convinced it’s just as relevant now – maybe even more so. What do you think?

You’ve probably observed a huge difference in conversational fluency between your most and least successful sales performers and wished that you could bridge the gap between the best and the rest. If you haven’t, I can only conclude that you’ve either worked a miracle with your sales force, or you simply haven’t listened to enough sales conversations recently.

Let’s start with the good news: there is abundant evidence to prove that the appropriate programs and materials can equip averagely competent B2B sales people to have dramatically and permanently better sales conversations.

But there’s also some bad news: there is no easy short cut. You can’t develop conversational fluency by expecting sales people to follow a rigid predefined script. In any complex sales environment, conversational frameworks need to be skeletons, not cages.

Anticipate, plan, guide, listen, adapt and react

Rather than confining your sales people to a rigid process, these frameworks need to provide a flexible skeleton that helps them anticipate, plan and guide the interaction but also allows them to listen, adapt and react to what the prospect has just said to them.

Let’s assume that you, like me, have been on the receiving end of far too many inept scripted cold calls to have any enthusiasm for rigid call plans. But I’ll also assume, if I may, that simply leaving every sales person to “make it up as they go along” doesn’t fill you with much enthusiasm, either.

Going for the middle ground

There’s an obvious need to find a middle ground that combines an appropriate level of preparation and planning with the ability to continually adjust the thrust and direction of the conversation as it evolves.

Even if you have no intention of using the resulting conversation frameworks as a script, there’s an argument that organizing them in a linear fashion implies an unintended rigidity. That’s why I typically prefer to use mind-maps or bubble diagrams to present the information.

So what sort of information ought to be included in these flexible conversation frameworks?

Do your research before you engage

The quality of the conversation is often influenced by the quality of preparation prior to the meeting or call, and that’s why the most effective conversation planning frameworks start by identifying the research that needs to be conducted before the first words are spoken.

Next, it’s usually helpful to identify a handful of potential opening remarks that – once the initial niceties are over – help to steer the conversation in the direction of issues that, if acknowledged, you are in a really good position to address.

Unless you represent a systems integrator and are talking to a prospect with an unlimited budget, asking the prospect “what keeps you up at night” or some hapless variation on the same theme is unlikely to elicit a helpful answer.

Educate, qualify and lead

Your questions – and your supporting comments – need to be thoughtfully constructed so as to Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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