- December 20, 2011
- Posted by: Dave Kurlan
- Category: Understanding the Sales Force
This is the time of year for traditions. While most are family traditions, an analysis would reveal that the processes for buyers and sellers alike are filled with traditions: habits, learned behaviors, and standardized questions and comments. Today I am initiating a tradition on my Blog by republishing this holiday flavored article (from exactly one year ago today) that addresses those buying and selling traditions.
If you attend a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listen to some of the Suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you’ll hear is the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”. Perhaps you can’t match the music to the title, but if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you’ll instantly recognize the melody.
You’ve surely heard this before, even if it was only in a television commercial. But can you identify the 4 musical instruments used at the beginning of the composition?
You heard the glass harmonica (most performances feature the celesta), oboe, bassoon and flutes. Were you able to identify those instruments as they were played? Outside of the readers who are weekend musicians, the rest were probably unable to do that the first time.
Similarly, salespeople find familiarity in the sounds (questions, comments and discussions) of their sales calls. As much as you might not be able to identify the specific instruments creating those sounds in “Dance…”, salespeople may not be able to identify the most important comments and questions and distinguish them from the noise on their sales calls.
During a first sales call, suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, “This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this.” And another prospect at the same meeting says, “We’ll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we’ve made.” And a third says, “In the mean time, please send us a proposal with references and timeline.”
Lesson #1: (based on Objective Management Group’s data) Out of every one hundred salespeople:
- Seventy returned to the office to begin working on a proposal and told their managers that the “large opportunity they are working on is very promising – all three prospects in the meeting were very interested”;
- Nineteen left the meeting, made two entries in their calendars – “propose” and “follow-up” – and will likely do that at the appropriate time;
- Eleven remained at the meeting, asked more questions, and got additional clarification.
- Prospects’ voices are like musical instruments. Each instrument in “Dance…” has a specific assignment in the performance. If the wrong instrument or notes are played or played at the wrong time, the entire performance is ruined. In the scenario above, prospects’ comments have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
- If “please send us a proposal” or “we’re interested” or “very productive” are spoken from an Executive – the CEO, President or VP – it has far different meaning than if the comments come from procurement.
- When any of those three comments are spoken by a user – an engineer for example – rather than a buyer or an executive, the comments may be much more genuine, but they carry significantly less authority.
I enjoy listening to a song, symphony, or simple melody and trying to figure out why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection. Your salespeople should apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls. In a mid-market or large company, the prospect could be any one of the following musicians or roadies:
- the composer (started the initiative),
- arranger (selected the vendors to talk with),
- director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or
- musician (following directions of the conductor)
- chauffeur (can drive you directly to the person who cares enough and has the authority to make something happen).
The salesperson’s responsibility is to figure out who they’re dealing with, the role they play, what influence they have, and how to get all of the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy your ideal solution.
Homework Assignment – Review Lesson #1 and answer the following two questions:
Which of the three endings do your salespeople typically follow?
Can you identify any of the additional questions that the eleven salespeople stayed to ask?