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The Sales Call Talk Track is a checklist designed to assist you during a meeting with a potential customer. The purpose of the Talk Track is to ensure that you leave the sales call with all the critical information required to qualify the opportunity [see below] and move the sales process forward.

The Talk Track is a valuable tool for entrepreneurs with little or no sales experience, and also for those with some experience who are in the process of selling to a new type of customer.

To successfully qualify and manage a sales process, you’ll need to obtain certain essential information relating to potential sales risks and problems. This information can be grouped into three categories:

  • Problems
  • Positioning
  • People & Process

With a customer-centric qualification approach, you start from the top of the list and move through each category towards the end. What you want to know at the end of the sales call is that you have:

  • Support from the buyer
  • Access to the economic buyer
  • Confirmation that there is a budget to fund the purchase

These are the essential ingredients in qualifying an opportunity.

Using the Sales Call Talk Track

Keep in mind two key issues when using the Sales Call Talk Track in your sales process.

  1. Prepare the Talk Track in advance of the sales call.
  2. Remember that sales calls are limited in duration, so ensure you cover all sections of the Talk Track before your time is up.

The Sales Call Talk Track

Introduction

  1. Background: Start briefly by thanking the buyer for the meeting and explaining the background for why you are there. Do not make the mistake of an inexperienced salesperson and start talking about your product before you give the customer an opportunity to tell you about their situation.
  2. Role and organization: A diplomatic way of moving the conversation along is to ask about the buyer’s role and what his immediate surrounding organization looks like. This conversation should seamlessly transition into the next point about the buyer’s responsibilities, goals and challenges.

Problems

  • Perspective: Frame the sales process and the conversation around the buyer and their challenges. Suggestions for research to do in advance include:
  1. Visit the customer’s website. It will contain information that you can leverage to anticipate strategic issues facing the buyer. Publicly traded companies will have financial reports and analyst presentations that will contain valuable information about their strategy and key initiatives.
  2. Supplement this research with your own experience working with companies of similar size or in similar industries. A quick Google search with regards to the customer might also reveal their public speaking engagements and news coverage.
  • Questions: Prepare a set of questions based on your research that takes you through a process of discovery of the customer’s business problem. The purpose of these questions is to develop a sense of the customer needs.

Show yourself as knowledgeable and interested in the company—this will help you gain credibility and earn the trust of the buyer. Initial questions to ask include:

  • What are the strategic priorities of your organization at the moment? What key initiatives are you working on? What are the achievements expected of you personally?
  • What challenges do you face in meeting those expectations? How are you solving those problems today?

Further probing questions that focus on the types of issues with which you can help include:

  • Working with other clients, I see that they are struggling with XYZ. Is that the case for you as well?
  • When dealing with these XYZ challenges, what is the main issue you face? Loss of time/productivity/money/customers?
  • Tip: This part of the sales call (uncovering the customer’s business problems) may sometimes lead the conversation to unwanted territory. Stay aware of the time and try to steer the conversation back to questions that educate you about the customer’s needs, or move on to the “Positioning” part of the Sales Call Talk Track.

Positioning

  • Perspective: Use the insight you’ve gained through the sales process about the customer’s needs (from your research and the conversation so far) to position your offering. The purpose is to get the customer’s acceptance that your offering provides a valid solution to their problems.
  • Questions: Be mindful that at this pointRemember you are seeking the buyer’s acceptance of your offering’s relevance and economic value. If the buyer does not confirm that your offering is relevant and valuable, make sure you:
  • Understand the nature of their concerns
  • If possible, address those concerns directly or ask for permission to get back to the buyer with more information as part of your follow up activities
  • Assemble questions to allow you to understand what the buyer sees as the most relevant and valuable aspects of your offering.
  • Prepare yourself for various types of questions from the buyers by making sure you understand different response modes.

Key points you should make include:

  1. Would a solution that could solve your XYZ challenges be of interest to you?
  2. Is the ABC approach to solving your challenges something you would find valuable?
  3. Are you aware that our solution provides a…. [insert your positioning statement]?
  4. One of our clients who experienced similar problems found our offering an ideal solution. In particular, they liked our ABC & DEF approach to their problem. Do you think that would work in your situation too?
  • Tip: A well-crafted positioning statement contains important information about your value proposition and the elements that differentiates you from the competition. It is essential to get this across to the buyer at this stage.

When working with multiple buyers, try to understand what kind of benefit each of your stakeholders sees in your solution, as it might differ from buyer to buyer. Always conclude this section with a “trial close”—it is the acid test of your progress and will help you identify potential risks for the sale.

People & Process

  • Perspective: The trial close allows you to move to the next stage of the sales call with a new understanding.  A positive outcome from the trial close puts you in a much stronger position than if it left you with a conditional commitment.

A conditional commitment should not stop you from asking the important questions as you proceed, but bear in mind that it might affect the willingness of your buyer to part with certain information, something which can be interpreted in light of the buyer’s response mode as well.

  • Questions: Most technology sales in a business-to-business (B2B) environment involve a number of different stakeholders.

To move the process forward, it is critical to identify each stakeholder and their individual roles and responsibilities in relation to this particular opportunity.  You’ll also need to understand the personal benefit your offering entails for each stakeholder.

Key questions to ask to move the sales process forward include:

  1. (To identify all stakeholders:) Who else is involved in evaluating our offering? What is their position and responsibility?
  2. (To identify the economic buyer:) When we reach the final contract, who will sign it? Whose budget will cover this purchase?
  3. (To attain access:) How can I get to meet Mr/Mrs ABC (that is, the economic buyer)?
  4. (About the buying process:) What is the next step of this process? Do you have a specific process for evaluating vendors like us? Is there a particular date by when you need this decision? When we come to the proposal stage, what are the steps involved in evaluating the proposal and how long does it take?

Tip: While mapping stakeholders might seem straightforward, it is essential to remember that one person’s opinions about who holds which powers might not always be correct.

Information about the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders as well as the process must therefore be double-checked at every stage of the process.

Use the stakeholder management chart to organize the information obtained during this conversation.

Remember that the information you seek is that you have support from the relevant stakeholders, access to the economic buyer and confirmation that there is a budget to fund the purchase.

If any of these items are missing, you must consider changing your approach or assigning a lower priority to this opportunity.


Summary: The Sales Call Talk Track is a checklist to help you ensure that you leave your sales calls with the critical information you need to qualify the opportunity and move the sales process forward.


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