Tag Archives: consultative selling

The Sales Detective – The Ultimate Guide to Sales Planning

If You Plan Something, It’s More Likely To Happen

by Bob Davis

Alice came to the Cheshire Cat sitting on the bough of a tree and said, “Would you tell me please which way I ought to walk from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” said the Cat. “So long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if only you walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Salesperson In Wonderland

In selling, we all have had days like Alice. We know we want to get somewhere, but we never sit down and thoroughly plan the where, what and how. Sure we find the customer’s place of business, but do we really develop a clear picture of the outcome we desire from the day’s activity?

If you have ever had a sales day when you felt like you were walking in sand, working hard and getting nowhere fast, read on. You may discover a whole new way of thinking about call outcomes.

We present an outcome-based sales call planning approach that is also customer focused. To accomplish this, we re-examine and re-frame the words, Goal, Objective and Tactic. By the end, you will have a quick method of sales call planning that allows you to measure your success and congratulate yourself for success more often.

The End of the Road

Goal — A measurable long-term outcome in the sales process.

The goal is the big picture, that is, where you ultimately want to be in the account. It is not what you plan to accomplish today. The goal helps you focus on what you want to accomplish at a point in time in the future.


“X” % of “Y” products used by this customer will be ours by the end of the 2nd Q

All users will specify our “Z” product on all “Y” applications

Only If You Faint First

Objective: A planned, measurable customer action that moves you toward your sales goal.

I frequently work in the field with salespeople in a variety of industries. One of my standard questions is, “What’s the objective of this sales call?” The response almost always sounds like, “To tell the account about X.” If we plan objectives like this, we aren’t being tough enough on ourselves. The only way we could fail is if we fainted half way through the product presentation.

Objectives should state what the customer will do, not what we will do. What we will do is our tactics. What the customer will do is the objective. Customer action is what we should always plan for in a sales call.

Buy Yourself a Rubber Stamp

Why do we focus on our activity (tactics) rather than the customers (objective)?  Listen to yourself as you tell your manager about an upcoming sales call.  Don’t be surprised if it sounds like “First, I’ll . . . . Then I’ll . . . . etc.” We often become self-focused rather than customer-focused in our sales call planning. Let’s present some guidelines for outcome based, customer focused sales call planning. Objectives should be:

Measurable. You must be able to say what did or did not happen. This will allow you to measure your success and congratulate yourself for a customer action that will lead toward the sale. Examples are — the customer will:

  • Set a meeting with the key stakeholders.
  • Commit to a product evaluation for one week.
  • Support a conversion to our product at the committee meeting.
  • Agree to a cost analysis

Realistic. You must be able to accomplish it on this call. While you want that product conversion, don’t forget that’s your goal, not always the objective of today’s call. Having a decision influencer call the key decision maker suggesting an appointment with you might be a better objective, because it can happen today.

Customer Focused. Customer activity (objective) should be planned for before you plan what you are going to do (tactics). The  desired customer outcome will drive your tactic. There is a simple formula to assure a customer focused objective every time.  Start all your call plans with — As a result of this call, the customer will . . . .

  • Write a letter to . . . .
  • Describe the evaluation criteria. . . .
  • Introduce me to . . . .
  • Let me observe . . . .
  • Support a conversion to our product at the committee meeting
  • Agree to a cost analysis

The key to success is to always think, “As a result of this call,” followed by a “do” word (i.e. action verb). We get paid in sales to create customer activity. Buy yourself a rubber-stamp that says, “As A Result of This Call, the Customer Will . . . .”, to help you implant this mental model. This will assure that you generate more income by staying focused on customer activity.

Can I Focus On Me Now?

Tactic: The salesperson’s planned activities that will lead to customer action.

If we don’t plan our tactic last, we will be as confused as Alice in her earlier discussion with the Cheshire Cat.  Desired customer outcome should always drive our behavior in selling. Now that we have defined that outcome (objective), we can plan what we will do.  Example of tactics are, I will . . . .

  • Ask about the challenges they face when . . . .
  • Ask how they would change the current system. . . .
  • Demonstrate appropriate use of X to . . . .
  • Perform an inventory analysis of . . . .
  • Describe our value added services and their impact on. . . .

If You Plan Something, It’s More Likely To Happen (Revisited)

Dennis Waitley, a motivational psychologist and well-known business speaker once said, “What the mind imagines, the body manifests.” We all recognize the correctness of this on the negative side. The child who is told, “You’re a bad girl/boy” becomes a bad girl/boy because we’ve created that model in their mind. Let’s look at the positive side of what Dennis Waitley has to say.  If you plan your goals, objectives and tactics, they are more likely to happen.  Using the planning guidelines we’ve offered, you can create the mental models needed to help you envision and implement customer focused outcomes.

The Sales Detective lesson:

Always plan calls by starting with the big picture goal, followed by the commitment/action you expect from the customer — then, and only then, plan your tactics!

The Sales Detective – Closing the Sale

“What do you see as the next step?”

By Bob Davis

Closing the sale is critical for those of us for whom selling is our noble career choice. Many of us have been taught the “ABC” method of closing (always be closing). Often, this gets executed in a trial close that seems manipulative to our customers. Some examples (and the fantasy response I would like to give):

Car Salesperson: “What can I do to get you into this car today?”
Customer: “Open the door!”

Insurance Salesperson: “If I could show you a way to protect your loved one’s future and give you increased financial security, would you be interested?”
Customer: “No! I don’t much care for my family and my goal is to go bankrupt this year—can you help with those?”

In the fantasy interchanges above, we have exaggerated (not by much) the manipulative nature of many closing techniques. Of course we all know that a truly consultative selling approach engages the customer in very different process that doesn’t require the manipulative closes like the above. A discourse on Consultative Selling is a three-day affair when I teach sales classes as a professional sales trainer. Rather than cover all of that in this blog, let’s take a look at a quick tip on closing that I discovered by accident.

I was working with a software company that was considering having me and my company design and deliver a large segment of their Global Sales Meeting. After several meetings with sales operations and others, I was brought in to the office of the sales VP. Much work had been done prior to this meeting and I knew more work would be needed to close the deal. Getting involvement from this VP was critical as he “owned” the Global Sales Meeting and its budget. After 45 minutes of productive discussion, I sensed the meeting was ready to end and asked the VP, “What do you see as the next step?” His eyes brightened, he leaned forward and he said, “That was a great closing question!” We defined specific steps and dates that would lead me to a contract and a twelve-year, very productive relationship with this gentleman.

“What do you see as the next step?” was not a deliberate and planned question. I was an “unconscious competent” – someone who is doing things right but is not consciously aware of it. My VP Sales buddy made me a “conscious competent” – someone who is doing things right and is consciously aware of it. Since that epiphany, I make sure that on every call I ask the customer at the end, “What do you see as the next step?” What amazed me when I first started doing this was:

  • Virtually every customer had a next step or multiple steps that defined my sales process to closing
  • The most amazing discovery was that the customer would often go further in their next step description than I might have proposed
  • Those who would not state a next step, were signaling me they were not a qualified customer OR I was talking to the wrong customer OR I had done a lousy job of selling

I now see that simple question as a way to co-create the closing process with the customer.

The Sales Detective lesson:

On every customer contact, ask, “What do you see as the next step?”