Do you have a clear objective for each call/meeting you have with the customer? Is it aligned with the customer’s objectives for the call?

I talk to 100’s of sales people every year. They are constantly busy making calls and having meetings, but when I ask them, “What was your objective? Did you accomplish it? Could you have accomplished more? Were you aligned with what the customer wanted to accomplish?”

Inevitably, their eyes cross, I can tell they are thinking, “What is this guy talking about? We have to be talking to our customers?”

Of course we do! But we have to be creating value in each conversation–both for the customer and for us. Too often, we’re focused on our priorities, missing what’s important to customers. As a result, we probably fail to accomplish what we could.

Too often, we could/should be accomplishing much more than we have planned, but we fail to prepare or make sure the customer is prepared.

Too often, we don’t take the time to even think what we and the customer should achieve in the call. We shoot from the lip, after all, we’ve made hundreds of similar calls, we just do what we’ve always done before, just going through the motions.

Recently, I was on a call with a sales person. He was very experienced and very good. Before the call, he said, “Dave, I didn’t have the time to prepare for the call, we’ll just wing it. I’ve made 100’s of these….”

The call was pretty mediocre, reading the body language (even over Zoom) of the customer, you could tell he wasn’t really engaged. He wasn’t clear about the objective of the call, he was confused by my presence. The sales person pitched some of the capabilities of the product, talked about how much value other customers were getting. The customer asked a few obligatory questions. The sales person asked about the decision-making process…..

Not a whole lot was accomplished…..

After the call, I debriefed with the sales person. “How do you think it went?”

“It’s just like most of the other calls, I presented our products, confirmed a few things about the buying process. I’ll give him a proposal next week and follow up….”

I asked, “He didn’t seem really engaged, he didn’t ask many questions–and this is a complex solution…. I didn’t get a good sense of what he thought about the products and the company…..Why is he looking for this type of solutions…..”

As we went through my litany of questions, the sales person didn’t have many answers. He got a bit defensive, saying, “He wanted this type of solution, I’m educating him on it…”

“Could you have accomplished more? Do you know his sense of urgency or why he needs to buy something? Do you know what happens if he doesn’t buy and implement the solution by the date he has told you? Do you know his attitude toward you and the competition? Do you ……..”

“I’ll get those things done in other calls, I just wanted to pitch the product in this call,” replied the sales person.

“But what might have happened if you had planned to cover a lot of those things in this meeting? You and the customer might have accomplished so much more. Both of you might have learned much more. Now you have to take the time to arrange more meetings, and the customer has to make that time. And I’m sure he is very busy.”

“But this is the way I always do things…..”

Some years ago, we did some research. We found most sales people make 37% more calls than necessary. As we drilled down into the research, we learned the sales people and customers weren’t well prepared for the call. Doing something as simple as agreeing to an agenda, prior to the meeting, enable much more progress. Additionally, helping make sure the customer and sales people had defined expectations created much more value and helped each use their time well.

Improve your impact and effectiveness by designing your meetings and making sure your customer is as prepared as you are.