To grow a sustainable pipeline of work we all need to have successful sales conversations. Yet many professional services practitioners revile at the term “sales”. Accountants, lawyers, engineers, architects and all professional services practitioners need to win work and have clients in order to run a profitable firm. A key to this is developing great client relationships and building deep and wide-reaching networks. However, what’s really key is the fundamentals of sales, or as it’s often called in professional services, Business Development or BD.
With that in mind, I invited Amy Franko, a well-respected leader in the world of B2B sales to share her insights on how to have great sales conversations. I’m delighted Amy took up the invitation. Below is Amy’s 5 step process which is simply brilliant. Follow this and you’ll start to gain a lot more clients. So without any further introduction from me, I’ll leave it to Amy Franko to provide you with the 5 steps for Successful Sales Conversations for those in professional services.
The Secret to Successful Sales Conversations
Sellers, stop for a moment and think about a typical sales conversation. How much time during a one-hour sales meeting is truly relevant to your decision makers? Would you guess all of it? Half of it? Wrong.
I was at the ATD conference a few years ago when I learned the shocking answer. It’s six minutes. It is only six minutes out of one hour that the decision maker is typically seeing some type of value.
Whether you buy into the statistic or not, the major concept to take away is that sometimes we overestimate our own value.
But the good news is that we all have the opportunity to ensure we are not only making the most of our prospects’ and clients’ time, but our time, too.
Start With This Framework
Start by using a sales conversation framework. This framework can be applied to any conversation you can think of: Discovery meetings; Meetings with centres of influence or strategic partners; Proposal reviews; Negotiations; RFP presentations; Closing.
Conversations will look different depending on your scenario, but the idea here is that any interaction is an opportunity to be intentional and plan for the right outcomes. This framework is meant to provide guard rails, and it can be flexed to meet your specific situation.
The elements of the Sales Conversation Framework include:
- Lead the Open
- Summarize & Close
- Follow Up
You can incorporate this framework as part of your sales training. Let’s take a look at each.
Pre-Planning is the first stage of the framework. This is where you plan for success.
- Agenda & Timing
- Questions & Topics
- Conversation format
- Individual roles
Planning for success begins with thinking through the outcomes you’d like to accomplish. It answers the question “By the end of this conversation, we will have accomplished…”. That question needs to be answered by you and your internal team, as well as your prospect or client. If you know what they want to accomplish by the end of the conversation, then you can set yourself up right.
As you’re planning the aspects of the sales conversation, be clear on the outcomes.
2. Lead the Open
Most times, it should be you taking the leadership position, especially if you set the meeting and the agenda. It can be audience or situationally dependent. For example, in RFP presentation scenarios you may have a partner or leader taking the lead, or the prospect or client may be kicking things off. The idea here is that you know and are ready, so things launch smoothly.
Thirty minutes goes quickly. If five minutes is taken in introductions, that gives you 20 minutes for a conversation, and 5 minutes to summarize and close. The goal with dialogue is to create a balanced exchange in the overall conversation.
This should include taking pauses for questions and comments. I like to think of it as being able to step outside of myself and view the meeting from above… it’s the meta-view of the meeting. If I’m talking the entire time, it’s not a balanced exchange.
My last strategy is to always take notes. There’s a connection between note-taking and the perceived value of the meeting.
4. Summarize & Close
In a 30-minute meeting, start a wrap up around 25 minutes.
This is where you want to do a quick compare back with the agenda to make sure everything was covered.
This last point is important.
Always set the next conversation whenever possible. This is a little easier when the meeting is small. It’s a bit tougher when it’s a large group. I recently had a meeting with two others, and we compared calendars before we wrapped up. If it’s a larger group I might say something like: “Jane let’s you and I compare calendars for a quick call, and we’ll use that time to schedule a follow-up with the larger group.”.
Whatever you can do to make sure you leave that conversation with the next one set…it’s the one productivity hack that has saved me countless emails and keeps momentum.
5. Follow Up
Sales training sometimes neglects to place importance on the follow-up. Follow up is the follow-through piece of the sales conversation that usually gets forgotten in the confusion. Here’s what I’ve found to be helpful.
- A handwritten thank you note if that fits the situation. While I don’t do this every time, every time I have done it, it gets commented on.
- An email with a thank you and next steps. This happens the same day or next day.
- Deliver on as many action items as you can as quickly as you can. I find when I jump into action items right after a call or meeting, they’re fresher and I’m not wasting precious time. Some items take longer, but if you can knock out the easy ones you’ll also set yourself apart.
- This is also the time to figure out if there was anything new uncovered, or any pivots. This may be a meeting with someone else at the prospect or client; it may be some revisions to the proposal, or a new need may have been uncovered.
Then the framework can repeat itself with pre-planning for the next conversation.
Amy Franko is a sales strategist, author, and keynote speaker specializing in B2B sales and sales leadership development. She works with professional services, insurance, and technology organizations to accelerate their growth results. With over 20 years of client-facing sales experience, Amy began her career with global companies IBM and Lenovo before pivoting into entrepreneurship. Her book of business includes some of the world’s most recognizable brands. Her book, The Modern Seller, is an Amazon bestseller and was also named a top sales book by Top Sales World. She is also recognized by LinkedIn as a Top Sales Voice.