Friday, July 6, 2012

How To Set Clear Expectations On Your Sales Calls

If you can master the communication technique of Set Them Up For Future Reference, you'll hold onto more sales and create happier customers. Set Them Up For Future Reference -- we convert it to the acronym STUFFR -- is identifying and understanding where there may be a problem in the future and discussing it with the decision maker in advance. You also need to note their (and your) exact words and commitment to not failing.

STUFFR creates accountability for you and them. You will both feel obligated to have your behavior match your words. It also creates clarity in the conversation. If the DM says, I'll call you back Friday, you can Set Them Up For Future Reference by saying, "Great -- we'll plan to talk Friday. But I know how busy you can get. If I don't hear from you Friday, can I give you a call Monday?" That way when you don't hear from the DM Friday, you don't have to panic or feel like you might be nagging him when you call on Monday. You both agreed to it in advance. You're just executing his wishes.

Here's the 4-step process for STUFFR:
1. Obviate. This means "to anticipate and prevent." A simple form of obviation is looking outside your window, noting the gray skies (very common here in Erie), and grabbing an umbrella in case it rains. You don't have to wait to see rain drops to anticipate that you might get drenched today. Obviating also requires you to be skeptical. You need to look at your sales situation and think "What could go wrong and what can I do to prevent it?"

2. Set clear expectations. For details, see our entry titled "Specifically Speaking."

3. Recap the conversation to ensure you both agree. In the example above, the DM could have said, "Now that I think about it, I'm attending a seminar Friday. How about we talk on Thursday?" Or he could have said, "Why don't you call me instead?" The worst case scenario would be not having the conversation at all and you leave the meeting thinking the DM is supposed to call you and the DM thinks you're calling him. You know how that could end up.

4. Write it down! Don't rely on your memory to capture details of your action plan. Make notes during the meeting and transfer appropriate data to your schedule. If you STUFFR a DM that you're going to call them on a certain date at a certain time, you better darn well make sure you do what you committed to. How long does it take to make a note and transfer it to your schedule? Less than a minute. How long does it take to win back a customer you just let down? Considerably longer.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.