As a Senior Consultant at The Predictive Index, Kathleen helps organizations identify, develop and retain talent that aligns with their business imperatives. Kathleen uses data driven insights and expertise to help clients embed a sustainable sales process, reinforce the critical sales skills that improve outcomes, and coach and develop team members to succeed in their roles.
By Kathleen Teehan
Without a proper transition technique between small talk and impressive product storytelling, sales reps often launch right into a narrative that is not in sync with the problem that the prospect is looking to solve.
Once upon a time, you had this great widget. You knew this because you had a long history of sales success, many happy clients, and a website touting all the amazing attributes of your product. Your widget solved problems better, faster and maybe even cheaper than any of your competitors’ solutions. You had your sales pitch down cold, and given the opportunity, you could back up any boasting with an impressive array of examples and testimonials. You just needed to get to the point in the conversation with your prospect when you could tell your story so that the deal could practically close itself.
It is here – at the bridge between small talk and impressive product storytelling– where so many promising sales professionals go off course. Without a proper transition technique that gains permission to cross the bridge, sales reps often launch right into a narrative that is not in sync with the problem that the prospect is looking to solve. Jumping from small talk to storytelling results in one-way dialogue that is hyper-focused on the products and services of the company and the goals of the sales rep. It misses a valuable opportunity to uncover the challenges that the prospect is facing and the ability to determine if there is a real business need that the sales rep’s products and services can solve.
So what is the trick to transition the conversation from small talk to story-telling so that the sales process can move forward? Well, ideally, a well-constructed sales narrative should be thoughtfully delivered, beginning with the setting of call expectations and gaining agreement from the prospect on how the sales call will unfold. This can be done by using a “verbal agenda.” This simple 4-step approach will shift the conversation to a place where the rep can begin to ask investigative questions and tell a story that is customized to the audience at hand.
Step 1. Explain to the prospect that you will be asking questions about their situation. This gives you permission to ask an array of questions to accurately understand their situation and needs.
Step 2. Explain that you will be sharing information about your company so that you gain permission from your prospect to tell your story.
Step 3. Explain that you will decide together on appropriate next steps. This sets an expectation that you will be asking for the order or at least setting up some follow up sales activity that both parties will take part in.
Step 4. Invite them to add to the agenda. This helps to uncover their key objectives early in the process and allows you to customize your story early on in the story telling to meet their needs.
This approach is simple, yet very powerful. A verbal agenda sets the stage for how the story should unfold base on the key objectives of the prospect. This approach establishes trust and credulity early in the process allowing for a highly consultative experience throughout your storytelling. The end.