Sales Process

Controlling the Sales Conversation


One of the biggest rules of thumb in sales is to control or own the sales conversation. That’s not to say bully, assume, be pushy, or put words in your prospects mouth or anything of that nature. Instead, the modern salesperson is arming their prospect with information (ex. content, stats, data, observations from other clients, etc.) when they need it.

In maritime law, when navigating closer to shore, there are regulations and rules for safe navigation. Keeping your vessel within the navigational beacons is one of those rules. If you stay the course,  you’ll make it to your destination barring any Acts of God. I like to think selling is the same way. A decent salesperson who follow the sales process, remains persistent, and has a viable product that solves business problems, will close if that customer wants to buy.

In modern sales, there’s rarely any traditional selling to do anymore. The “A-B-C” (NSFW) days are over. In fact, according to the CEB when it comes to b2b sales, 57% of the sales process is already complete if the prospect reaches out to you. All the information they need is at the fingertips, and they’re free to demo with any one of your competitors, choose a different solution, build their own – whatever they want to do.

It’s up to you as a sales person, with the best product, to intimately understand the prospects’ business (being an expert takes 10,000 hours), reframe and challenge the way they do business, unlock insights, and then present to them your product. Sales is a two way street for a reason – there’s intent to buy from the prospect, and it’s up to you to guide them through your sales process along the buyer’s journey.

An excellent way to do this is to plan out how you’re going to win accounts (following a sales process) and gain commitments throughout the deal’s lifecycle from the very beginning. Remember, your time is also valuable, and you will be solving a problem or generating significant revenue/results with your product.

There are two methods I recommend to approach this ‘control in sales:

1 – IF X, THEN Y

Scenario: After an introductory call, the sales rep needs to set the first demo and get that decision maker to attend the web conference.

Salesperson A: “So let’s set a demo for next Taco Tuesday at 5:00 PM.”

Prospect: “Great; I’m in. Looking forward to learning more.”

(Remember, it takes at least 5.4 decision makers to sign off on a sale. No one wants to personally absorb all the risk of working with a new vendor when they can spread this risk amongst colleagues.)

Salesperson A: Awesome. Do you think we can get the VP to join us on the call?  And maybe the Head of Success? That way we don’t have to hound them down later on and maximize our feedback.

Prospect: Yeah, sounds great. I’ll coordinate with her and confirm.

In this case, if the buyer can get her VP to join the call, then the rep will save the buyer time.  In return for the Rep’s valuable time on the demo, the ideal prospect will respect the rationale and work to get the decision makers on.

As you mature in sales, master rapport building, and get more comfortable engaging and speaking with the prospect, these conversations can be even more explicit. These sort of scenarios are more prevalent in complex deals (i.e. enterprise deals) where the prospect also has an internally complex buying process that you as a Rep will not know.

You can ask for something directly “in return.” There’s no hard and fast advice for knowing when to drop this one in your sales conversation. Use it when you feel like you’ve really nailed down a champion who speaks openly and freely with you and is exhibiting a level of trust in you. Or they need to get this done as soon as possible. Often this is going to be an individual who has clearly expressed their interest in buying your solution and is explaining to you what it’s going to take to get it to move forward.

2 – IF X,  GIVE ME Y

Scenario: After a qualifying call, the VP of Sales learns that an influencing buyer needs to get this deal done as soon as possible (one can wish right?) and that based on his research, the one key feature he needs exists only with the pro’s product.  It’s clear that the buyer is a champion.

VP of Sales: “Appreciate your time today. Before we jump to the next step, I’d like to ask one last thing of you. If I set some time aside to do research, prepare an awesome presentation for your team next week, and nail this deal with you, will you provide me a list of every decision maker in the room and what I need to know about them? I’ll send you a deal map I’ve been working on that I can use your help on filling in the blanks.”

Prospect: “Yeah, definitely. Send it over and I’ll fill it out right away.”

In this case, the seller is explicit with his or her ask. Fill this deal map out, and I’ll put together an even more amazing presentation.  The buyer gets what they want, and the seller obtains information that is critical to closing the deal. It’s another mutually beneficial arrangement.

Deals don’t close themselves. The onus on ensuring that the buyer’s needs are being met while pulling the prospect down their organization’s sales funnel rests on the salesperson.