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My Day – Sixteen Thirty Minute Meetings 

It looks just like the day before. And the day before that.  The global pandemic – has made us all “Inside Sales”.  With no travel time – our calendars are completely available to fill up. 

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“Well the good news is we are busy” is an easy way to put a positive spin on it.  Does it feel more productive?  Wedged in the middle of your sixteen thirty minute video meetings is a call with a brand new prospect.   

At the end of the day – amidst all those other calls – one bothers you.  It didn’t go well.  Seems like one you should have crushed.   

You popped on a minute late – apologizing for your previous call running over.  As you shared who your company was and started asking a few discovery questions – the prospect starts interrupting with questions of her own.  She wanted to know about similar customers you had worked with, problems they had and how you solved for them.  You were sure you had some experience in their industry but the practice lead’s status showed “away” on Teams.  Your technical presales person talked about our process moving their “Workloads to the cloud” while the prospect kept asking about what you were seeing in the industry.   

Trying to look engaged on camera – you tried to open up your CRM Database.  They aren’t in it.  Google search – found their SIC code.  Back to CRM.  Search.  Clients voice – “How are your clients thinking about revenue recovery in our industry”.  Your technical sales guy points out that the software publisher is making big strides in Artificial Intelligence. 

Found similar clients in CRM.  Looks like we won a couple of deals.  First one – no notes or background.  Clients voice again – “How do you help your clients mitigate risks”? Technical sales guy brings up our “change management offering”.  Second client with same SIC code.  Notes. Yes!  Opening them one by one you see notes about budget, timeline, competition blew a demo, deal pushed due to decision maker out of town and others.   What did we do for them?  What are their pains?  Lots of fields to comb through.  Looking….. 

Prospects voice again – “Looks like it’s the bottom of the hour…”   Thank you very much for joining. Could you send us some information about your firm? 

Time for the next call.  Email to the practice manager.  Maybe we can recover with the follow up information. 

A little extreme?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We absolutely know that the way we work today has accelerated a change in customer expectations that has been building for quite a while now.  As a former Practice Manager, I do know – several times a week – I got an email from a salesperson wanting information before they visited a prospect. “Do you know anyone there” what do you know about their industry” have we ever worked with a similar clients”?   

The good news is the salesperson often sent the email while traveling and read my response over coffee or in the Uber on the way to the client.  Not a perfect process but it worked ok. Unfortunately, that window may be gone for a while if not forever. 

You used to crush these meetings.  Its clear something has changed but we still learn from what has changed and still crush them.  Here are Things to Know about Crushing Post Covid-19 Prospect Meetings 

Thing 1 – Changes in Prospect Expectations Have Accelerated 

Ray Wang says customers used to need companies for products and information.  Because of a convergence of technologies – those expectations were shifted to wanting experiences and outcomes.  For a prospect – the old expectation was information about your solution.  This has shifted to “outcomes”.   Often an outcome is a set of insights – “How have you handled this issue with other companies in my industry”?    

Corporate Executive Board (now a part of Gartner) says clients have made nearly 60% of their decision before they ever engage sales.  This emphasizes two key points.  First – because the prospect is clearly researching companies before engaging – Marketing content and sales messaging must truly align. Next – when we engage a prospect – the messaging must be not only aligned – but provide real insights.  The days of asking old favorites like “Tell me more about your business?” and “What keeps you up at night?” were numbered before.  Now they are truly gone. 

As a result of COVID-19 – selling has become even more like inside sales or certainly digital sales and the needs for experiences and outcomes is even more pronounced as companies look to recover revenue as a top priority.  

Thing 2- We in Sales Get It – “Kinda” 

The topic of this overall series is called we are all inside sales now.  Maybe not forever but there are shifts happening that seem to be in motion and not reversable.  A recent Microsoft article pointed out –  

“As millennials move into the ranks of decision makers, they’re expecting digital buying experiences. In response, inside selling increased 89 percent in just four years, according to a 2017 InsideSales.com study”. 

The good news is it seems like we are getting it – “kinda”.   A recent study says about 40% of sales reps think they could be better prepared for prospect meetings.  Realizing there is a problem is the first step as they say.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is the prospect’s expectations are changing even faster.  The same study says that 82% of salespeople that call on them are unprepared from a customer satisfaction perspective.   

Thing 3 – Just as You Suspected – CRM Still isn’t Helping  

As companies jockey to recover revenue – it’s clear that this drive is influencing technology decisions.  Customer Relationship Software continues to dominate business applications purchasing and accelerate beyond internal and efficiency focused solutions like ERP.  

The flip side is literally a flip of the coin.  In this 50-billion-dollar industry of CRM – that is predicted to head to 80 billion dollars in short order – customers are only happy with their CRM about 50% of the time. Acceptable CRM outcomes are literally a flip of the coin. 

All is not lost though – many times a shift in how the CRM information is ingested and presented with more intelligence and context can drive CRM adoption, CRM outcomes and save a failing CRM implementation. 

Thing 4 – How to Prep for a Killer Prospect Meeting 

Tony Robbins says the quality of ones life is directly related to the quality of the questions we ask. The difference between Post CoVID-19 approach and the old way is we ask questions informed by our insights. In order to get there – preparation is critical. In fact Challenger Selling tells us that successful salespeople today spend disproportionate time on preparation and research. 

Who do we know and need to know? 

  • Look in your CRM then your Linked In (both at once you have Sales Navigator).  You may have to send out some emails.  Give yourself time. 
  • Who is coming to the meeting? Research everyone.  Miller Heiman says – “Sellers face an average of 6.4 buying influences per deal, spread across many roles in different departments” 
  • Who do we know? Both in the meeting and who might influence later.  Bonus questions – Who is on their board, who is their capital partner, who is their bank? 

Business Problem  

  • Have we worked with similar companies in the past?    
  • What problem will we be focusing on?  
  • What problems did we solve?  
  • Look in third party databases to find their industry in an industry – what current issues do they have? 
  • What’s their position relative to competition 
  • What happens if they don’t solve it? 

What unique insights can we offer?  

Package the problems, what you did and what you learned.    Develop an opener statement that builds credibility with the prospect from the start.  A good formula is –  

We help companies (insert your mission).  We have worked with companies in your space for over (how long?)  years.  We have had the opportunity to work with (insert similar companies names).  They tell us they have problems with (insert industry issues).   I’m looking forward to hearing how you might be similar and discussing how we could help with whatever is unique about your situation. 

 
This is your introduction – no company deck, no founders background, don’t show your awards at this point.  Just a simple opener statement like that one for starters. 

Thing 5 – AI is good for more than the Weather 

Every morning – I walk into my kitchen and ask Alexa what the weather is going to be for that day.  It doesn’t give me extra information.  I don’t need a 360 degree view of the weather in the US.  I get context – served up intelligently.    

One way that AI can help is to provide intelligence and context.  Microsoft has built AI throughout of its Dynamics 365 stack that it calls “Insights”.    Sales Insights gives every seller proactive insights into their prospects needs, forecast sales, focus on the right buyers, make warm connections, guided selling, and contextual suggestions.  All blended in with the CRM they already use.  

In the age of the overwhelmed employee – Digital Assistants can create a contextual experience that feels more like your CRM working for you that the other way around.  Yesflow is an AI powered digital assistant built on the Microsoft power platform from some real CRM experts to assist with your digital selling needs.   CRM with multiple clicks and hundreds of fields on a form is too slow and too 2005 for today’s buyer.  Yesflow delivers context, voice interaction – all in a mobile experience that feels more like a social media account with a newsfeed instead of forms and clicks. 

A complementary solution to Yesflow – Credibly.AI from CongruentX is a Power App that does one thing.  When you are preparing for a sales prospect meeting –  Credibly.AI looks at data from your CRM and third-party sources to deliver not just intelligent meeting preparation but a “credibility score”.  This score is based on your who you know, what you have done with this prospect, similar companies and typical industry pains.   To cap off your meeting prep – Credibly.AI even auto generates a compelling opener statement you can use to build credibility from the moment you engage.  

Conclusion  

The technology shifts that changed in a massive way are accelerating even more now due to the global pandemic.  Buyers don’t need us for information and products they want insights and outcomes.  Deep empathetic discovery still has its place but must be led by credible insights related to the outcomes the prospect wants to achieve.  Big data doesn’t have to mean big confusing forms and poor CRM adoption.  We can use those same technology shifts to our advantage to exceed expectations from the first touchpoint throughout the customer journey.  We are all Inside Sales now.  Let’s own it and make it work for us.