Have More Effective Sales Conversations with 3-Word Planning

Have you been approached by a telephone sales person recently?ISP2175212
If you’ve had the same bad luck as me, you may well have suffered companies trying to sell you double-glazing, pensions and life insurance.  The trouble with these calls is that they all sound so scripted.  You almost see the caller reading out from their computer the lines they have been told to say.
Most of these calls are hated by the recipients.  It’s not only the fact that we have no interest in the products or services being offered by the caller.  It’s the fact that we don’t feel that we are being treated as individuals.
So here’s a challenging question for you:
How different are your sales approaches from this type of call?
If we are faced with call after call and sales meeting after sales meeting, it is easy to start sounding scripted.  I know that I have had times when I have rolled out the same words to prospect after prospect.
I haven’t always given my sales prospects the courtesy of being treated as an individual.
That’s why three-word planning matters
Three word-planning is a simple system that helps sales people treat prospects as individuals.  You can apply it to a quick telephone call or a lengthy sales presentation.  Best of all, it takes less than five minutes to implement.
Sales people that use three-word planning have a much better chance of creating a strong relationship during their call or presentation.  They are more likely to control the conversation.  So they are much better placed to achieve their goals.
So what are the three words that you should bear in mind when planning any conversation.
WHO is this conversation aimed at?
Think about whom you are going to be having the conversation with.  What do you know about them?  What is the best way to approach them?
Naturally, you do not know the person you are about to try and contact.  However, you probably know other contacts with the same sort of role in the same market sector.  Thinking about these contacts will give you a good guide on how to approach your contact.
So that’s one word quickly dealt with.  What’s the next one?
WHAT do you want them to do at the end of this conversation?
There is no point in having a conversation without a purpose.  However, many times I talk to people about the goal of a conversation and it is described in very vague terms.  If it’s a sales person, the usual answer is that they want to book the business.
A response like this makes it difficult to have a productive conversation. You must know the exact next step that you want the other person to take in the sales process.  You know that this is the next step you need them to take if you are to end up booking the business.  Do you want them to introduce you to a decision maker?  Or to set a time to visit your facility?
Once you are clear about this, it’s time to think about the third word.
HOW will you persuade them to do this?
Think of three pieces of information that you can give the other person that will make it hard for them not to take the next step.  Why three?  Firstly, most people will only remember three things from a conversation.  They won’t be able to take in the 20 important things you want to tell them.
Sticking to three also means that you have to choose only the most compelling pieces of information.
It’s time to put this strategy into action
Try it with the next conversation that you have or the next presentation that you make.  Just remember:  Who, What and How.
It only takes a few minutes to plan a conversation likes this.  But it stops you from sounding like those robotic telemarketers I’ve been suffering with recently.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a larger series on how to improve your sales conversations and presentations:

Matthew Parker has been buying print for over 20 years. He’s had over 1,400 sales pitches from printers. Now he’s using that experience to help printing companies engage with their customers and sell print more profitably.  Find out more about Matthew on his site. Download his e-book “Ten Common Print Selling Errors And What To Do About Them” for free here

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  1. Melissa Sienicki September 18, 2014 -

    I think we all become guilty of sounding too scripted at one point or another in our career. These tips are perfect for helping to shake things up. Thank you, Matthew!

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