Sales Craft: Planning to Stop

I happened to be reading a book on consulting(from my perspective, effective sales people should consider themselves as trusted advisors to their customers, and prepare themselves accordingly) and in it the author mentions that during the culmination of the consulting project, there is a findings meeting where all the work up to that point is communicated and discussed. He then stresses that it is critical to plan a stop roughly halfway through the meeting to ask the customer “Are you getting what you want to out of this meeting?” For him, halfway is critical because, if the answer isn’t what he wants, there yet remains time to recover and get things back on track in order to achieve the desired outcome. If he waits until the last ten minutes, he may find himself forced to scramble without enough time to be effective.

This resonated immediately. For most sales calls, I find myself making frequent course corrections, stopping to ask questions, get feedback or simply check to see if the customer is responsive. But, in the  ’BIG” meeting where a proposal or other strategic findings are being presented, those same course corrections could telegraph doubt or hesitancy. In this situation, the pitch needs to move smoothly and coherently forward. But much like a strategic consultant hired to help a company better run its operation, it remains critical to find some natural break midway through your presentation to ask that key question “Are you getting what you want out of this meeting?”

Being thus prepared to ask the question, you’ll be armed ahead of time(hopefully) to anticipate the potential areas where the proposal could veer off track. Allowing for those potential red flags should prepare you for them, and serve to refine the proposal itself, reducing the problem before it has the chance to manifest itself. Planning a stop halfway through also gets you thinking in terms of time management, allowing you to synthesize the key messages that need to be emphasized before the break.

At the same time, customers are customers. By definition they’re unpredictable and even occasionally irrational, at least from our perspective. Which is why you’re there. It’s why you’re the trusted adviser. If you ask me, it’s one of the reasons selling is fun. And it’s why the planned mid-pitch break should be part of your strategy, giving you the space and time you need to advance the conversation towards a successful outcome.