You’re sitting inside your company at your desk. Outside, the marketplace is humming. Clients discuss new projects. Designers put the finishing touches on artwork. Marketing teams meet with their agency to start fresh campaigns. Prospects complain to co-workers about problems with their current vendors.
All of these activities will create new opportunities for revenue, and some lucky salesperson will win that business. Will it be you? It depends on whether you’re part of the buyer’s consideration set.
The consideration set is the short list of companies buyers consider when they’re ready to make a purchase. Generally, there are three to five possibilities on the list. To be included in this elite group, buyers must:
- Remember you and your company when they’re ready to buy
- Know enough about your company’s products and services to tag you as a viable possibility for a purchase
Customers who already are buying find it easy to recall who you are and what you do. Prospects are a different story. Before considering you, they go through a discovery process. You share information. The buyer retains a minuscule portion of it.
To be included in a prospect’s consideration set, buyers must recall what directly applies to their upcoming purchase.
They recall results from learning. To improve your skills as a sales educator, take a tip from Ben Franklin, who said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
The road to discovery
Many salespeople spend too much time in a call telling prospects about their company and services, and too little time involving them in an educational process focused on discovery.
Discussions are excellent teaching tools that help buyers recognize their assumptions and allow you to challenge them. As you confer, you and the buyer co-create a shared body of knowledge. While prospects learn about you and how you can help, you learn about the buyer’s needs, preferences and decision drivers.
Presentations are another effective teaching tool because they provide you with an opportunity to present information in a logical way that the buyer finds easy to comprehend and digest. Showing the buyer samples, telling stories, sharing a case study or discussing a specific piece of marketing literature are all effective ways to improve information retention.
To be included in the consideration set, have a plan to detail the information that buyers must know. This “checklist” of information should include:
- Who are you?
- Who do you represent?
- What does your company do?
- What credentials does your company have?
- What makes you different?
Most first calls last 30 to 60 minutes. Even if you touch on all of the points briefly, there often is too much for a prospect to digest and later recall. That’s why you need follow-up strategies.
Here are some examples of how one sales professionals named Bob can impact recall through his follow-up actions:
Bob meets a prospect named Jenny. He sends a thank you email within 24 hours of the meeting.
These actions are the standard for most sales professionals. Jenny remembers meeting with Bob and some basic information about what he sells.
Bob meets Cliff, a new prospect. Bob sends a thank you email within 24 hours of the meeting. He also follows up with a handwritten thank you note and a written summary of points shared in the meeting.
Cliff receives the thank you email, which he has come to expect as the standard among salespeople. The handwritten thank you note and meeting summary impresses Cliff and differentiates Bob. Cliff skims the meeting summary and recalls several points that impressed him. The odds are better than average that he will consider Bob for an upcoming project.
Bob meets Francie, a new prospect. After the meeting, he sends her a thank you email, as well as a handwritten thank you note and a written summary of points shared in the meeting. He also begins a planned cadence to include phone, email and mail touches to go out over the next 30 days to ensure Francie remembers him and his company.
Francie is impressed with Bob’s approach. Each time he contacts her, she learns a little more about him and his company, and finds it easier to recall previous knowledge. When an opportunity pops up that fits Bob, she remembers him and includes Bob in her consideration set.
If you want more opportunities, examine the problem from two angles.
First, are you getting everything you can from your current customers? If not, how can you educate them so that they consider you when an opportunity arises?
Second, how can you improve your sales process and get more opportunities from prospects? Start by planning interesting and educational sales calls that involve customers in discovering how you can help. Improve your follow-up strategies so that prospects are more likely to retain information.
As you sit in your office, take a moment to reflect on all the opportunities waiting for you outside your door. List your clients and prospects. Ask yourself, “Am I the first person a buyer will think of when they are ready to make a purchase?”
If the answer is “no,” decide how you can change that and take action today.