Measure Twice, Cut Once and Rehearse On!
In the Navy, I used to work on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, and early on, one of the things this experience instilled in me was the importance of having planned discussions before and after each and every flight. Whether it was on the operation or the material readiness of the aircraft, there was tremendous value in these pre- and post-discussions.
After the service, I entered into the world of machining where again, similar steps were taken. Before any raw material was chucked into the mill or the lathe, a good practice was to walk through the machining steps twice before making that first cut or pass. Fast-forward to present day, leading a sales team, and the importance of pre- and post-meetings is still very front line for me.
Within my sales team, we call it rehearsing or pre- and post-meeting discussions. In my opinion, if you’re not rehearsing with your team prior to getting in front of your customers, then you may not be serving their needs fully. Rehearsing upcoming, planned meetings is a great format in which you can discuss content you want to place in front of your customers. Taking the extra step to consider the people you will be meeting with and what their questions and/or concerns might be, will allow for a deeper dive of delivery and the opportunity to address any concerns identified beforehand.
Many times, we get tied up in “our” objectives and “our” deliverables when in fact, when we rehearse and place ourselves in our customers’ shoes, we turn away from the standard slide deck and focus on them. When rehearsing prior to any meetings with your customer, you have the ability to also reduce post-action items stemming from the meeting as you may have proactively addressed a question your customer may have had without even realizing it. Let me be clear – sales representatives don’t rehearse in an effort to reduce action items because they’re lazy or they don’t want takeaways, they do so because they want to be prepared in order to best serve their customers.
This is how you become a trusted partner with your customer – by having their best interest in mind and taking the time to prepare in order to best serve them in every interaction. But no matter how prepared you are, at some point in your career, you’ll run into a question that you simply can’t answer at that moment. Know you’re not alone, and have all the confidence in the world letting your customer know it’s a great question and you will need to research it and get back to them. While these instances are inevitable, rehearsing presents the best opportunity to minimize those constant, “I’ll have to get back with you on that one.”, responses because you’re prepared and have done your homework.
I think about how many of our customers are nearly 70 percent through their journey prior to reaching out to us for help. Once we get that call, we need to do everything possible to answer the questions our customers may have along the last 30 percent of their journey – which is all the more reason to pull together and rehearse. From my personal experience, I’ve watched as this number has changed from 50 percent to 30 percent. At 30 percent, there’s no time for missteps. When we get the call, we need to be in front of our customers, spot on, delivering on everything they are expecting and then some.
Years ago, I found that another benefit of rehearsing is building confidence within your sales team. The rehearsal allows us to hear what we plan to present to our customer and take the time to touch on their concerns. As you rehearse more, you’ll find that the topics addressed in your first pass may not end up being the topics that you actually discuss with your customer and that is a ok. After you solve their challenge, there is always time to discuss new products and features. As a result, you’ll tend to move more quickly with outcomes post meeting, as the engagement level is usually much higher having rehearsed.
In closing, we need to do everything we can in sales to address concerns and solve challenges – that’s what we do. Do not hesitate for a second to be transparent, to let your customers know that your sales team has intentional steps in place to meet their needs, and be willing to pull people together from within your organization to rehearse in order to ensure you’re serving your customers to the best of your ability.
Mike Rasnick - Zone Sales Team Director