When you’re going into a sales meeting, what do you want the outcome to be? Getting a sale, right?
How about when you’re facing a tough retention conversation? Your goal is probably to save the business.
We are taught in most sales training, to have a clear goal for each client relationship, and ideally for each meeting. In fact, it’s safe to say that almost any discussion of success involves getting clear on what you want. Having a clear desired outcome allows us to focus. It helps us generate milestone goals and the concrete steps to propel us forward.
I wholeheartedly believe this.
But as logical as the answers to the above questions are, as desired outcomes, ‘getting the sale’ and ‘retaining the business’ are actually quite limited.
Why does this matter? The goals we set trigger a cascade of effects.
Our brain is a problem-solving machine. It will generate myriad creative solutions for any goal we set, some of them laudable, some of them not.
Here’s a personal story to illustrate:
About a year ago I was invited to be a part of a Telesummit of experts on lead generation for financial professionals. Sales conversations are more my thing, but lead generation is certainly in the realm of what I do. Still, I was flattered to be invited. The host is a smart, very successful woman with a good heart. Some of the other experts involved would be big names, with a reach in the tens or hundreds of thousands. This could only help my business, so I was delighted to say yes.
Two things happened. The Summit was supposed to launch last February. First, they delayed it a couple of months. And then delayed again, for a couple more months… at that point I was irritated and basically forgot about it.
The second thing that happened in that time was personal. My business focus was shifting to my deepest area of passion – the emotional intelligence involved in sales and business. Pure sales training, in my opinion, is limited in its ability to genuinely connect with people. My regular readers have probably noticed the evolution of focus in my articles.
So, when not long ago, I got an email finally saying that the Telesummit was launching, I wanted out.
Here was my thought process:
Crap! I don’t want to do this anymore. How can I get out of it. Afterall, I’m a relatively small player in this. Losing my participation wouldn’t do any material harm. And how professional was that for them to delay and delay. Surely, they can’t hold me to my signed agreement.
At this point, my goal – my best possible outcome – was to get out of my obligation to participate.
Here are the solutions my brain provided:
Politely email to say I want out. Contact a lawyer. Meticulously list my grievances so that if they come back at me, I have ammunition. Prepare to fight it. Figure out things to say to prove that I’m right and they should be reasonable. Or if I had to, participate and do the absolute minimum required. Just get through it.
Yuck. What a horrible energy and mindset. One can easily see this spiraling into a really negative place. Arguments on social media, legal costs and ramifications, and damaged relationships. What a stupid waste that would be.
It was all generated by the small-minded, fear-based, limited goal to get out of my obligation to participate.
And yet, I needed to honour that my business was no longer in alignment with the telesummit. The ‘grin and bear it’ approach wasn’t a great solution either.
We can all get triggered into that vulnerable, defensive, limited perspective. When is the last time it happened for you? After an argument with a loved one? When you were challenged publicly at work?
This small-minded, scared person is a part of me. But she is far from the best version of me! I needed to find her, and do it before taking action.
I needed the best version of me to decide on my goal.
I asked myself again: What would be the best possible outcome?
Answer: I’d get out of having to participate and the host, in seeing that there was no financial fall-out for her, would feel peaceful about it, and we’d part amicably.
This created a more peaceful state, but no new creative ideas on how to get there.
I expanded the question: In an ideal world, what would the best possible outcome for all involved look like?
My creative faculties loved that question!
Answer: The host and I have a great conversation. We fully understand and respect each other. We come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. We both appreciate each other’s position and the way we handled things, so much so that we end up working together in the future. We cross-refer business. We invite each other to speak at events. We are both enriched for knowing each other. And, they have a wildly successful Telesummit, which I’m not required to participate in.
So, what actually happened?
I sent an email to her second in command, respectfully letting them know that I’d like to withdraw, and could the host make time for a conversation.
The call was scheduled. I was nervous. I concentrated on staying open-minded and open-hearted. I really did want the best for both of us. I held that vision when I picked up the phone.
There were challenges. She let me know it wasn’t as simple as I thought – they had already advertised the Telesummit, my name was on there, and they would be in a legally dicey situation if they did not provide the full complement of experts as advertised. I kept breathing, stayed positive and explained that the direction I wanted to take my business in was no longer in alignment.
Then I had a flash – I remembered that one of the things she was keen on when signing me, was the fact that I’m a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. I said ‘I’d still be delighted to co-write an article with you.’
I believe that positive contribution and good will generated a creative shift for her.
She came up with the following solution: ‘I need to keep your recording in the summit to meet my obligations. But you can record an addendum note so participants understand you don’t want clients for your old business model.’ We arranged to do that, and to co-write the article. Done!
Then we had a warm, engaging conversation about our passion for helping people succeed. We committed to staying in touch.
Think about your next sales meeting.
Instead of ‘getting the sale’, what if your best possible outcome looked like this:
We made a genuine connection. I really like and respect this couple, and they feel safe and have complete confidence in me. Not only did they invest the initial 20K we talked about, they decided to move all their retirement funds over. They’ve asked me if I can help them with insurance. They’ve been with me for a couple of years now. In every meeting, there is always laughter and good business gets done. I genuinely love serving them. They’ve referred several more families to me. My spouse and I were invited to attend their daughter’s wedding. I’m a trusted advisor and friend. Having the honour of looking out for their financial needs has enriched my life.
With this vision in mind, how will you conduct your meeting?
Take the time to revise your best possible outcome for each client interaction. Your results will profoundly improve.
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Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.