It's been said that "the most reliable way to predict the future is to create it." We could apply that to countless aspects of life. But let's focus on improving sales performance for the moment with a vital sales success tip. Wouldn't it be nice if you could not only visualize the ideal outcome for an upcoming sales meeting, client call, or coaching session, but actually work backwards to trace the steps needed to make that outcome a reality?
Well, the good news is: You can. And all it takes is a relatively straightforward exercise we call the "look back."
What Is the "Look Back" Exercise?
The "look back" exercise has been called different things by people in different fields. For instance, in chess it's known as "retrograde analysis." Others refer to it as "inversion," or "backtracing."
Whatever you want to call it, the point of the exercise is, first of all, to see yourself in the future. Visualize yourself in the event or experience that you are planning. Then, work backwards from that future point to make sure the "current" you positions yourself for success when the time arrives. "Look back" exercises enable participants to clearly identify what they need to do in the present to prepare for future wins.
As an added bonus, you can do your "look back" with your sales team, or by yourself! In fact, it may be helpful to train your team on the basics of this exercise. Try it during your next sales meeting! Then, encourage each one to use it as a self-coaching tool.
Why Is It important?
The "look back" exercise is a critical sales success tip because it helps you connect the present with the future in a coherent, intentional way. It can remind you that a successful outcome several weeks down the road is really the result of progressive, deliberate actions taken today, tomorrow, and each day thereafter. Put another way, a "look back" session helps you to develop a workable game plan for creating the future you want.
How Does It Work?
In the context of sales, a "look back" exercise can be used in several ways. Again, it is inseparably connected with visualization. You're seeing the best version of your future self in that meeting, in that coaching session, or on that sales call. So the two big questions that you must answer within an effective "look back" exercise are:
As you can tell, "look back" exercises can get very deep, very fast. In the sales industry, here are two common real-world scenarios in which a "look back" may prove extremely beneficial:
1. Sales managers preparing for team meetings.
If you're a sales manager preparing for an upcoming team meeting, there are a ton of different factors to consider during your "look back" session besides the basic meeting agenda.
For one thing, you want to give attention to how your team members perceive you. Do you want to be seen as a coach? Are you someone who is really understanding and approachable? What outcomes would you like to see? Upon reflection, you may see the need to spend more time with certain team members in the present, so as to get them in the right mindset when the meeting day arrives.
2. Sales reps preparing for client meetings.
Conducting a personal "look back" exercise can be a great preparation tool for any sales rep with a big client meeting on the horizon.
Think about the kind of experience you want the client to enjoy. Do you want to position yourself as a fun, engaging guide who's ready to contribute to the client's success? Will you be able to back up your proposed solutions with hard data? What would success look like for the client? Now is the best time to anticipate questions and concerns that may come up during the conference. As a result, you can outline effective ways to address each one. And if you find yourself hitting a wall, it may be a good idea to bounce your ideas off your coach. You could even do a "practice run" ahead of time.
Who Should Use "Look Back" Exercises?
The short answer? Anyone who wants to be a change agent and create high-impact meetings.
Of course, in the sales world this definitely includes team managers who want to achieve optimal outcomes from their meetings. It also includes customer-facing reps who want to take advantage of each interaction with prospects to help them progress through the sales funnel. "Look back" exercises can be performed on an individual basis, or as a group. In either scenario, they are great ways to create intentionality by focusing on the desired outcome, and then mapping back to the present to start taking the required steps.
It can be all too easy to go through professional life hopeful of positive outcomes. However, we're often unsure of how to influence them. "Look back" exercises are invaluable because they cut through much of the uncertainty. Use a "look back" in preparation for your next meeting. As a result, you're proactively thinking about what you can do in the present moment to make the future moment a success.
In other words: You're doing more than just predicting the future. You're creating it. And when it comes to improving sales performance, either individually or as a team, it's hard to top that!
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Things are changing fast in the world of sales. One of the most significant changes brought about by the pandemic is the transition from in-person visits to virtual client sales meetings. Whether you handle your sales calls by phone or video conference, connecting with your customer in the same way that you did with in-person meetings is vital.
It is possible to build that same sense of excitement and personalized care in a virtual client sales meeting. Using new methods and simple techniques, you can create the same productive atmosphere. In fact, it's often the simple things that make the biggest difference. Try these practical tips to maintain a personal connection during virtual client sales meetings.
1. Prepare Yourself
You wouldn't attend an in-person sales meeting without reviewing the customer's account and customizing your product/service offerings just for them. Maintain the same level of preparation for virtual client sales meetings. That includes reviewing personal notes. What do you know about their family, business history or any other general personal interest topics?
Preparation also includes your tech tools. Don't assume your client knows how to use these tools. Not everyone has experience with Zoom or other forms of software. You would not want to make your customer feel inadequate. Give them the option of phone or video conference. Here's a list of top tech challenges I've noticed when scheduling virtual meetings. Review these, and be proactive about giving your clients a heads-up about potential challenges.
The bottom line is, take the same amount of care in preparing for a virtual meeting as you would an in-person one.
2. Prepare Your Team
If you're a sales manager, it's up to you to set your team up for success. Ensure they have the right tools to engage with clients online or over the phone. Do your reps have effective apps, laptops, tablets, Bluetooth devices, and most importantly, a solid internet connection? Do they have a tech resource if they need support for any of these tools?
Don't forget the training! Some of your team members might not have used a video conferencing app before. Show them how powerful these tools can be. Provide training regarding both the technical aspects and basic etiquette.
Also, remember that tools are not always tangible things. Tools also include support, such as role-playing sessions with managers or other team members, or brainstorming meetings to discuss specific techniques for unique clients.
3. Limit Distractions
Yes, you have seen the viral videos of the cat interrupting an online meeting or someone's kid running through a screenshot. They make for funny YouTube clips, but you don't want those types of distractions when you're trying to duplicate the professional feel of an in-person meeting.
Before your virtual client sales meeting begins, devise a way to block your meeting area from pets and ensure your kids understand the importance of not interrupting your meeting. It's essential that you focus on your meeting and minimize any possible distractions ahead of time.
Turn off your mobile devices and other digital notifications to ensure your client feels like they have your undivided attention.
4. Break the Ice
In the past, there was always a time at the beginning of the meeting when you broke the ice — a few minutes of casual conversation to get to know each other better and establish trust. Don't bypass this step just because the sales meeting is virtual.
When you learn more about your customer's personal life, you can determine how it's affecting their business one. Ask about their family. Where are they from? How did they get into this business? Balance nosey with showing personal interest.
5. Be Aware of Your Background
When you're having a virtual client sales meeting from your home, you may be showing your audience more than you want to. Before any online meetings, determine how much of your home and space the client can see. Clean and organize the space to give it a professional look.
You don't want your client distracted by a stack of dirty dishes or a trophy from third grade. Consider choosing a room with a plain wall and placing your computer in front of it.
Access More Resources
Engaging your clients during virtual meetings is just one challenge to our new work dynamic. Keeping your sales team engaged while they work remotely is another hurdle. I just addressed that topic in this recent blog.
Gain more insights on how to improve sales performance for your SMB, sign up for our newsletter. Contact us directly, or explore our website for other valuable resources and webinars.
Meetings are just a part of life for most sales managers. They have periodic meetings with senior management. They may occasionally meet with high-value clients. And, of course they hold regular sales meetings with their team.
Anything we do repeatedly eventually becomes a routine, and any routine can deteriorate into a rut. If you're a sales manager who's holding weekly (or perhaps daily) sales meetings, then the last thing you want to do is have those interactions with your team become part of a rut — e.g., time wasters or, even worse, finger-pointing disputes.
With that in mind, here are three keys that will help you keep your sales meetings productive, uplifting, and motivating.
Key #1: Understand Your Team as Individuals
In order to have a productive sales meeting with your team as a whole, it's important to be mindful that each team member is unique. Personality, emotional makeup, communication style, goals, desires, concerns - all these factors differ from person to person. You must understand where each team member is coming from in order to communicate with them effectively.
Think of this as "laying the foundation" for a great sales meeting. Schedule some one-on-one time with each team member throughout the week. Observe how they react to constructive feedback, and any stressful sales calls that may come their way. Note their strengths and growth opportunities.
By building a "mental profile" of each team member ahead of time, you'll be able to generally predict how they'll behave in a meeting. Most importantly, you'll glean ways to help them grow as a sales rep within a group setting.
Key #2: Set Clear Expectations
At the beginning of each sales meeting, it's best to leave nothing to the imagination. Make the format, flow, and purpose of the meeting crystal clear to your team members. For example, everyone should know:
That last point is important. You don't want your meeting to turn into an interrogation session for underperforming sales reps. It's often best to give each sales rep some uninterrupted time to express his or her thoughts. This will enable your team members to be themselves without fear of censure.
Which leads into our third key...
Key #3: Establish a Judgment-Free Zone
Last but not least, you want to make sure that all of your team members view the meeting as a "judgment-free zone." The purpose of a sales meeting should be to exchange ideas and information — never to lecture or criticize team members over performance.
In fact, welcome the uncensored input of each team member. Their insights will help you to continually improve your sales process day after day.
At times, keeping the meeting "judgment-free" may require that you bite your tongue. Even underperforming reps that legitimately need some constructive feedback should be made to feel respected during these meetings (and during future one-on-one sessions).
The old saying "once bitten, twice shy" definitely applies in this case: You don't want to do anything that will scare your reps away from giving their honest, unfiltered opinions in a group setting.
Use Sales Meetings to Boost Productivity
There are challenges when it comes to preparing, coordinating, and leading sales meetings. However, if you implement the three keys discussed above, your team will enjoy productive, and even refreshing meetings.
Use your sales meetings to motivate the team to try new things. Energize them to "get back to the trenches." Ultimately, your entire team's performance will improve, and your business will grow as a result.
If you'd like more insights on how to improve sales meetings and sales performance in general for your SMB, sign up for our newsletter. Contact us directly, or explore our website for other valuable resources and webinars.