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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