This can make or break a sale. Seriously. So make sure that every sales rep takes this lesson to heart during their sales training, and feels motivated to carry it through in all of their meetings!
No, it’s not getting your potential buyer to sign the contract on the spot. Although, that would be ideal and it’s sometimes worth a try.
It’s this. Before ending the meeting, sales reps need to define and agree on clear next steps with their prospects. Defining next steps and wrapping up the meeting in a good way is just as important as setting it up well. Because when clear next steps are established, it can help ensure that the sale moves forward at a good pace.
According to Chris Orlob, Director of Sales at Gong.io, your close rates can plummet by over 70% when you fail to discuss and agree on next steps.
And you don’t need to worry about discussing next steps taking up too much of your meeting time. Statistically speaking, sales professionals who spend just four minutes longer discussing next steps with prospects, win more deals. Just four extra minutes! And why is this? Because when prospects agree and commit to following through on next steps, they shoulder some of the responsibility to keep the sale moving forward.
Now let’s look at five tactics you can incorporate into your sales training plan to teach your reps how to lock in next steps with their prospects.
5 sales training tips to help lock in next steps
1. Define next steps before the demo even starts
A recurring theme in sales is that it pays to be prepared. For example, when reps plan and prepare ahead of time for potential sales objections, they’re a lot more likely to anticipate those curveballs that will inevitably come their way.
Proper planning is also critical when defining next steps. Think about where the demo falls into the prospects’ buying process and anticipate what needs to happen next in order for them to move things forward.
Some questions reps can ask themselves to anticipate potential objections and roadblocks include:
- What is their buying process?
- Do they need to bring in more decision-makers?
- Are they ready for me to present them with a contract?
- What can I do to help them move the sale forward?
In the spirit of planning ahead, a technique that they can use to define next steps is sharing the proposed next steps with the prospect before the demo begins.
For example, when they are scheduling the demo they can add a sentence like:
"Following the demo and Q&A, we’ll send you the final proposal for you to review and further discuss it in a follow-up contract call."
They should also clearly define the desired timeline when defining next steps, so that both the rep and prospect can know what to expect as the deal progresses.
2. Ask questions during the Q&A session
Every demo should have some time allotted for a Q&A session. This is an opportunity to manage expectations and for the prospects to better understand the product and how it fits into their business case.
At the start of the Q&A, a rep’s questions should be open-ended to encourage the prospect to talk more and give the rep a chance to have a more complete understanding of their thinking. But as the allotted time for the meeting nears its end, it may make sense for the questions to become more pointed and close-ended.
Pointed questions require short and straightforward answers that are meant to shed light on what’s next in the process. For example, reps can ask questions like:
- Is there anything else you need to see to help you make your decision?
- Can you help me understand the next steps you need to take internally, and the timeline for reaching a final decision?
- Would it make sense to invite your colleagues to the next meeting?
Pointed questions are especially helpful for painting a picture of the decision-making process and providing reps with the information they need to approximate the timeline for closing the deal.
3. Make a strong closing statement
Just because the prospect has heard some great selling points throughout the product demo doesn’t mean that they will connect all the dots on their own. Reps should spend a few minutes toward the end of the demo to recap the main points, and specifically explain how their solution solves the prospect’s challenges.
The closing statement should have a clear call to action that can naturally evolve into defining next steps. For example, if there is another stakeholder who needs to included in the next meeting, reps can say something like:
"Do you think (name of stakeholder) would be excited about seeing how our X feature is able to reduce your costs and solve X pain points? Perhaps it makes sense for us to show them how it works. Do you have their availability to schedule something now?”
Remind the prospect of the value proposition that was presented to them during the demo as the fuel to light the fire for locking in the next step.
4. Clearly lay out the sales process for success
Reps need to guide their prospects through the sales process. As every company’s sales process is different, it’s likely that the prospect will have no idea how your sales process works and what needs to happen next.
Take the initiative and put them at ease by clearly explaining the sales process and addressing any questions or concerns.
Do they need to see another feature? Is it important for them to talk with an expert on your team? Do they want to read the contract?
Whatever the situation dictates, by the end of the meeting, the prospect should be clear about what needs to happen next. Reps should never assume that their prospects are already aware of the process. And it’s always safer to over-communicate and give step-by-step instructions if they think that may be necessary.
It’s always better for the sales rep to be in control of the direction that the sale is taking. And when they are proactive and clear with defining next steps, prospects are usually happy to follow their lead.
5. Always get confirmation for the next steps
Even if the prospect is nodding and smiling when discussing next steps with the rep, that alone shouldn’t be taken as a sign that they are committing to follow through on them! Reps needs to get some sort of verbal confirmation that they agree with and will follow through on the next steps that are being defined.
Reps can also ask them if there is anything else they would like to add. Or if they have any questions about the proposed next steps. This subtle act of getting the prospect to engage in defining the next steps will go a long way in ensuring that they follow through on them.
The “next steps” are not the same as the “follow-up”
“Next steps” give prospects a road map of what to expect, or what is needed in order to move the sale forward. The “follow-up” is a different post-meeting step, though also important. It’s when reps contact the prospect (usually via email) within 12 hours to recap the meeting and reconfirm next steps.
If you’d like to learn more about best practices for demo follow-up emails, you can check out our next article! Just as with every other part of the product demo process, reps also need sales training on how to follow up with prospects after a demo.
We’ve observed that successful sales follow-up emails share a similar format that leads to more effective responses and look forward to sharing it with you!
Training your sales reps to adopt best practices, like properly setting up next steps, is one of those small improvements that adds up over time. With continual sales training reinforcement, your eps will continue to steadily improve. And before you know it, you will have trained a high-performing sales team!
So make sure you stress this lesson in your sales training agenda, and get ready to see your sales training ROI increase!