For those of you who have been following me for a while you know that I tend to train and write about tips, nuggets, and ideas that you can apply immediately to see results. This is the way I approach learning: similar to the agile development process of small improvements, testing, and adjustments. With that, and the fact that we’re coming up on Q4 and need to make sure we close out the year strong, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite nuggets that has made a significant impact on my results.
I call it the ‘summary e-mail’ and I use it to address some of the hardest things to do in sales: 1) hold clients accountable for what they are telling me without being rude, 2) gauge interest 3) maintain urgency, 4) re-engage when someone goes dark and 5) go above someone’s head without pissing them off.
Here’s how it works. It starts after the initial qualification call. At the end of the conversation (phone or in-person) you make sure to define the next steps. As part of that you let them know that when you get off the phone or back to your desk you’ll be summarizing the discussion and sending it over to them in an e-mail to make sure you were clear on what they told you and you’ll be looking for their confirmation. You have to let them know this is coming because if you don’t response rates will drop.
Once you get off the phone or back to your desk you take all your notes and boil them down into the core things that you heard from them. This is not an opportunity for you to reiterate your value proposition or write a book about everything you heard in the meeting. This is purely to confirm the core things you “heard” in the meeting with a main focus on priorities and timeline. Here’s an example of the template I use:
Thanks for your time and insight today. Below is a brief summary of what I was able to gain from our conversation. Please review this and e-mail me back to let me know if it’s all accurate and if I missed anything.
- Current situation:
- Business priorities:
- Priorities when making this decision:
- Next steps:
Try to send this as soon as possible after the meeting and focus on getting them to respond with a “yes, that is accurate.” Once you have that you now have something to hold them professionally accountable for what they told you. Here’s how it helps to address the challenges listed above.
1) Hold clients accountable for what they are telling you without being rude
Clients tell us a lot of stuff during a meeting and most of it is usually true at the time (hopefully). But, as soon as we walk out that door, our competition comes in and talks to them about something else or their boss comes in and changes their priorities. In 1-2 weeks when we follow up we could be selling to something that is completely irrelevant at that point. For us to try to remind them what they told us 1-2 weeks ago is a challenge without having it confirmed. I personally don’t remember what I said 5 minutes ago, let alone 5 days ago. This is just a nice simple way to hold them accountable without being rude. You can forward this e-mail back to them and ask if anything has changed. If it has then request to get back on the calendar to reset expectations. If nothing has changed then you can use it to push them a little harder for the decision or next steps.
2) Gauge interest
I find that people who respond to the summary e-mail and confirm its accuracy or even add to it are ones who are much more engaged and interested in taking the next steps with me. People who do not respond are less likely to follow up and therefore close. I also find that I tend to get higher response rates from executives and decision makers, where non decision makers tend to have a hard time responding to this e-mail. The reason I believe is because non-decision makers don’t like confirming what they told you in writing since their lives tend to change too often to really commit to much. Whereas executives and decision makers are usually pretty clear on what they want.
3) Maintain urgency
Creating and maintaining urgency are two of the hardest things to do in sales. Both of them are related to the priorities and timeline that I mentioned above. I do everything I can to identify the business priorities during the meeting and the timeline they need the solution by (and why). Once I have those I send them in the summary e-mail and get the client to confirm. Then, when they miss on specific follow up items or dates I can use that to remind them what they said their priorities and timeline were. Sometimes with everything they have going on they may need a reminder of why they need to do this. The summary e-mail is a great way of reminding them to get them back on track or reconnect to reset expectations.
4) Reengage when someone goes dark
This happens to the best of us. We have a great conversation with the client and everything seems to align but then they disappear on us and we play the “touching base” and “checking in” game from there. Without having something in writing it is very difficult to hold people accountable or get them to re-engage. With a confirmed summary e-mail, you have written documentation that you can send back to them and ask if anything has changed. If so, ask to get back on the calendar to reset expectations. If not, then push for the next steps. This also leads to one of my other techniques for getting people to respond who have gone dark – the “Did I lose you?” e-mail.
5) Going over someone’s head without pissing them off
This is another extremely difficult thing to do. We have a really good relationship with a non-decision maker but we know they are not the ones who will get the deal done for us, but if we go over their head it may fracture the relationship. If you take the top down approach to selling, then the summary e-mail is a great way of going back up top if you need to. For instance, say you start your prospecting efforts by sending an e-mail to one of the top executives and they refer you to someone below them. After that conversation, you don’t even need to ask that person to reach back out to the executive. You will be doing it as a courtesy to keep that person updated on the conversation since they were the ones who originally referred you. You then send the summary e-mail to the executive praising the person they referred you to and say something like “Thanks again for referring me to John. We had a great conversation and it looks like he has a fantastic plan in place. Below is a summary of what we discussed. Is there anything you’d like to add from an executive stand point?” if they respond then great. Even if they don’t, you now have an open connection to go back to if John goes dark or becomes difficult.
Hopefully you can see how adding this simple little summary to your process can make a huge difference. I try to use it throughout the process any time there is a conversation of substance. I then use it as the first part of the agenda for our next call to confirm everything is accurate and we can move forward. Try it out and let me know what you think. Make it Happen!