This week we were joined in the studio by our friend John Affourtit from Sparkcentral to talk about “Getting Unstuck In Sales.” John is an absolute pro when it comes to thinking about long sales cycles and how to come unglued from that difficult prospect that just won’t move to the next stage. He’s been influential in closing deals with many of the bigger customers that Sparkcentral has under their banner including T-Mobile, Delta Airlines, Netflix, Uber, Nordstrom and Discover Financial. He has created some unique and interesting approaches to shortening the sales cycle. On the podcast, John had 4 major points that he felt would really help any SaaS salesperson to shorten your sales cycle.
(1) Always Bake In A Next Step – John coaches each and every salesperson at Sparkcentral to really force a next step at the end of every single discussion. The prospect wants to learn more about your reporting function? Set up a call with someone on the team focused around that part of the product. The prospect doesn’t clearly understand the sales engineering component of your business? Get a face to face meeting in place with your sales engineer to walk the prospect through this. Always be looking for ways to keep the conversation moving in the right direction (within reason). If there isn’t a clear action plan coming out of the meeting John constantly finds that salespeople lose respect in their weekly sales meetings and have a tough time with the numbers and close rates. While this is a broad generalization, the macro level point makes sense. Keep things action oriented and moving to shorten your sales cycle.
(2) Create A Weekly Deal Dissection Meeting – Above and beyond the generic weekly sales meeting, John encourages A.E.s and S.D.R.s to connect with each other and run through short deal dissection exercises. Specifically, set up a 30 minute meeting with some close sales friends and walk them through what is going on with each account and what their opinion is on a particular issue that is coming up. You don’t need to cover the deals that are clean and going well. Sometimes outside ideation can really be helpful and John encourages this with his group above and beyond what you’d normally present in your weekly sales meeting. Using this approach can sometimes add another layer of magnification so a salesperson knows what to kill or keep alive. All in, doing this may help shorten your sales cycle and get the garbage out quickly.
(3) Utilize Mutual Action Plans With Prospects – John was kind enough to share with us a Mutual Action Plan (M.A.P.) that the Sparkcentral sales team uses. Obviously the document is scrubbed but click here to see the high level of what he walked listeners through on our podcast. Basically this is a document that you would share with your prospect early on in the sales cycle that has tangible steps for each person to execute on. Make one for yourself in Lucidchart or your flow chart maker of choice and keep it handy. Get the prospect to sign off on this before you proceed. Basically this is another form of sales qualification that can definitely shorten your sales cycle. If your prospect agrees to this, you can always call them out if you miss a deadline or a date. If your prospect does not agree to this or gets uncomfortable, you probably are not as far along as you think you are and need to probably back up from a stage perspective. Using a M.A.P. can be a great way to qualify quickly and drive a deal home quickly.
(4) Throw Curveballs To Help Push Conversations Forward – There are a lot of small tricks in the book but perhaps one of the unconventional ones that John mentioned that we tend to see work is nice gestures and small tokens that matter to the prospect. Offering up a speaking engagement to your prospect at your customer conference. Sending some cool schwag from your company to their office. Inviting the prospect out for a rare event that you are giving only to your high value customers. All of these sort of “curveballs” are common to a salesperson but not used enough in John’s opinion. As you think about shortening your sales cycle some of these methods can go a long way and should be used.