My grade 6 teacher, Mrs. Dixon, used to bellow, “You have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak.” I still remember her face getting flush as she got more-and-more exasperated with our class. Fun times.
To Mrs. Dixon’s credit that lesson stuck with me. I make a point to restrain myself in my sales calls, and try to let the customer talk twice as much as I do. It’s a two part strategy. First, I don’t want to make an assumption, and talk myself out of a sale. Second, and more importantly, I want to learn.
It’s amazing what you can discover in a sales call if you’re paying attention.
I listen very carefully when launching a new product or service. You can do all the planning and research in the world, but it doesn’t mean much until you get real feedback. To address this challenge, we developed a Win-Loss Card. It’s a simple survey we complete after each sales call to help us validate our research and adjust our strategy in real time.
The Win-Loss Card is a one page survey that takes 5 minutes to complete. It has 7 sections:
- Buyer. Who did you see? What is their position? Are they the final decision maker? If not, who is?
- Challenge. What do they want? Why were you asked to meet with them?
- Trigger Events. What symptoms, issues or events are motivating them to seek out solutions?
- Options. Who else are they considering? What other choices do they have?
- Strengths. What worked well in the sales call such as questions, value statements or demonstrations? What resonated?
- Weaknesses. What did not work well in the sales call? What caused confusion or objections? What could you do better next time?
- Notes. Any additional thoughts or observations?
Look for trends
You may learn something after a single sales call, but the real gold can be found when you’ve completed ten or so cards. You start to see patterns such as customers facing similar Trigger Events or have common Challenges. This knowledge is invaluable.
As you gather more information on what’s driving your market, the better you can tune your product development and marketing. I spend a lot of time analyzing the Trigger Events, because I use that knowledge to craft content that speaks directly to my buyers’ needs. The analysis also helps me develop unique value propositions that speak directly to various client situations.
Win-Loss Cards as a training tool
Beyond research, the Win-Loss Cards are extremely effective sales training tools. Get your new sales people to complete a card after each sales call. This forces them to record what happened, and help them to be more self-aware and critical of their performance. As the reps complete card-after-card they too will start to see the trends, and internalize that knowledge into their own sales techniques.
Shut up and listen
Whether you use the Win-Loss Card for research or training, the point is still the same: shut up and listen. Your customers tell you so much in a meeting. If you pay attention, you will always learn something new.
What do you think? I welcome your thoughts.