What is the Next Step?

What’s the next step?

And yes, there is always a next step…

I had a sign on my office wall when still in the corporate world with that question and answer to help remind my team there was always something we could be doing. I can’t count how many sales meetings I’ve attended where the ‘sales manager’ would ask for project updates and accept responses from the sales team that didn’t include the next step. Simply put, there is always a next step.

Let’s start with the primary purpose of any sales call. The purpose of any and every call is to secure the next call. Yes, even if your primary intent of a call is to close the sale and sign a contract, your goal remains unchanged. Wouldn’t you follow up a close with at least a thank you call or a “how’s everything going” call? If you want to keep my business, you certainly had better.

Here is a typical dialog to a project status update:

Manager: How is project XYZ going?

Salesperson: They are just waiting for the final approvals, and we will get the order, nothing to do now but wait.

Manager: When are we expecting the approvals?

Salesperson: (SWAG’ing it*) should be within three weeks.

Manager: Great, keep me updated.

The most common outcome from the above scenario: three weeks turns into six and then three months and finally [pick outcome] we lost, the project got canceled, project on indefinite hold, etc….

Why did this happen? Because the sales manager allowed no ‘next step’ on a project. Here are some questions, at a minimum, the manager should have been asking:

  • Who are the decision-makers, and what is our relationship with them?
    • Why have we never met with them?
  • What does the actual approval process look like?
  • How are we going to maintain contact with at least our champion while this is taking place?
  • Why are we just learning about this process now?

The list goes on. But the bottom line is, the longer the waiting period without action, the more likely you are not winning.

There is always a next step!

*  SWAG is an engineering term standing for: Scientific Wild-A** Guess

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