You finally got a meeting with that key executive. It’s taken weeks to arrange calendars -- the meeting has been rescheduled once or twice, but the time has come. You’re face-to-face with the decision-maker. The meeting’s going well, but there it is: the prospect asks a question and you don’t have the answer.
In the good old days, it used to be perfectly acceptable to respond, "That’s a great question -- I’ll have to go back to the office and research it," or, "Let me get back to you tomorrow (or whatever time period is acceptable)."
Today, though, it’s increasingly unacceptable. People are busy, pressured to move forward, and want answers quickly. As my friend Jill Konrath is fond of saying, “Everyone is crazy-busy!"
The perfectly acceptable practice of getting back to the prospect is no longer viable. We have to find some way to compress this cycle and be prepared to respond to the customer in real time with real answers.
How do we manage this? How do we eliminate or minimize the “Let me get back to you" response?
The Importance of Being Prepared
The most obvious way, which too few salespeople execute, is to be prepared.
Do you have a written plan for all your critical sales calls? Have you agreed on the agenda and objectives with the prospect before the meeting?
Most sales call plans are done in the car on the way to a meeting, in the elevator ride to the prospect’s office, or while you are sitting and waiting for the customer to invite you into the office. Too often, salespeople prepare for sales calls just in time.
Some years ago, we surveyed over 1,000 salespeople. We found salespeople made as many as 3x more sales calls than necessary to close a deal. The underlying reasons were poor or nonexistent call planning and poor execution. Test yourself on this. Ask yourself these two questions:
How many times have I left a meeting or hung up the phone and said ‘I forgot to ask this question?’
How many times have I had to say, ‘I’ll get back to you?’
Think about all the sales calls or meetings you’ve had in the past 30 days -- how many times did one of those things happen?
Don't Waste Prospects' Time
We can’t afford to waste our time or that of ourprospects. We have to maximize the impact of each interaction with theprospect. This means both we and theprospect have to be prepared for the meeting and produce results.
From our point of view, it means having a clear plan. What are our objectives? What do we need to learn? What do we need to prove? What questions might theprospect ask? What objections might they raise? What information will they need? What is the worst possible question they might ask?
Developing a plan, anticipating what might happen, and being ready are critical to maximizing our impact and effectiveness in the meeting.
Help Prospects Prepare
But it’s insufficient that only we are prepared. We want theprospect to be prepared and ready to engage us in a productive meeting.
Agreeing on an agenda prior to the meeting is one of the most impactful ways of helping make sure theprospect is prepared. Theprospect asking if they can get back to you with an answer is as destructive to achieving our shared goals as it is for us to respond in that way.
We want theprospect prepared and ready to accomplish something in the meeting. So, we can’t develop our plan, show up, and expect theprospect to be ready to use the time productively. We have to help them make sure they are prepared.
Are you preparing for these meetings? Are you preparing the prospect to prepare for these meetings? Are you both agreed on the goals and expected outcomes?
If the answer is no to any of these questions, you aren’t ready to use your time or theirs effectively.
Sales Execs Need to Set Teams Up for Success
Yes, if you’re paying attention and being critical, you know we can’t anticipate everything. We have to do everything we can to anticipate what theprospect might ask. But there are going to be times when we just can’t predict everything that will happen.
Let me shift my message to top sales executives and CEOs. It’s critical that you invest in the tools and capabilities to help your salespeople minimize the “Let me get back to you” response.
Having time to respond to prospects is critical to our success and impact. Prospects want answers and they want them now. The ability for salespeople to provide informed responses as immediately becomes not just a competitive differentiator, but also significantly improves your relationships with prospects and accelerates revenue generation.
Smart organizations recognize mobility is critical. Providing your salespeople access to information, data, and resources in real time, wherever they are, and on whatever device is critical to their success and theirprospects’ success.
David Brock is recognized as a premier thought leader in sales and marketing, new product introductions, and strategic partnering and has consulted for Fortune 25 companies as well as startups. You can read more of his articles on his company website, Partners in Excellence.
Originally published Oct 8, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated June 15 2021