How to Avoid “Show Me What You Got”

Why do so many sales calls not go as planned? The poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” He could have just as easily been talking about B2B sales calls. No matter how well something is planned for, things can still go differently than planned or anticipated.

During an internal TMG meeting last week, we discussed why often even the best-planned sales calls don’t go as we expect. If every meeting went as well as we planned out, sales would be much less complex than it is now.

Why? What’s the root cause? Why do so many sales calls with prospects and customers go off the rails?

There are so many strategies for planning sales calls.  Why do they often fail to produce the desired results? Most are partially used (if at all) and even the most enthusiastic reps use them sparingly.

As you might guess, the answer isn’t always obvious.

We reflected on a recent sales call shared with me by a Vice President of Sales.  It was an important call and they followed their sales call methodology for pre-planning.  It was solid… until the real-world set in.  The VP of Sales and his salesperson sat down at the table prepared to execute the sales call they had role played to perfection. The decision influencers from the customer came in, plus one, the person who would finalize the decision.

He said, “I have 10 minutes, show me what you have…”  Realizing that they had 10 minutes, the VP and salesperson went to their comfort zone, “We’re a global organization, here is a map of all of our facilities, we have the broadest offering in the industry, we have world-class support,” and on and on and on. Sound familiar? We all have a “go-to” safe zone when we feel like something is going off track.

After about 5 minutes, the “finalizer” got up, said thanks and left the room.  Immediately the VP of Sales had that sinking feeling – we blew it.

What happened? Did they not execute their sales call or, did the finalizer not know how to buy?

Here’s our theory: as salespeople, we’ve trained our customers how to buy.  Through our actions over time and multiple engagements, we’ve encouraged them to say, “show me what you have.”  Ideally, we should have trained them to ask, “how will you help me increase sales, decrease costs, or improve productivity.”  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone you talked to asked “how can you bring value” instead of “show me what you have?”

What’s the solution?  Here are the 3 key elements to deal with the situation:

First, prepare for the “show me what you have” statement.  Ensure everyone on the call knows how to respond, otherwise it’s likely that someone will go into a product pitch.

Second, let the decision influencer know that you will show what you have, once you ask some questions.  “I’ll be happy to share with you what we have, I just first need to ask a few questions.”

Third, ask your questions and consciously move the conversation to identifying/developing trigger events and talking about how your product or service uniquely addresses it.

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David Varner

David Varner: With a background in engineering, sales and global consulting, Dave brings a unique perspective to the sales training industry. This is evident in the workshops that Millau offers: simple to execute, based on data - not emotions - and produce immediate, measurable results. Dave is the co-author of the soon to be released books, The Sales Checklist and Not The Next Shiny Thing.