The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast
The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast

Episode 53 · 1 year ago

Prepare and Practice to Confidently Execute Sales Calls w/ John Kaplan


After elite athletes win champions and gold medals they don’t stop practicing. They continue the work that’s necessary to repeat success and beat their competition.

Elite salespeople follow the same playbook. Whether you're at the top of your game or just starting, we break down our best tips to prepare and practice for your sales calls. John Kaplan shares the prepping and practicing tactics he uses and teaches to accomplish critical meeting goals and achieve success in his deals.

Check out this and other episodes of The Audible-Ready Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

Here are some additional resources on preparing and practicing:

- Lessons From a Sales Veteran [Podcast]

- Overcoming the Seller Deficit Disorder

- Align with the Buying Process: The Power of the Mantra

What I love about that really simple phraseology, or just that that real simple mantra, is it gets everybody grounded on exactly where we are. I'm mapping our value to a customers problem. That's the ultimate skill for a sellar. You're listening to the audible ready podcast, the show that helps you and your team's sell more faster. will feature sales leader sharing their best insights on how to create a sales engine that helps you fuel repeatable revenue growth, presented by the team at force management, a leader in BTB sales effectiveness. Let's get started. Hello and welcome to the audible ready podcast. I'm Rachel Club Miller. Thank you to all of you have have gone on your favorite podcast player and rated the audible ready podcast five stars. We appreciate it. If you haven't done it, take two seconds into it for us. We'd really appreciate it. I'm joined today by John Kaplan. Hi John, okay, Rachel, how are you? I am good, and today we are going to talk about one of your favorite topics, John. I know prepping and practicing. When I was pulling this topic together, I thought about one of our repeat clients, Joe Marson. He calls his salespeople, sales athletes, and whenever I've published a quote with him or interviewed him, you always uses that turn sales athletes, and you know we use a lot of sports analogy, Geez, and our concepts and our conversations and that idea of an athlete meaning that you need to practice, there's a playbook, you're always looking to get better. So the concept of sales athletes really applies to sales. It's no different. Yeah, I love that term sales athletes. For me it's about honing your craft and it's about working towards mastery, and that's what all of us should be looking to do, no matter where we are, who we are, what our situation is, whether we think we're at the top of our game or whether we think we're at the beginning of our gain. You know, the most elite sellers on the planet, they're looking to get better every single day. So that really fits with my thinking and I love the term sales athletes. Right, the practice is is never done. You mean championship teams don't just take the next year off right right? There's prepping and then there's practicing, and there's several ways to go about it. When you're talking about your sales conversations. So let's first talk about prepping then we'll move into practicing. Of course, those of you out there listening, you probably have several tools in your organization to prep for calls, but you still have to have a discipline around doing it. When we did our recent podcast with frank as Aleno on our team, it's a great episode, Gook, make sure you listen to it. He talked about effective prep or doing your homework before calls, and he quitted it to mean respect for the people who are taking our time to speak to you. That I love. that. I love that point by frank and I'm reminded of the survey that's been conducted over...

...several decades and the answers always come back the same. So it's men and women who buy goods and services and they're speaking about men and women who sell them goods and services, and the question is asked, what are some of your biggest frustrations with those who sell to you? And I've never forgotten the answer to the survey. It's come back the same for fifty years. That's why you'll hear me say it's Egypt old. I think it's been around for thousands of years. The answers are, number one, that buyers do not believe we understand their business and, number two, they don't believe that we listen very well. And so when you think about that, it really speaks to preparation. There's people out there right now listening to this who are, I'm sure today or tonight or tomorrow, they're in the middle of doing research. They're they're utilizing Google and linkedin and they're they're looking at companies and the people that they're meeting with. And you know, it seems obvious, but if you don't do it, you can easily get embarrassed. I remember years ago I had somebody tell me, give me some feedback, and said, Hey, John, don't ask me questions that you could have got the answer to from somebody else in my organization, and I've never forgotten that feedback, if some of the best feedback I've ever received. Don't ask me a question that you could have got the answer to from somebody else in my organization or something that you could have read. And so when I think about defining, you know, meeting objectives, you know, I don't overcomplicate it. I think about what I want to accomplish in the meeting and then I think about the three piece purpose, process payoff. I practice it. What's the purpose of my phone call? The process? What process am I going to take the customer, of the prospect through? What do I want from them? What am I going to do to them? What am I asking of them? And then the payoff is simply what's in it for them, and that is the preparation, the three P's, is simple preparation that I can go through, no matter who I'm talking to, when I'm talking to them or what I'm talking to them about. And then, obviously it helps them put together a great, great agenda to help me and the clients stay focused. I mean even at force management will be in an internal meeting and may have called it with somebody in there. I say, okay, what's the purpose of this meeting? What's the purpose process payoff here that we're doing when we use that concept? Yeah, all the time. So it's a good one. And you mentioned the agenda, because that purpose, process payoff fuels your agenda and that's the discipline of prepping for your calls. And we've talked about it before. John, the importance of sending that agenda in advance. Well, for me, it's amazing to me how many people don't do it, how many people do not send an agenda in advance, and when I typically ask them, why don't you send an agenda in advance, I'm horrified at the overwhelming response they're they're actually afraid that the customers going to cancel. And... what that tells me is that they're afraid that the customers not going to see value in what they do and and how they're going to present it. And I think that fundamentally comes down to you either believe what you do matters or you don't. That's number one. If you believe what you do matters, then there's no way you'll have any fear about approaching anybody, about speaking to anybody, about calling the sea levels, about asking for commitments. There's just those people that believe what they do matters. Just have that confidence and conviction. And then the second thing is is that all honor. I'll honor my craft, I'll honor what I do for a living and that belief and what I do matters, and I will couple it with great preparation skills to show respect to those people that I am going to speak to you. Put those two together and it's a very, very powerful combination. Be Elite, wake up, think what you do matters and prepare yourself to present it in that way. I think it's a great formula for success. Right. Yeah, and there's also a step to preparing. If you're leading the call, you've got to prepare the other people who are joining your call internally, from from your own team. We talk about using that kind of what we've heard concept, what you've learned so far in discovery. Most of the time you've done some discovery. If you're pulling in other people to the call and if you know those elements of what you've heard so far, you want to make sure that the internal team is aligned on what you need to do, what the agenda is, you can move that deal further along. But, John, what if I don't know information at what if I haven't done discovery? What if I've got a couple people joining my initial call? Maybe it's somebody has a connection or something? How am I preparing the team for the call internally? What are your best practices for aligning internally? Does it come back to that threeps the agenda. Similar. But what when I think about the ultimate summation that any seller wants to be in a position to say, and I want you to think about this, can you really say this on the opportunity that you're working on, on the account that you're working on, on a forecast that opportunity, on a pipeline opportunity, on a brand new opportunity where you haven't made a phone call? I want you to think about what the future looks like. What the future looks like is what I call the ultimate summation and we call it the mantra where I the ability to look at the customer and say, so what I've heard you say, Mr Mrs Customer? Why is that important? Because it proves that we listen to them. So what I've heard you say, Mr Mrs Customer, that these are the positive business outcomes that you're trying to achieve. Why our business outcomes important? Because it proves that we understand their business. So I know that I want to be able to summarize, ultimately, somewhere in the future, positive business outcomes and in order to achieve those positive business outcomes, these are the minimum...

...required capabilities that you told us you were going to need, and knowing that that I'm building information, I'm gathering information around highly differentiated required capabilities to set us apart from our competitors and to align with exactly what the customer believes is needed. And then you said that you were going to measure success this way and internally, in my mind, I know that those measurements are going to be highly favorable for us. So this is the common language that we're going to use internally and externally, and I like to think about these as three buckets of information that we're constantly gathering. If you have none of that information, you begin to have a hypothesis about the business issues and you start to ask discovery questions to qualify and to clarify that, and I want you to think about positives, outcomes, require capabilities and metrics. These are three buckets that, visually, you know mentally, are just kind of in front of you and you're filling all these three buckets up, and when you fill those three buckets up, you have the ability to pivot and now earn the right to talk about yourself. So let me tell you how we do that, Mr Mrs Customer, how we do the require capabilities. Let me tell you how we do it differently or better and where we've done it before. So I like to call this the ultimate summation. We also call it the mantra. I call it sometimes the measuring stick, I call it the great navigator. I don't care what you call it, but just call it this. Must have information for us to be successful with our solutions with our customers, aligning those to our customers problems. And so no matter where I am, whether I'm with a new customer or whether I'm with a an existing customer and I'm looking to renew, or I'm doing a Qbr or I'm doing a land and expand, I always look to see where I am with that navigator, with the Mantra, and I'm always looking to build that ultimate summation. And so sorry about the long winded answer, but I feel really strongly about this. It's I think people over complicate it. I know I got to fill up three things as a seller. Positive Business Outcomes require capabilities and metrics. Then I have to align how we do it, how we do it differently or better and where we've done it before to those three buckets. And I keep everybody involved in the sales campaign, including the customer on the same page with where we are in our effort to do that. So I think it's just a critical, critical skill. Yeah, that must have information those buckets, like you said, however you want to visualize it, isn't that in great is a great what am I trying to say? And internal rallying mechanism. So everyone to joining the call. Here's what we know, here is what we do, and sometimes what you don't know is the most important, right, because that's your aim for the conversation. Yeah, a lot of times what happens, right is people's planning when we're preparing to make a call,... we're preparing to talk to him about what we do. Well, what do they know about what we do? What do they know about our products? Who's going to speak about this? Who's going to speak about that? And I'm like, we ain't going to speak about anything until we understand the positiveness. Outcomes, require capabilities and metrics, because anything outside of the customers mind, that is what's required. In their mind, we're going to wind up being more than what's required. So we didn't listen. And number two, we're going to inadvertently become expensive to that customer. So what I love about that really simple phraseology, or just that that real simple mantra, is it gets everybody grounded on exactly where we are on lapping our value to a customers prob of them. That's the ultimate skill for a seller, ultimate young and there you go. So that's popping. I want to make a shift now to to practicing. You you're going to probably practice, especially for those bigger calls where there's perhaps more at stake. You're likely role playing. So let's dive into some best practices for making sure you, as the seller, get what you need from that. That type of practice, the role play. Yeah, you talked about role plays. I really, really like that concept and and I think people listening, no matter who you are, how old you are, you're probably familiar with Star Trek and when I was younger I used to like the Little Nemesis Group of people. They were called the Klingons and these were the these were kind of deemed the difficult people. They were always the they were always the people messing with the people on the enterprise or whatever. But what I love most about them is they fought each other just to stay sharp. So they were constantly battling each other just to stay sharp, and that's kind of how I look at role plays. You know, when I was playing football in college, I always noticed this the time. I'm thinking about a couple of people. I don't want to alienate them, but they're two people. When I played for Boise State, one guy was a defensive end and the other guy was a left hackle and these were the top players on our team. They both went to the NFL and what I noticed is is that after practice this one of them would initiate it and they grab the other and they'd stay after practice and they would go one on one against it each other. They were the two best players in the conference that their positions, and so what better opportunity to face off against one another? Nobody had to tell him to do it. They just wound up kind of going one on one after practice and I loved it because I always respected that and I never saw that formula equal failure. There was nobody any better than they were that they were going to play against and they squared off and got each other better. And I've just again I've never, I've never forgotten that, and so that's why I love this kind of principle of the role play and the more you can make role playing, you know, a real experience, the greater its value. So you got to make sure that the person that you're you know, that's playing the buyer, has fluency about...

...the deal and got to make sure each other are prepared to make sure that it goes effectively, you know, on people just pulling, you know, answers out of the sky. You want them to try to be as relevant as as possible. So it's they've got to be a knowledgeable participant, to be more naturally present. And so you want to think about doing it in different scenarios like, you know, different situations like a phone call, a zoom presentation or an inperson meeting. And what are the different environments that have uniqueness about them, with the different media him that you're going to use. You know, you want to be to try to figure out, you know, in a similar way, how to align for objectives in the call, so you know, aligning those objectives for the role play. So make sure that you simulate the reason why I loved watching those two great warriors go against each other every day because it was as close to reality as they were going to get. They were simulating what was going to happen on that field. And how better to do it than the two best competitors on the team at opposite positions that would go against each other in their role. So my specific advice is to make it as realistic as possible. Don't wait for the company to do it, don't wait for sales development to tell you, hey, we're going to do these role plays. Go grab the best person on the team, square off with them. Ask them to simulate being a buyer. Ask them to simulate being a champion, ask them to simulate, you know, a competitive situation. And again, the people that I see doing that are the elite sellers. They don't have to be told, they just do it naturally. So go be natural, go do it. Yeah, that practice can be really important, especially if you're practicing with some of the elite people on your on your own team, and it's important to that they know what you are trying to practice. Why are you why do you want to roleplay? What are you nervous about? What do you want to practice handling? If both sides are aligned on that, it can make the role play real effective and for managers, John You want to make sure that you are being a great buyer and being knowledgeable and allowing the rep to have great practice, but you also want to make sure that you give great feedback. And if you're a rep, you want to make sure that you're getting great feedback. You want to know what you can can do better and what what is what you did well that that you want to repeat. Yeah, like that scenario is talking to you about Boise State. The coach didn't initiated that. The two players initiated that. The coach kind of wandered over watch the exchange and then gave very, very actionable feedback. And that's what I remember about those scenarios, is that being a leader and being very, very specific and making sure that the feedback was actionable. So that's what I'd like to translate to our world today. So how do you make it? You know, actionable. So the REP should know exactly what to do to perform better in...

...a real conversation. So you can use phrases like you know something you may want to try and that instances x or here's something that's worked for me when that's happen in my sales conversations before. So, but the rep should have a very clear understanding of what he or she needs to do in order to make that a real conversation and a great role play. Is as close to Real, real sales meeting or call as you're going to get. And again, the key to a development experience, though, is making the feedback productive. So encourage the sellers to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You know these two guys at the end of the at the end of practice, everybody hung around and watched and so somebody was going to win and somebody was going to lose, and somebody's going to win the next one and somebody was going to lose. So these guys were the most comfortable. What I'll never forget about it is they were the most comfortable in their own skin, very positive. They were staying positive. By translate that to the day's environment. If your seller be comfortable being uncomfortable, keep positive, you know, make the goals clear and devout, you know, deliver actionable recommendations. If you're the one given feedback, keep it simple, but also also motivate each other to be better. Yeah, I'd love that. By keeping it positive, because you just encourage more practice from other people. On your team. Yes, are there other things, John and you're selling career or even now, that have helped you? Do help you in prepping and practicing for a great call that you want to share? Yeah, one I really haven't talked about yet. It is like I like to try to empathize with the person I'm going to speak with, and so what I mean by that is like I like to sit with it for a moment. I like to pretend that I'm them and kind of stand in their moment of pain, and this will always help me ask really, really up in questions and and give me the confidence that what I do matters. And so I have to remember that survey and I have to I have to make sure if they think that I don't understand their business and I don't listen, I have to make sure that I'm going to have to demonstrate that. So by sitting and understanding their pain, sitting in that pain a little bit, just really trying to empathize with it, it helps me prepare for it and then it helps me understand it and then I just ask questions about it. So preparation is really nothing more for me than getting really, really grounded and empathizing and being authentic and what that person sitting across from me or across from me in the media waves are on the zoom camera or what have you, what they are dealing with. I already know that exists, whether they're talking to me or not talking to me. I just ask them questions about it. So it takes the pressure off. I know that pain exists. I just sat with it. When I'm preparing for I understand how painful and how stressful that could be, and then what the implications...

...of that pain are. I'm in such a better position to ask great discovery questions when I do that. Yeah, how that empathy, empathy mindset. It's a great walk away tip. John. Is there a bottom line you want to leave the folks with today? I think it's just you know, we talked about preparation. We talked about doing things that are elite. talked a lot about things that people already know about on this call, excuse me, on this podcast that you're listening to. You know, this year some people make a decision to do it and others don't. You know, those two people I were talking about, they were all Americans. They didn't have to do that. To compete in the NCAA, they were thinking about competing in the NFL. So I don't care where you are or what level you're at, you have to put yourself in a mindset that you're going to get better today, and when you approach your day like that, I just think great outcomes are going to happen. Yeah, great way to approach your day, privating and practicing. Thank you, John, my pleasure. All right, and thank you to all of you for listening to the audible ready podcast. At force management, we're focused on transforming sales organizations into elite teams. Are Proven methodologies deliver programs that build company alignment and fuel repeatable revenue growth. Give your teams the ability to execute the growth strategy at the point of sale. Our strength is our experience. The proof is in our results. Let's get started. Visit US at force MANAGEMENTCOM. You've been listening to the audible ready podcast. To not miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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