How & Why You Should Secure a Scheduled Next Step
Why should you ask for a scheduled next step at the end of a meeting?
You might be thinking, “Can’t I just plan to call the person I met with in a few weeks?”
Oftentimes in the sales process, we can get ahead of ourselves and jump to try and close a deal before nurturing our prospect through the proper sales cycle. This can result in confusion due to unorganized communication.
So, how can we eliminate uncertainty and enable sales success?
At the end of each and every meeting, ask for a specific next step!
Need to some more tips? Regardless of how experienced you are as a sales professional, our latest guide will help you stay focused on the right sales activities:
In this post we'll show you how securing a next step can increase the momentum of your sales and walk through proven strategies to get it done.
Why You Need a Scheduled Next Step
1. It helps you get a reaction
At the end of each meeting, good or bad, you are going to get a reaction. And depending on what you ask at the end of the meeting, you will get different reactions.
For instance, if you were to say, “Do you mind if I call you in a few weeks?” or “Would you mind if I came back tomorrow with the contract for you to sign?” You would certainly get two very different reactions.
However, by asking these types of questions, you won’t get the response you’re looking for.
Remember, sales come from getting people to commit and say yes to the question: “Can we schedule the next step?”
2. It leads to better selling
The very nature of asking for a next step prompts you to have a discussion about what’s going to happen.
This allows us to find out important factors like: Who will be at the next meeting? What will we be discussing? What material should we bring? What will we be evaluated on? And finally, what will the next step be after this meeting?
As a result, you end up having a better action plan for what’s happening and what to expect next, as well as, allowing both parties to get to know each other a little better.
The gist: having a desired outcome in mind (AKA securing a scheduled next step) leads to a better meeting.
3. It will shorten your sales cycle
The downside of not securing a scheduled next step is that you will inevitably play phone tag with the person you’re trying to reach.
Why? Because if there isn’t a scheduled next step on this person’s calendar, then the chances of them being at their desk and ready to speak with you at the exact moment you call is slim to none.
Now, you may get lucky, but why take the chance of extending your sales cycle?
The less distance there is between meetings, the shorter the sales cycle, the more they remember you, and the more the sale gains momentum and you can gallop toward a closed deal.
4. It keeps your pipeline organized and manageable
When you secure the scheduled next step, the meeting can go one of two ways.
If the meeting goes well and it looks like the deal will close, then great!
On the other hand, if the meeting goes poorly and they decide not to move forward to the next step, then you need to replace this prospect.
The perfect time to replace this prospect is before you lose them. In order to do this, you need to practice good territory and account management.
For example, if you will already be visiting company XYZ, then why not select leads who are in that area? And if you’re working with existing accounts and you know you will be speaking with Mr. Smith on the 17th floor at 1:00pm, you know that you have other time slots available to see other people in the building that you may not have met previously.
How to Schedule the Next Step & Create Sales Momentum
Selling is all about momentum. It’s about advancing the sale and building the relationship in a way that provides understanding and clarity to both the seller and the prospective customer.
Here are four types of strategies that will help you get a scheduled next step at the end of every sales meeting.
This strategy says that you want to proceed in a thoughtful way. It says that you do not want to rush into giving the prospect a proposal that has any chance of being the wrong fit, but rather, we want to take the time to get to know their company’s organization and business process.
For example, you might suggest setting up another meeting in order to meet other key players or decision makers in the organization. This often helps give you a clearer picture of their organization’s structure and how decisions are being made. Additionally, this strategy helps both parties establish an increased level of understanding and trust in each other.
You can use this as a tactic for getting the decision maker or higher level executive in the room during your next meeting. This can help when you’re put in a sales situation that requires going above your main contact’s head. Perhaps you think this will improve the chances of closing the deal or maybe you see a larger opportunity at hand that you realize your contact doesn’t have the authority to make.
Whatever the reason may be, the tricky part is making this request in a strategic way. One thing you can do is bring your boss to this meeting. The presence of your boss and your prospect’s boss adds an air of credibility and seriousness. With their support, the initiative will have a better chance of success.
The Demo strategy can work in two ways. The client will either request a demo or you will suggest a demo. However, if we take a moment to think about it, conducting a demo in the second meeting is kind of an obvious next step because how can we ask someone to buy our product or service if they haven’t seen it in action yet?
For example, you may end the meeting by saying something like: “As a next step, why don’t we come back to show you how our product/service works. How would next Tuesday at 3:00pm work?”
Although this appears to be the obvious next step, and it is, the importance of the demo is the expectation that you set prior to the meeting. As a salesperson, we need to ask the prospect to look at the demo from the point of view of seriously considering an investment in our product or service. If we make it clear that we want them to evaluate the demo from this perspective, then there is a greater chance that the sale will continue moving forward. On the other hand, if the prospect is not willing or able to look at the demo from this angle, then we need to re-consider the time we spend conducting the demo.
The Expert strategy suggests that the next step is to bring in the experts. An expert could be someone at your organization that’s from the operations or production/development side that has more detailed technical knowledge in regards to how a product/service works and how it is implemented or delivered. The expert could be from either your company, their company, or both. This communicates that everyone is willing to make an investment of time and resources and can be an extremely useful strategy when the customer starts to ask more detailed or technically oriented questions that we, as salespeople, may not be entirely comfortable answering.
For example, in the case that both you and your prospect bring in experts, this creates the opportunity to ask questions or bring up any issues regarding the product or service that we are offering. This helps to open the discussion to new topics that the sales person and the prospect may not have thought of or just couldn’t address without the expert.
The Outline strategy will help improve your proposal to closing ratio. How? Well, if you want to close a deal, there are specific pieces of information that needs to be collected and confirmed. However, it is all too common for salespeople to jump ahead of the outline stage and move right into sending the prospect a proposal. Now, sending a proposal at this point may work for some sellers but let’s take a moment to think about it. A proposal can hold a lot of weight because it looks and feels like the real deal.
Presenting a proposal at this stage may communicate that you think you’ve done everything you need to do and collected all of the information you need to make this deal happen. We are asking the prospect for a commitment. But are we ready?
By using the Outline Strategy, it will minimize the chances of miscommunication and uncertainty about the client’s goals and expectations as well as how things will work once the deal is closed. There are three parts that should be included in the outline, those are:
- What is the client looking to accomplish?
- When is the client looking to accomplish this?
- Recommendations based on these assumptions.
There are three questions that should be clearly answered in your outline: (1) What are we selling? (2) How much are we charging? (3) When are we going to deliver?
If you outline your ideas, assumptions, and recommendations in this way it will give both sides a chance to review the details of the deal in a less formal setting and can really help create an open and honest conversation.
The Executive Summary
Related to the outline is the executive summary. This plays on the fact that decision making has changed. Instead of selling to just one person, we must also sell to a group or committee of people involved in the process. This can be challenging for many reasons.
For instance, your contact might say they need to discuss with their team privately, which leaves you reliant on your contact to position the solution on your behalf.
Put your best foot forward in this type of situation by creating a simple one-page executive summary that is tailored to who it will be shared with, whether it’s an individual or a group. This summary should clearly detail what your company does and how it will uniquely help this prospective customer, as well as one or two relevant success stories to show how similar companies are succeeding. This is a great way to move the sale along and control the communication to the people you haven’t had the chance to meet yet.
The Question Strategy
You’ve been working on a potential sale for a few weeks and you feel like it might be stalling out. How do you get it back on track? Reach out to your direct contact with questions they will not know the answers to. Yes, you read that right. This works as a next step strategy because it will re-engage your contact as well as get someone else involved.
You might be thinking: why do I need to get someone else involved? If you have the feeling the sale might be stalling out, then you should consider whether or not you are talking to the right person.
Depending on your offering or solution, the question strategy works in terms of who you want to get involved and what information you still need in order to fully understand their needs and eventually close the deal. For instance, you may want to ask your direct contact more technical oriented questions to determine how your solution would fit into their current environment. This way, you, your direct contact, and the technical person can learn from each other and because of what you’ve learned you will be able to create a more tailored and targeted proposal.
Selling is all about getting a reaction and then suggesting a strategic next step in order to keep the sale moving forward. Did you ask for a scheduled next step in your last meeting? If not, try your hand at one of these strategies so that you can nail down a next step and keep the sale on track.
What else can help improve your sales? Now that you know how to get a scheduled next step, check out some of these other tips that can help you stay focused on the right sales activites:
About Molly DePasquale
Molly DePasquale is the Manager of Operations and Sales Training Strategist for DMTraining. She manages the day-to-day business and training operations while helping research and develop new training programs as well as refreshing signature programs to reflect the newest sales trends, technology, and best practices. Molly utilizes her wide-range of skills to create sales and marketing assets focused on delivering value to DMT’s clients. Molly has a passion for learning and leveraging new knowledge and experiences. Outside of DMTraining, Molly is a hard core Pittsburgh sports fan, enjoys staying active by running and golfing, and unwinds by reading and playing the piano.