I think for most sales people, determining what makes a productive sales call requires you to start with the "end in mind" and then gauge your success on the progress you make towards that end. You get paid to "write business and close sales!", and all activities that move you closer to your end goal are productive. The real key is identifying those activities and outcomes that move you closer to your goal and managing to make those outcomes happen.
Because your goal is to "write business and close sales", establishing a list of outcomes that would help you move closer to that end is critical in gauging your success. Knowing the intended outcomes will not only help you measure your success but will also create an "end goal" for you to work towards. Without a goal you will be much less likely to achieve the results that you want. "If you don't know what you want, then how will you know whether you got it or not?"
Let's start by defining what "outcomes" or goals that we might like to accomplish to make our sales calls effective. In our "Sales Mastery" program, we discuss the need for every sales call to have an outcome. There are five potential outcomes that are possible, four we encourage and one we discourage. You will need to manage your call to one of these four acceptable outcomes and not accept the unacceptable one. The acceptable outcomes are:
1. Yes- a commitment to buy or commitment to a "time and issue specific" moving forward next step.This means a clearly defined outcome like "let's get together with the head of my department next week on Tuesday at 1:00pm to discuss his/her goals for this project", rather than "give me a call next week and I'll see if I can get our department head to set time aside for a discussion". You'll need to be vigilante in your ability to recognize "non-commitment" vs. real "commitment". Otherwise you'll make non-productive sales calls and waste time.
2. No- A clear negative response which identifies no further action is necessary. "No", is o.k., and a preferred outcome to a "stall" that identifies no further action is necessary. For most of us, "no" does not mean forever, just not now. You'll need to decide whether a call back is necessary or not. Through your "CRM" or "contact management system" set up a tickler or "nuture plan" to stay in touch automatically.
3. Future- A commitment to a date in the future (beyond 30 days normally) to resume contact due to inappropriate timing of current meeting (i.e., they may not have budget now or need to finish a project first before they can consider yours). Again, be vigilante and make sure you are not accepting a a stall or non-committed answer.
4. Lesson- Having lost or been out of control in the sales process what can we learn that will help us in the future? Losing is o.k. if we can learn from it and profit by the lesson. Losing and not understanding why we lost has no value and will cause us to repeat the same mistakes. (Hint: as time goes on you should be getting fewer lessons!)
5. Stall, indecision, TIO (Think it over)- Leaving a call with no decision or commitment to a time and issue specific future action. Stalls always leave us feeling there is "still hope" but usually end up in "no sale". Decide ahead of time that this is not an acceptable answer.
Obviously, items 1-4 are the acceptable outcomes and item 5 is the one we should not accept. Any prospect who is unwilling to commit to an action oriented next step is not a prospect and should be driven to a "no" conclusion. Realizing that "no" is a better outcome than "in-decision" will help you be more successful in your ability to make productive calls.
Action Step: Commit to these acceptable outcomes and don't accept indecision or "no movement". As soon as you define the outcomes you want, your ability to manage the call to one of these productive outcomes will improve dramatically, and so will your success!