Act 9 Replay the Call
Why professionals keep getting better.
At 4 p.m. on the dot, Joe’s phone rang.
“Matt?” he said, picking up.
“I’m not sure that just plain ‘Matt’ does me justice anymore,” said the happy voice on the line. ‘“Action Matt,’ maybe. ‘Mr. Rainmaker.’”
Joe grinned. “Closed the sale, did you?”
“You bet I did,” Matt crowed.
“Congratulations,” Joe said. “I’m happy for you.”
“Joe, it was incredible,” Matt said. “Everything worked just the way Action Selling said it would. It was a whole new experience. I felt like Christopher Columbus discovering the New World.”
“Well, Matt, that’s…”
“No, wait,” Matt interrupted. “Christopher Columbus isn’t quite right. I’ve been trying to think of an analogy that describes it. You know what I felt like? I felt as if, for nine years, I’d been chipping away at a giant log with a dull little toy hatchet. One day somebody walks up and says, ‘Oh, are you trying to cut through that log? Here.’ And he hands me a chain saw. I fire it up and, ‘Rr-r-raahraaaow,’ I’m done. It was like, ‘Oh, I get it, there’s actually a tool for this job.’ That’s how it felt.”
Joe was gratified, but not surprised. The first experience with Action Selling often came as a revelation to salespeople, especially veterans. He decided to needle Matt a little. “Well, if you’ve already mastered the process, I guess there’s no need to replay the call. You just phoned to tell me you want to skip Act 9?”
The best way to replay a call is to go over each Act and determine what worked and what you could have done better.
“Nuts to that,” Matt said cheerfully, picking up on the tease. “A professional salesperson like me skipping an Act? Action Selling is something I definitely want to get better at. Lead me through a replay, will you?”
Joe leaned back in his chair. “Sure,” he said. “The best way to replay the call is to go over it in your mind, Act by Act. It doesn’t have to take long. Just ask yourself what worked in each Act and what you could have done better. In today’s call, for instance, your Commitment Objective was to make the sale—to gain commitment from Iverson. Since you achieved it, you obviously chose a realistic Commitment Objective in Act 1.”
“And how!” Matt said, still pumped by his success.
“All right, what would you say was your best question in Act 2?”
Matt barely had to think about it. “I said, ‘Gary, if I asked your best customers about your company, what would they say is remarkable about you?’ His answer was that they’d say APS’s salespeople are incredibly helpful. That took me right to the heart of his dilemma. His customers love the service and the attention they get from APS’s direct sales force, but they’re buying cheaper consumables from the new Internet competitor.”
“That’s what great questions and careful listening can do,” Joe said approvingly. “They shine a light on problems or opportunities the customer faces, which gives you direction for the later acts. Now, as for Act 3, have you got the Best Questions Map handy?”
“It’s right in front of me,” Matt said, picking up the laminated sheet Joe had given him.
“Okay, look at the categories of questions on the map. Were there any categories you skipped or should have paid more attention to? Any questions you’d ask if you could do the call over again?”
You always learn something by replaying the call.
“I think I should have hit the Time Frame issue a little harder,” Matt said. “In my previous call on him, Iverson told me he needed a solution by yesterday. But if I had asked a leverage question today in Act 3 about the urgency of his problem, I might have avoided the stall I ran into in Act 7.”
“Good,” Joe said. “You evidently overcame the stall, but this is why Action Selling insists we replay every call, including the successful ones, before we break open the champagne. You can always learn something. Now, what needs did you agree on in Act 4?”
“Iverson agreed to the two ideal needs that you and I picked yesterday when we planned the call,” Matt said. “He needed a seamless solution that let him manage both Internet marketing and the direct sales force, and he needed a solution that was quick and painless, with no software integration required. He also agreed to the third ideal need I chose last night when I did my homework: He wanted to simplify the sales-management process and make it more efficient. You should have seen his eyes light up when I explained in Act 6 how our system will allow a manager to handle twice as many direct reports as his sales managers handle now.”
“Great,” Joe said, “but let’s keep reviewing the Acts in order. What about Act 5? What was the best part of the story you told him when you sold your company? What really grabbed his attention?”
Matt took his time, recalling the way he had handled Act 5. “I think I did well with the ‘quick and painless’ angle,” he said. “That was especially important to Iverson, and I presented it as a central feature that distinguishes us from the competition. You know, the fact that we’ve already dealt with the issues around software integration.”
“Okay,” Joe said. “How many TFBRs did you present in Act 6?”
“Three,” Matt answered. “Seamless solution, quick and painless, simplify the sales-management process. Joe, it was amazing. The difference between my product presentation to Bob Howell yesterday and the one to Gary Iverson today was just flatout incredible. I wish you could have been there to see it.”
I have seen it, Joe thought with a smile. Why do you think I’m insisting we use Action Selling?
TFBR uses a target rifle to aim at needs instead of blasting away with a shotgun.
But Matt wasn’t finished. “I mean, I got excited on the airplane when I figured out where you were going with the TFBR approach as opposed to ‘show up and throw up,’” he said. “But holy smoke—the actual experience of using a target rifle to aim at needs the customer has already agreed to instead of blasting away with a shotgun. Talk about grabbing the guy’s full attention! And this is despite the fact I didn’t handle Act 6 as well as I should have. You see, I…”
“Hold that thought,” Joe cut in. “We’ll come back to it. First, take me through the rest of the call. You said you ran into a stall in Act 7?”
“The ‘future event’ took his mind away from the money he was spending.”
“Yep. When I quoted the price and asked for commitment, Iverson said he wanted to think it over and I should call him next week. I used the reserve TFBR you suggested—our two-year warranty, and how it eliminates the risk of doing business with us. When I asked for commitment the second time, I got it.”
“Good job,” Joe said. “And how did Act 8 go? What did you do to ward off buyer’s remorse?”
“Thanked him for the business and assured him he made the right decision, of course,” Matt said. “And it was fascinating to notice how scheduling the ‘future event’ took his mind away from the money he was spending. By the time we got done arranging next week’s meeting with our technical people and his IT staff, he was actually rubbing his palms together, looking forward to it.”
“Yes, interesting how that works, isn’t it?” Joe said. “Now, two final questions you should ask yourself to complete Act 9. First, considering the entire sales call, what do you think you did best?”
“ I was able to manage the conversation and guide its direction with my questions.”
Matt thought it over. Finally he said, “It’s more like what Action Selling allowed me to do. I’ve never felt so much in control of a sales call. I had a specific strategy. I was able to manage the conversation and guide its direction with my questions. I felt as if I were steering the whole process from start to finish. And the strange thing was, I was doing it mostly by listening instead of talking. It really did feel like a drama, with the acts leading to a logical, inevitable conclusion. And I wasn’t just one of the actors, I was also the director. Oh, how I wish I’d known about this nine years ago.”
Joe smiled. “Welcome to the world of Action Selling,” he said. “Last question: If you could improve one thing about your performance in that call, what would it be? You started to mention a problem in Act 6?”
“Yeah, I got a little long-winded as I worked through the TFBR process,” Matt said. “I started to repeat myself, going back over some of the same ground I covered in Act 5 when I was selling my company. When I realized what was happening, I cut it off and moved ahead to Act 7.”
“So,” Joe said, “you think you need to get better at shaping your product features and benefits into the form of more succinct and powerful TFBRs? Have I got that right?”
“Exactly,” Matt said.
“Do you have a plan for how to do that?”
“Not yet,” Matt said.
“Well, suppose you pick, say, our seven best product features and the customer needs they’re most likely to address. Then figure out how you would present those features as short and sweet TFBRs.”
“Good idea,” Matt said.
“You could write them down. Then give me a call next week and we’ll go over them. How does that sound?”
“I think we are all going to make a lot of money.”
“Sounds great,” Matt said. “How does Wednesday look for you?”
“You’d like to go ahead with it then?” Joe asked, starting to grin.
Suddenly Matt caught on and laughed. “Hey! You just used Action Selling to get me to commit to…”
“What, you thought Action Selling was only for salespeople, not for managers?” Joe said. “I can talk to you next Wednesday at 2 o’clock, my time. Will that work?”
“Sure,” Matt said. “Hey, have I said thanks?”
“Yes, you did. You’re welcome.”
The silence stretched for five seconds. Then Matt said, “Joe? I’m going to make a lot of money, aren’t I.”
“Yeah, Matt,” Joe said. “I think you’re going to make a lot of money.” And you’re just one of our salespeople, he thought. He looked at the chart on his office wall, mentally revising the company’s sales goals for the year. “I think we’re all going to make a lot of money.”