SPIF Tip #59: Changing Up a Sales Team Call

“Did that turn out better than you expected?” asked Jorge.

“Absolutely,” said Steve. “Did you see Sally lean in when you described your account, Ambro? Plus, she was asking questions and wondering how to apply this to her prospect.  She is usually pretty quiet when we have a group meeting.”

“Yeah, it is so easy to dive into the weeds and forget other people haven’t been in on our conversations. We all need to be in the loop,” said Jorge.

“Thanks for the suggestion,” said Steve.

Steve and Jorge had just finished a sales team meeting at AIRS.  Steve was global sales VP.  AIRS’s artificial intelligence algorithm was still unique in the industry.

AI fascinated regulatory compliance officers around the world. Under the right circumstances, the system easily justified its multi-million-dollar fees. Unfortunately, its effectiveness was hard to predict. AIRS’s tech services team had to spend weeks simulating sequences of model transactions against a prospect’s asset portfolio. Compliance officers loved the layers of insights this revealed. Unfortunately, very few of them seemed to have an influence on their own senior executives. The enormous demands COVID placed on the financial industry made it more difficult than ever for Steve’s salespeople to know which accounts to spend time on.

Jorge had taken a sales job with AIRS after retiring from a bank in Singapore about four years ago. On Monday, Jorge had called Steve just as he finished a call.  “Sorry, Jorge. I just learned that Sally committed tech services to a demo in three weeks for a German bank.  She doesn’t know if they have a business case and plans to use the demo to start gathering information.”

After a few minutes of discussion, Steve decided the idea should be the topic for this week’s team call.


The Team Call

When Steve launched the Zoom for his team meeting, he told the team he wanted to start off a little differently.

“I want you to know I’m not challenging any of your accounts or how you are handling them.  I think we can learn from one another by focusing on what you know about an account.  We’ll go through the weekly update after that,” he said.

“Sally, will you start us off with Schroeder?  Just looking for a brief overview.”

After Sally finished, Steve asked Jorge to talk about ABN Amro. He described how they had contacted him after testing their own simulation of databases and regulatory systems. They’ve had a four-person team work on the simulation for three months. Several department managers are interested in the project.

Sally interjected. “Wow, I’ve never had an account research their own simulation data like that. And I only know two people in Schroeder’s so far. But they told me this was important to their bank, and said they have a budget and the authority for the project.” said Sally.

“That’s interesting,” said Jorge. “Because none of the people in the simulation project at Ambro have anything close to the authority to approve a project with AIRS, and they know it.”

There was a long pause.

“OK, I get it” Sally said. “There must be other people pulling the strings at Schroeder, and I don’t know who they are yet. Do you know who those people are at Ambro?” asked Sally.

“Well, I know that the executive team overhauled the bank’s strategic plan in the last six months. I have a meeting with one of them next week to learn why they did that.”

“Well that’s impressive,” said Sally. “How did you get that meeting?”

“I never assume anyone at the prospect is a decision-maker no matter what they tell me” said Jorge. “I assume they earnestly want to get ahead in their career, and that finding a cool system like AIRS could be a feather in their cap. As we all know, the system might not be a good fit, and that would be trouble for both of us. So, I ask if they might let me do some homework to prevent them from wasting their time. With that, I launch into a research meeting. From there, I ask who else in their firm might help me really understand what they’re trying to accomplish.”[1]

“That makes sense,” said Reneé, another salesperson. “So what evidence are you looking for during these meetings?”

Jorge explained that the first purpose was to build a trusting relationship. You had to keep an eye out for what was in the other person’s interests personally and professionally. Like any company, different people working for the same company had different knowledge and opinions. This gave the outside salesperson an advantage – an opportunity to piece together an external perspective on the objectives, strategies, and issues of the senior executives. He pointed out that “strategic” meant something different to the simulation team than to the bank’s executives.

Finally, Sally said, “Well, this has been a very helpful discussion. Now, I just have one problem. … Schroeder’s is expecting me to get back to them with a schedule to do a simulation.”

“That’s easy,” said Steve. “Tell them we’re backed up, but that you can start the process by doing some homework. You’ll make it easy on their calendars, and maybe even save them some time and embarrassment if there isn’t a good fit.” Steve saw the relief on Sally’s face.

As the call continued, there was more discussion was about the differences in prospects and why they were motivated to investigate AIRS.

Steve was glad Jorge had called when he did.  Focusing the conversation on the facts about the customer’s perspective had changed the feel of the call. He thought it was useful for everyone. Changing up the discussion was a leadership device he would use again. He knew there was a lot more he and his team needed to discover.


[1] A highly professional method for conducting a customer meeting, where the salesperson uses preparation and active listening techniques with the goal of enabling the customer to talk for 95% of the time during the meeting. This skill is central to the IMPAX process, and is described in “Beyond Selling Value – A Proven Process to Avoid the Vendor Trap” by Mark Shonka and Dan Kosch  (2002, Dearborn).

Cindy Elsberry

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