How to Improve the Prospect Experience @PeopleMetrics
Close the Loop.
Close More Sales.
(How to Improve the Prospect Experience)
A salesman who?
A salesman who’s still knocking on doors for some reason.
A “cold call” is a great name for a concept. It evokes temperature, as in “Boy, that is one frigid sales lead.” And it also evokes emotional
responsiveness, as in “Hmm, she was cold and distant.” Whoever named it a “cold call” should be in charge of naming more things.
Especially since it looks like cold calling isn’t going to be around much longer.
Now, if cold calling wasn’t already out of style, it’s certainly skating the icy road to obsolescence. That’s because of a simple truth:
people have access to more information than ever. Given a few minutes—and some keystrokes, finger swipes, and thumb presses—any
person can find your company or product, learn all about it, and decide whether they want to be your customer.
A Shift of Power
Not surprisingly, the buyer’s access to information has changed the sales
landscape. Sales are less and less about big-time pitches by sales reps.
Each sale is now an ongoing, dynamic process. And the buyer is in charge.
Your buyers can research specifications, prices, competitors, and customer
reviews at their leisure. They can make their decisions away from you. In
fact, according to a study by the Corporate Executive Board, 57% of the
purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier.
In short, it’s time to reimagine how you think about sales. It’s time to start
It’s time to step into the future.
“57% of the purchase
decision is made before a
customer even talks to a
“Sales requires clearer
dialog, better consultation,
and nurturing prospects
throughout the sale.”
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icon to tweet the
New World, New Competencies
In a landscape filled with informed customers, traditional sales
competencies are quickly going out of style. Today, closing sales is
less dependent on a sales rep’s control of the discussion.
It’s now based on meaningful interaction between the sales rep
and the prospect. It requires clearer dialog, better consultation, and
nurturing prospects throughout the sale.
So here’s an important question: Are you training for competencies
that delivered value yesterday, or are you training for today and
Using our own research, we’ve come up with our own model
of sales value, which we’ve included at right.
What we consider core competencies are listed inside the
pyramid. The most valuable competencies—those that offer
the most value for prospects—are located at the top of
Went Above and Beyond
Well PreparedGood Listener
Not sure where your competencies stand as a sales manager? Check the boxes that apply to
your organization, then count the number of times you checked a box for your score.
We have a list of core sales competencies.
We have defined our sales competencies.
Our sales reps understand the competencies.
We are training to the core competencies.
We know which competencies are correlated with the likelihood
of a deal closing.
We know how reps are performing on the competencies from the
We are able to intervene and continually coach reps based on
their performance in competencies.
Quiz: Assess Your Competencies
0-2: You’re reading the right eBook. Make it a
point to prioritize by establishing a set of key sales
competencies for your organization. Then you’ll
know what to train your reps to deliver. Read on to
3-5: You’re on the right path. You have a good
sense of what your sales reps need to succeed.
However, make sure to avoid any biases that may
cloud your judgment. Consider asking your prospects
how you’re doing and whether your reps are
delivering what you expect.
6-7: Are you one of our clients? If not, would you
like to be? (We think we’d get along very well.)
At PeopleMetrics, we believe the key to improving business is creating
feedback loops and then working to close them.
Depending on a client’s needs, we’ll collect feedback from employees,
customers, and/or prospects. Then we’ll help the client act on pieces of
feedback to close loops. These feedback loops give a voice to once-silent
audiences, which can reveal actionable insights for making customers
happier and improving experiences.
For modern sales professionals (read: “you”), the biggest blind spot (read:
“opportunity”) is the prospect experience. That blind spot is due to how
sales was historically dictated by the sales rep.
For decades, the model looked something like this:
1. A sales rep had a product.
2. The rep found interested prospects.
3. The rep contacted the prospects.
4. The rep worked the sales.
5. The rep closed deals.
In that model, the prospect was a means to an end, an obstacle on the
way to closing the deal. As customers are becoming more aware, the
model has evolved into one driven by prospects. The model is looking
more and more like this:
1. The prospect discovers a need.
2. The prospect researches solutions for the need.
3. The prospect narrows down his or her options.
4. The prospect reaches out to select providers.
5. The sales reps offer consultation and answer questions.
6. The prospect closes with his or her choice.
If prospects are showing up on your doorstep ready to buy, then you owe
it to yourself to ask for their feedback.
Opening that feedback loop can expose strengths and weaknesses of
your sales reps. It can also help you determine whether your training is
working, or not, so you can better allocate resources.
A Simple Feedback Loop
Setting up your own feedback loop isn’t difficult. And the benefits are well worth the
We recommend this process if you have a straightforward sales cycle, a small team, and
limited budget. (If you have complexities in your cycle, or need a platform to manage
feedback loops, then consider reaching out to us. We’d be happy to help.)
Here’s the process:
Automate and Delight
1. Establish your sales competencies. You’ll need a list of competencies
before you collect feedback. They’ll help you decide what you’re trying to
measure, so you can frame your questions for the greatest impact.
2. Create a survey. Make it short and sweet, so your prospects will be more
likely to fill it out. We recommend 5 to 7 questions. Consider using free
online survey tools, which can help you manage the results.
3. Decide what happens after you receive feedback. What happens if
you receive a negative response? A great response? What if the prospect
never takes the survey? You’ll need to know who should jump into action,
and when. Remember, don’t make the mistake of concentrating only
on negative feedback and corrections. Make sure to also celebrate and
commend reps when they do a great job.
4. Have a meeting (or more) to explain the process to your sales reps.
If you’re gauging their competencies, it’s only fair to tell them about it.
They’ll also need to be aware of the process and what it means for their
day to day. After all, the goal isn’t just to collect feedback, but to act on
it—sometimes immediately, if the situation calls for it.
5. Send surveys after meaningful interactions. After important interactions
(e.g., consultation, demo, or proposal), send a unique survey invite to your
prospect. Then wait for a reply. You’ll need to keep tabs on each prospect, so
you can respond to individual feedback loops on the fly. You’ll also need to
be able to view the feedback in aggregate, so you can assess your sales team
overall, and decide how to improve your training to encourage adoption of
your sales competencies.
6. Take action. For you and the prospect, this is the most important step
of the entire process. Each feedback-based action will help you work an
individual sale. But as you get into the habit of collecting feedback and
closing the loop, you’ll find that the overall value of your touchpoints will
improve. Make sure to find time to assess your actions and adjust them if
they’re not driving the results you want to see.
7. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. This process won’t make much of a difference if
it’s not ongoing. So keep asking for feedback, and keep closing loops.
A Simple Feedback Loop (Expanded)
Bonus: Look for ways to automate. With a little elbow grease, you can
automate the process to help you respond in a timely and appropriate
Consider automation apps like IFTTT or Android’s Tasker to alert reps via
their mobile devices.
You can also create materials (e.g., flow charts or flashcards) to help reps
know how to respond to prospect feedback quickly and easily.
Bonus Round: Automate
How Am I Doing?
If it was unclear, let’s say it directly: Asking for feedback is a good thing. It
opens up lines of communication, and it not only exposes weaknesses, but
also strengths. There’s no reason to be afraid to ask questions about the
prospect experience—because you’re only trying to improve it.
But people can be hesitant to ask for feedback. Because it implies they’re
not perfect. It opens a door to negative responses, which can shatter self-
So not many people ask their prospects
how they’re doing.
Which is why you’ll be unique if you ask them.
“Only one company
asked for feedback...
This is the company we
“[Having a company ask
for feedback] actually
made me feel better
about the company.”
Real quotes from real
leads, from our original
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the paper now.
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icon to tweet the
Create Your Survey
You’ll likely have many options when you’re sitting down to write survey
questions. Sample questions for a sales-oriented survey may include: Was
the meeting valuable? Was there any question you wish was answered, but
wasn’t? How did the sales rep meet your needs?
When designing your own survey, consider the following:
• Brevity. Make it short and simple, to help your prospects get through
your survey. We recommend no more than 7 questions.
• Mobile-friendly design. Use a platform that can cater to mobile device
users, so prospects can respond at their convenience. That will increase
the chances you’ll get a response. You don’t want to exclude a prospect
because s/he decided to take your survey on the train.
• Priority of information. Make sure to put your questions in order of
importance, from most important to least. That way, if your prospect
decides to give up midway through the survey, you’ll still have answers
to your most important questions.
• Ties to competencies. Be as clear as possible in connecting each
question directly to one of your competencies. This will ensure that
you’re getting responses that can not only help you with the individual
prospect, but also with your broader training strategies and budgeting.
• Scale. The way you quantify concepts is very important. We often use
5-point Likert scales, which allow for more informative data. You’ve
probably seen them in a satisfaction survey before.
• Word choice. There are many gray areas in language, and you should
do your best to avoid them in your survey. When in doubt, err toward
clarity and simplicity. You also want to avoid bias through word choice.
For example, there’s a difference between “Did you have a good time
at PeopleMetrics?” and “How was your time at PeopleMetrics?” The first
is leading, which can create biases in the resulting data.
• Open-ended option. Asking an open-ended question can give your
prospects the opportunity to provide insight into unclear areas of your
process. It gives prospects the chance to go off script, which can result
in some meaningful discoveries.
Prep the Prospect
Don’t surprise prospects by sending them a request
for feedback without warning. Take the time to lay the
foundation. Here are three things to note:
1. Tell them you’ll send them a survey to get their
2. Make it clear that you’re collecting feedback to make
the experience as valuable as possible for them.
3. Mention that it’s not a performance-based survey,
so they provide honest feedback without the fear (or
leverage) that they’ll get anyone in trouble.
See? Not so scary.
And just because you’re asking for feedback doesn’t
mean you have to change the way you talk to your
customers and prospects.
Think of a survey invitation as one more chance to
convey the personality of your business.
That type of customization and personality will also help comfort your prospect
and know that they’re still in your ecosystem.
Here’s an example invite:
Feedback is worthless if it doesn’t lead to action.
The most important step toward improving your prospect experience is taking
action when you get their feedback.
There are four categories of prospect feedback, and each of them can tell you a
lot about your individual prospect and your overall prospect experience.
The four categories are:
Respond, if You Please
Positive Negative Lukewarm No Response
Positive Feedback. If your prospect gives you positive feedback, then you’ll know
that you’re on track for the sale. If you receive beaming feedback, the odds are you can add the sale in
your pipeline predictions. This also can tell you about your overall experience and reinforce your training
Negative Feedback. If your prospect gives negative feedback, then you should address
the noted issues immediately. Negative feedback presents valuable opportunities. First, the prospect was
engaged enough to vent frustrations. That means, given appropriate and personal actions, you may be able
to save the sale. Second, negative feedback reveals issues in your experience that you may be able to solve
through training or coaching.
Lukewarm Feedback. Lukewarm feedback is still feedback. So it still offers insight
and opportunities for improvement. Perhaps, thanks to the meeting, the prospect discovered that your
service wasn’t what s/he needed. That means you can move on to more productive sales. Or maybe the
feedback will change your approach to creating more memorable moments along the prospect experience.
About Feedback Types
No Feedback. If the prospect doesn’t give feedback at all, it’s pretty safe to say that the
sale is unlikely to close. However, you may be able to adjust tactics to better serve the prospect. Maybe
more-focused outreach, or last-ditch tactics, can help you save the sale.
About Feedback Types
Your actions should align to the type of feedback you receive feedback
from a prospect. The actions could be as simple as a phone call, a LinkedIn
request, or a thank you email. They could also include sales managers getting
involved, in-person meetings, or adjustments to your training programs.
[Note: For more help on how to act on feedback, try our Action Alert Feedback
book. It’s centered on our Voice of the Customer product, but it can help you
think about taking actions upon receiving feedback.]
The Power of (Good) Surprises
In a new world of sales, small surprises can make all the difference for
a buyer. Your sales process is a series of steps or stages. Each step is not
only a chance for you to improve, but also to delight your prospect.
You should consider having a special surprise for every stage. That will
help differentiate your prospect experience and help prospects make
emotional connections to your company.
You don’t have to force the surprise on a prospect when they hit a given
stage, but having the option will give your sales reps a chance to delight
the prospect when the situation calls for it. The surprises don’t have to be
physical. For example, a simple request for feedback can add an element of
surprise to the sales process.
Here’s another example of adding surprise to the sale:
Ask if a person has read a specific
book that is important to your
industry or the subject matter.
If they say no, you could make a note of it, and send a copy to them.
With a simple $15-20 investment and a dose of sincerity, you’ll show the
prospect you’re willing to go above and beyond in your role. Even if you
don’t close the deal, the prospect will remember you. And you’ll have a
potential promoter who can sing your praises to his or her network.
In a social-media world, word-of-mouth can make a huge difference.
Go Above and Beyond
Another chance to show you care is to type up quick summaries after
consultation calls. If you have busy prospects, odds are, it’ll be difficult
for them to remember the exact details of a conversation.
So give them a reminder. Here are three parts to focus on:
1. A summary of their problem.
2. Any solutions you offer.
3. Important details.
Keep it short, simple, and direct, so your prospect can see how you
conduct business. By showing that you care about their understanding,
they’ll be more encouraged to ask questions and engage in dialog.
A consultative process centered on feedback can help you make
this process even easier. Feedback from prospects will give you
information, prompts, and questions to respond to, so it will be easier
to customize your solutions to the problem.
Guide Your Business
As we mentioned earlier, prospect feedback gives you bigger
opportunities than the immediate action. Collected feedback can help you
track successes, improvements, and ROI.
When you analyze the aggregate feedback from all of your prospects, it
can help you diagnose systemic issues, see where you’re performing well,
and discover actions and behaviors that you need to be training for.
You’ll also be able to see your reps through the eyes of your prospects. That
means you can discover what your best performers are doing to close more
You’ll be able to see where your other reps need help, or where their
individual strengths lie, so you can better manage your resources and
nurture your pipeline.
You can also make sure your reps are adopting competencies. And if they
aren’t, you can consider tying elements of prospect feedback to your
incentive plan. (As a not-so-subtle nudge.)
Feedback also gives you a chance to
share successes, best practices, and
lessons learned with all the reps on
In the hustle and bustle of modern business, a congratulation and a pat on
the back can be a powerful motivator and affirming action.
Don’t Stop Now
Last but not least, don’t stop asking for feedback once the deal is done.
After prospects become customers, you can still use their feedback to
improve your business.
Keep the feedback cycle going.
You can show them you care, provoke stronger emotional connections, and
design better experiences at every level of business.
All it takes is listening, learning, and responding to their needs.
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