Sales calls are conversational journeys. Ideally, conversations flow smoothly toward a coordinate of your choice. You are the guide, the pathfinder, the polar star above a panorama of outcome possibilities.Your primary task is to lead the conversation from its point of origin, to a concise, coherent and contemplative location. Each conversation is an oasis on your path of objectives.

If you are to achieve your sales objective, you’ll need to guide each and every conversational journey with precision. How do you lead each conversation so the prospect will want to continue the sales journey with you?

You will need to devise a conversation map – a multi-dimensional, mental info-graphic you’ll use during a sales call.

Preliminary Conversation Maps

Think back to when you first introduced your product or service to the market. Did you first think through the key sales messages and the best way to communicate them to prospects? Did you then think through the specific responses you might get? You were creating a preliminary conversation map. Once you had your first sales conversation with a real live prospect, you acquired the initial data points and coordinates you didn’t have before.

Honing Your Conversation Maps

Each additional sales call provides you with a more comprehensive array of data points. You discover, absorb, and learn from each subsequent conversation. More importantly, you learn how customers respond to your questions. This developing rapport, in turn, allows you to craft a more point-focused and insightful way to respond to their questions. What you are doing at this stage is the supplementary refining, enhancing, and honing of your conversation map.

Recording Conversation Maps

As a general practice, reps will record conversation data points into their CRM system’s notes. Therefore, crucial insight and key observations are kept buried as anecdotal insight in your CRM system or locked away in the mind-vaults of each rep. If instead, reps recorded the typical twists and turns in the conversational journey into a single, all-encompassing document, you could refine and perfect your sales team’s goal-trajectory and techniques, along with achieving far more productive and consistently successful call results.

Trigger Statements

Step number one, is to commit the most constructive or dynamic trigger statements onto your conversation map. Trigger statements are something the prospect says that gives you a glimpse into their frame of mind and their thought-process. These statements give you a ‘golden nugget’ of insight that helps you decide what to ask or say next. They are the all-important clues that indicate what direction the conversation should take. Trigger statements present an opportunity to ask a question, make a point, dig deeper, learn more, all in the service of finding and taking the most effective, results-generating path to a successful call.

Conversation maps contain the most common trigger statements, along with the corresponding response options. Trigger statements can be objections, comments, or questions.

Many reps will ask questions until they get a response that allows them to (prematurely) pivot the conversation toward their solution. It is an obvious sign of a beginner or poorly-trained rep when this occurs. It is equivalent to using a magnet to find true-north on the prospect’s compass. One trigger statement does not provide enough information to validate the need for your products or services. One trigger statement simply represents a sign-post, a way-point on the map. It simply tells you, intuitively speaking, in which direction to proceed.

Trigger statements – and your responses – are the Milestones of a sales call.

Trigger statements represent a specific ‘target’ of opportunity, and you need to zero-in on them for maximum leverage. More than likely, they (subliminally) occupy an elevated place in the prospect’s zone of concerns. By recording the types of trigger statements prospects make, you can collaborate with your sales and marketing colleagues to devise ideal responses.

With these ideal responses in hand, you can begin to calibrate your conversation maps. Knowing your prospect’s typical mental geography, helps you to best guide the conversation and help your prospect uncover their real motivation or need.

Here’s how to start your conversation map by using your most recent sales call as input:

  1. Create a spreadsheet with 3 columns
  2. Title the 3 columns; Trigger Statement, My response, Ideal response/s
  3. Add each trigger statement (question, objection, and bit of insight) – one per row – in the first column
  4. For each trigger statement, write down your response in the second column
  5. Then, write down what would have been an ideal response to each trigger statement into the third column.

You might want to add a 4th column so you can record the job title/industry or other metric that could be important for segmentation purposes. Eventually, you will begin to see what trigger statements occur across a whole spectrum of sales calls. This conversation map will give you and your reps a chance to compare notes, create the ideal response/s, and direct each sales conversation for the most successful call outcomes.

Conversation maps help you achieve consistently successful call outcomes

Over time, and with enough dedicated input of salient data points gathered from the widest range of conversational journeys, you will have built a very impressive Atlas of mapping techniques, strategies, and outcomes.

The real goal in any sales call is to listen carefully, and respond to enough trigger statements, that a fully collaborative mosaic begins to emerge for both you and the prospect. From that point, reaching an agreement on the next phase of the journey is not only a foregone conclusion, but the destination is that much closer to becoming a tangible and achievable reality.

Author, Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digest with invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog. Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation.