What happens in your agency after the new business call ends?
For too many agencies, it goes something like this. Everyone is pleased with the call, how nice the prospect seems and leave hopeful for future possibilities. But, too many agency new business calls end without a clear idea of what was learned about the prospect or the company. What’s worse, often there’s no clear sense of the timeline, next steps or who’s responsible.
That’s why it makes sense to follow the same approach that legendary NFL coach Paul Brown did when he started reviewing game film to evaluate opponents and his team. Brown, who was the first to use film study, took the time to dig into each contest, understand what happened, and use the information to plan for the future.
Your agency should do the same.
Poor follow-up is a chronic issue at many agencies. It creates stress, uncertainty, and disappointment for all involved. It’s an emotionally draining experience, whether you win the business or not. You know the firm could do better with a different approach.
Finding a Solution: The New Business Call Debrief
A post-call debrief is a structured conversation that revolves around the sharing and examining of information after a prospect new business call or meeting. The conversation enables a team to discuss what went well, identify opportunities for improvement, and define next steps.
It also brings a team together, strengthens relationships, and fosters team learning.
Coach Brown of the Cleveland Browns knew the importance of using information to strengthen his team. Brown climbed from high school coaching to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His approach to film study created a blueprint for the modern NFL. He was the first coach to scout opponents through game films, leading to finesse and insight that led the Browns to three NFL championships and four AAFC titles.
Football coaches and players spend hours each week poring over film of a 60-minute game, yet in the business world, such a review of a much-shorter new business call is extremely rare. That’s unfortunate because studying the “game film” yields valuable insights.
In sales, the post-call debrief is an opportunity to “review the game film.” It helps us assess what we did well, what we did not so well and what areas we need to improve. Unfortunately, we are often so busy that we do not give the proper amount of time and attention to this debrief.
A football coach watches game film to gain insights on how the team can improve and how to prepare for the next game. As a salesperson, you should use the post-call debrief for the very same reason, gaining valuable insights into your improvement and preparation.
The Post-Call Debrief: Know What’s Been SAID
The post-call debrief is a four-step process – SAID – Schedule, Assess, Interpret, and Document. Each step is important and gets your team’s ideas and recommendations to the forefront.
Here’s a closer look.
With a formal debrief process, your team will treat the time and topic more seriously. Making the team aware of the post-call process will help them gather useful insights during the call and come prepared.
You need to schedule 15 or 30 minutes on everyone’s calendars immediately after the new business call. If not possible, it should be scheduled within a few days. The details of the call will be freshest, and you can begin to take action.
Eventually, the more you debrief, the more effective and efficient the process becomes.
This stage calls for a candid evaluation of the call. The expectation, set by the most senior leaders in the room, should be for people to learn and that one’s position on the org chart is not relevant. If those leaders make themselves vulnerable and admit to errors, it permits everyone else to do so too.
Leaders need to set guidelines for the assessment. There should be no pointing of fingers. The results, both good and bad, should be considered team results, recognizing that everyone had a hand in creating them.
The U.S. Army refers to this approach as “leaving your stripes at the door.”
Be prepared with the questions you and the team need to answer to understand the call. Here are some examples:
- Did we accomplish the goal we outlined in our pre-call plan?
- What did we do right?
- What could we have done better?
- What should we do next time?
The crux of the debrief is asking additional questions about each stage of the call and its outcomes. Ask all participants to come to the meeting with thoughts on the following two sets of questions:
- Does the prospect fit our ideal client profile?
- What are the compelling reasons for the prospect to make a change?
- What did we find out about our competition or the incumbent’s relationship with the prospect?
- What is the prospect’s sense of urgency to act?
- Do we understand their decision-making process?
- Is there truly an opportunity?
- What is the next step with this prospect?
- What assets do we need to create or provide?
- What is the timeline?
- Who will own the process?
It’s important to record the answers to those questions, especially any lessons learned, in a format that can be used for later reference and use. Using a template can be a helpful way to create uniformity across the agency and familiarity for employees.
Be sure to take notes and distribute them to all those present and other key stakeholders. Save those notes in your CRM.
It bears repeating that documentation needs to be done as soon as possible after the meeting or new business call. Memories fade fast! If the debrief is not happening immediately after the call, instruct each participant to scribble down or dictate their key impressions, thoughts, and answers to the questions above. It’ll save you hours of trying to remember details in the long run.
The biggest hurdle to debriefing is starting to do it, especially if you have a culture where this sort of open communication isn’t the norm. If you do so, your teams will be stronger, more confident and clear.
Using the SAID framework and a template for your post-call debriefs gives everyone a voice and has longer-term advantages, too. Analyzing the results of these calls gives your agency more data that can reveal patterns of behavior that can be changed. The “teachable moments” help everyone improve their approach to initial sales calls. Over time, everyone will get better and more new business will come your way.
Paul Brown made his teams champions by carefully analyzing what happened and using that information to play better. It’s a winning plan for agencies to adopt for their new business strategy.