Pre-Sales / Sales Development Best Practices

On the SalesLoft blog are a few good suggestions for pre-sales efforts. You can download the infographic from SalesLoft as a PDF, which I’ve included here as a JPEG:



Active Listening

Active ListeningAnother tip, based on a few years of experience, is regarding “Active Listening”. I’ve seen some people who are naturals (you’re probably not) and most people need a regular refresher (I’m one of them). These tips are in order of how you should listen with the other person, who has some problem to solve.

1. Provide an opener: “tell me about…<the problem/topic>”

2. Provide responses: Note that casual and frequent use of words and phrases, such as: ‘very good’, ‘yes’ or ‘indeed’ can become irritating to the speaker. It is usually better to elaborate and explain why you are agreeing with a certain point.

3. Restate what has been said: Rephrase it in your own words to show you comprehend what’s being said

4. Clarify what has been said: If you need to understand more, or want to double-check that you understand it

5. Show empathy: “That sounds like a dilemma” and similar phrases help show that you really do care (don’t fake it though)

6. Help explore their options: Not all options need a fix, work-around, or purchase decision right now, but maybe in the future

7. Summarize: Repeat the main points back in a clear and logical way, and ask if you’ve understood it correctly

More tips on active listening, reflecting and clarifying are at:

Other tactics, uses and barriers to active listening are at:

Using Role Play During Sales Training

RolePlayAn important part of sales enablement is training, and an important way for adults to learn is via role play situations. The following is my guidance and outline for others looking to incorporate role play in their training sessions.

Plan to have one person play the customer/prospect and the other play the sales rep. Write up notes based on real-world calls that have worked well AND on the flow of a conversation that works for your solution and selling method. These notes will be for a person playing the customer to refer to during the role play. These should include:

  1. Pains & Challenges: Have one main pain point that the customer is willing to share, but have a few more that they only give up if the rep draws them out. This can be done by giving examples of similar customers, expanding on the initial pain, or just asking "why". This is both an information gathering step, but also an opportunity for the rep to raise issues the customer should be thinking about.
  2. Ideal Situation: Have a main goal that the customer is willing to share, but a few more that they only give up if the rep draws them out.
  3. Decision Makers: List out a few other names, titles and how they will be part of the decision making process.
  4. Timing: List out an ideal date to have a solution, some compelling events (such as end of the fiscal year, an upcoming holiday, etc.), the completion of a related project, etc.
  5. Budget: Note an expected amount the customer is willing to pay, but then the budget they actually have available, and whatever purchasing process they have vendors go through before purchasing a solution.
  6. Industry/Solution Specific: If integration with other systems is important, prepare some notes on that. If reaching a target audience is going to be important, then prepare some notes on that. And so on.

Establish the situation, such as the customer has finally agreed to have a conversation with a sales rep – maybe this is after e-mails or cold calls from a sales development rep. So the customer knows a little bit about your company, but nothing in-depth.


  1. Give the person playing the customer a few minutes to read the notes without the person playing the sales rep seeing the notes.
  2. Have the person playing the sales rep take notes as they uncover details about the customer’s situation and the sales opportunity.
  3. The customer can give up a few points, (1 per topic), but can only give up more details if the rep draws them out. This can be done by giving examples of similar customers, expanding on the initial pains & goals, and by simply asking "why". This is both an information gathering exercise, but also an opportunity for the rep to raise issues the customer should be thinking about. Ideally, the decision makers, timing, and budget details are ONLY shared if the sales rep asks about them.

The goal is for the sales rep to keep asking for information and having a productive conversation to uncover more, so eventually their notes should match the details from the customer notes.


Giving Feedback

Over the years, I have compiled a handful of tips that I share and try to refer to for my own benefit. The topic I want to share today is about giving feedback. Remember that this is my US-centric point of view, however I’ve used this with employees and peers in many countries around the world, but they always knew it was an American (me) giving the feedback.

Giving Feedback: Be direct, don’t exaggerate, and don’t make it sound more pleasant than it is. And keep the following in mind:

  1. Facts: Base the feedback on factual events. Stick to what you have observed and know, not on rumors.
  2. The Right Detail: Focus on the right detail (the big ones that matter), not all the other noise, but the specific thing you’re giving feedback on.
  3. Empathy: Offer understanding and be epenthetic, encourage joint problem solving – ask questions.
  4. Big Picture: Explain the big picture and how their action impacts it. How does the behavior affect individual or group goals?
  5. Considerate: Be very positive and focus on what you want, not what you do not want. Keep in mind the recipient’s perspective.
  6. Immediate: Give feedback immediately after the event prompting the feedback, but privately, not in front of others.
  7. Behavior: Keep it specific to their behavior. Don’t let your own views distort the specifics.
  8. Set a Goal: Focus on what to do next time. Set a goal to improve the behavior.
  9. Confirmation: Confirm the issues & goals
  10. Verify: Verify that they can do what needs to get the goal done.