What is a “predictable sales canvas” and what should it mean for you?

Technically this article is about:

Sales triggers, entry point offers and ideal sales conversations.

In reality it‘s about:

Being human, being sequential and don’t ask for marriage on the first date. Yes, asking the wrong questions too early hurts!

Let’s try a relatable, everyday sales example to start here: let’s say you land on a website for a type of, say, razor that you were interested in. You’ve heard about this razor from a few people and seen an ad or two, but you don’t know much about it. So you land on their website and

BAM, here’s a pop-up for 20% off. OK, 20% off sounds nice, sure, but you don’t know anything about the product or the mission of the company yet.

Then BAM, here’s another pop-up for a trial offer — and this time you don’t have to pay for 30 days, so that’s cool, but BLOOP, here’s another immediate sell for something, and now they want you on their email list, and eventually you just navigate off. At least if you go look at razors at the drugstore, people probably won’t be all over you with up-sells before you’ve even seen the packaging.

This is a small, non-B2B example, yes. But it’s very common in how people structure their sales process these days, in both B2C and (sadly) B2B.

The common joke or analogy you’re going to hear is “Asking for marriage on the first date.” Now look, some guys in human history have done that and it’s probably worked. There are a few romantic comedies out there about that very idea. But in general, on a first date when you’re still figuring out her hometown and how she might look with no makeup, are you really thinking about asking for marriage?

Most are not. But we still structure too much of sales this way, in order to hit that target and move towards that number as quickly as possible. Is it also because our Sales Directors push us with: “What are you waiting for? You met him, now send him the damn offer!”?

There is a better way.

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The Predictable Sales Canvas

The four-step process in a predictable canvas is:

  • A triggering event
  • A request for action
  • An ideal sales conversation
  • A purchase

A “triggering event” opens essentially a window of opportunity. The easiest example is holidays — entire businesses are built around sales at the holidays. Smaller examples are promotions (people new to their roles might look to build new systems, which means they’re probably going to investigate some new B2B products), or getting hairy and having your girlfriend complain in the razor example above.

Triggering events are triggers for the buyers (you call them out with marketing) but also for business development reps to actively reach out to them.

A “request for action” is a micro-commitment. Please focus on the word “micro.” Again, you don’t need a “Yes!” when you’re on a bended knee. You just need a little time (a meeting) or a little money (a trial pack). When you get a yes on a “micro-commitment,” the next step in a process is inherently just the continuation of a process they initiated. In the dating context, coffee is the ultimate “request for action.”

The ideal “sales conversation” just builds on the last parts. If you’re flowing this right, an ideal sales conversation is essentially “Well, since you did this the obvious thing to do next would be…”

A good coffee meetup = dinner becomes the ideal sales conversation. (Promise we’ll stop talking about relationships as sales after this, but in reality everything is a sale to some extent.)

B2B widgets? Move them from a trial stage or an initial consultation call towards a customized demo. Razors online? Send them a trial pack, ask them what they liked/didn’t like, see how they’d like to customize their next order. Move the process forward logically.

“Purchase” is where you make money. Congrats. But if you want repeat purchase, you need to keep them engaged around the end product, what they can do with it, how it’s made their life better, maybe incentivize them to tell their friends. That’s how both GMail and Dropbox initially grew.

Build a community around the idea and repeat purchase will become more normative. It’s much easier to build a repeat purchase ecosystem than to always be chasing new leads and customers — so remember that in the context of burning out your best salespeople.

The bottom line on all this

Logical sequencing. That’s all sales is. No one wants a marriage proposal before coffee, and no one wants 12 pop-ups and email list requests before they’ve even seen what you can offer.

A predictable sales canvas is logical and comforting to the human brain, and you’ll move a prospect — or future wife, BAZINGA! — along in a way that makes sense for the “close” (we’re not going to call a relationship a “purchase” since this isn’t the 1500s).

What are the triggering events and the next steps (required actions/micro-commitments) in your case? How seamlessly can you flow a lead through that transformation?

Want some help? We’ve got a workshop on generating predictable revenue in the DACH market, as well as a B2B sales essentials page and a B2B sales service package.

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