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5 real-life examples of assignment selling in action Blog Feature

Tom DiScipio

VP of Client Success, Managing Partner, Speaker, 8+ Years Sales & Client Success Expertise

December 17th, 2019 min read

The theory behind assignment selling posits that the more educated the prospect, the faster the sales process, and the higher the close rate.

Accordingly, salespeople at IMPACT ask (or assign) prospective clients to read or view specific materials so that they can be better prepared for a deeper sales conversation.

We’re able to do this by leveraging the trove of content from our website to educate our prospects and build trust with them.

However, a theory is just a theory until it’s put into practice.

How do salespeople know the right content to assign? How much “homework” is too much? What’s the proper timeline?

Here’s an inside look at how and why we use assignment selling at various stages of the sales process, and what we do when issues arise.

Situation 1: Qualifying a lead for fit and commitment

On IMPACT’s website, there are several ways for a visitor to convert into a lead.

This happens either through the live chat, by filling out a standard form, or by booking time directly on our calendar to speak.

In any of those instances, the next step is an initial 10 to 15-minute conversation between the prospect and IMPACT to understand two things:

  1. How ready and committed are they to making a purchasing decision? 
  2. Do they need our help — and can we help them?

We use the answers to those questions to dramatically reduce wasted time by sales reps in later stages of the sales process. Note that they’re in a specific order as well.

We gather intelligence around question #1 by using assignment selling prior to the call (see below).

Once the assignment is completed, data for the second question is gathered during the call.

Putting it into action

Below is an example of an email template we’ll use to prepare prospects for our first call together:

Hi [prospect name],

I'm looking forward to connecting with you. To be sure we use our time effectively, here are a few articles that will help you become more familiar with our agency and our approach to digital sales and marketing so you can determine if we're the right fit for your organization.

Why We Need to Rethink the Relationship Between Client and Agency 

A Revolutionary Approach to Digital Sales and Marketing

Here is a link to my calendar. Please book a time that is convenient for you.

Why this matters

Our Editorial Content Manager, John Becker, put it best when he said, “We need to make sure we have alignment and are breathing the same air.”

It’s true — a prospect reading the first article may have some concerns bubble up based on what they’re looking for and how we typically work with clients, ultimately negating the first conversation altogether. This is a good thing!

The most precious commodity in any business, aside from trust, is time. And we all know our sales teams can use more time speaking to qualified prospects instead of unqualified ones.

However, should the prospect align with our philosophies, you can bet further conversations will be more meaningful.

Beyond philosophical alignment, we also hold the prospect accountable to committing to the next stage of the sales process by having them book the meeting. A commitment here ensures follow-through later in the sales process.

Situation 2: Ensuring prospects are educated

Upon successful completion of the initial 10 to 15-minute conversation, the next step is to make sure the prospect is well-educated prior to the next, more in-depth conversation with the sales rep.

We do this in a similar fashion to the situation above, with the key difference being the assignment of more specific pieces of content related to the services the prospect is most interested in.

You’ll notice a theme here: We use assignment selling to take advantage of the space between conversations, keeping prospects active and engaged. This is not only a continual test of their commitment, but it forces them to self-educate along the way.

Putting it into action

By this point, we’ve already established fit and need, using the data from our initial call, to generate prospect-specific content such as consulting engagement details, paid media services, or insourcing versus outsourcing.

Hi [prospect name],

It was so great speaking with you today!

I'm cc'ing Marc Amigone who you'll be speaking to next Wednesday at 9am. He and I will connect prior to your call so he's up to speed with everything we discussed.

As promised, below are a few specific resources that will be important for you to read prior to your conversation with Marc:

  • Paid Media: This is our paid media services page which dives into the different services we offer and a range of costs
  • Case studies representing the success other businesses like yours have achieved through the above

Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Why this matters

Assignment selling helps us to address a major challenge we’ve faced in the past: prospects asking the same, high-level questions over-and-over, in every call — questions that are already answered in content we’ve produced.

Marc Amigone, a digital sales and marketing advisor here at IMPACT, sums it up nicely by articulating the following:

“I use assignment selling for two reasons:

  • I'm lucky to work for a company whose marketing team spends hours upon hours creating and organizing resources to educate our prospects and generally make my life easier, so I owe it to them to leverage that content in my sales processes as much as possible
  • I use assignment selling because it works. Content does a better job of educating and informing prospective clients than I ever will, so I love taking advantage of the opportunity to save my and my prospects' time whenever possible.”

With educated prospects, subsequent calls can be more efficient and productive.

Situation 3: Prospect doesn’t complete assignment

As you might imagine, there are times when a prospect doesn’t complete the required assignments.

At this junction, we have two options:

  1. We can choose to move forward with the next sales conversation in hopes that the process will progress as planned.
  2. We can postpone the next sales conversation until the prospect can confirm that they’ve completed the assignment.

One of the above sounds like the natural path a sales rep would take, while the other sounds incredibly counterintuitive to closing more sales.

Saying to a prospect “it doesn’t sound like you’re ready to move forward,” might sound crazy… and to organizations with an inefficient sales process, it is.

However, in almost every instance, we’ve discovered that choosing "option two" maximizes a sales rep’s time and leads to more won opportunities.

Putting it into action

The following is an actual email exchange between the prospect and Genna Lepore, another digital sales and marketing advisor here at IMPACT:

Hi [prospect name],

Confirming our 2:45pm EST call today.

This is a reminder to make sure you have had time to take a peek at the below resources before we speak. If not, it may make sense to reschedule :) I want to ensure we make the best use of our time together.

If you haven't had time to peruse the above material, here is my calendar to book another time.

Keep me posted!

Genna

Prospect's response:

Hi Genna,

I haven’t even started yet… Very sorry about that! I will reach out once I read through the articles.

[prospect name]

 

Why this matters

One of the main purposes of assignment selling is to help sales reps spend time with the most qualified, committed, and engaged prospects — the ones most likely to become clients.

According to Genna, “If a prospect hasn’t completed the assignment selling homework or taken the time to understand who IMPACT is, the conversation stays at a very elementary level. It isn’t the best use of our time — especially when trying to hit our end-of-month sales goals. ” 

Genna saved both parties an hour’s worth of an unproductive call, and was able to reallocate her time with a more sales-ready prospect.

(It’s also worth noting that the prospect mentioned above did voluntarily book a new time to speak with Genna after completing the assignments.)

The natural byproduct of this postponing approach is also quite counterintuitive.

In most cases, one might think that pushing the meeting would frustrate the prospect.

But on the contrary, we’ve come to find that prospects appreciate our dedication to ensuring they’re educated enough to get the most out of the conversation.

Situation 4: Aligning a new client’s team

At IMPACT, we’ve found the practice of assignment selling to be so valuable that its use-cases have extended beyond the sales process and into the new client onboarding process.

If you’re an agency or you’ve ever worked with one, you’ll know that there’s a lot that needs to be communicated as the relationship gets started. This can include expectations around what’s being done, strategic direction, homework, or outcomes.

For that reason, we use assignment selling as a tool during our onboarding process to align clients through reference-able, documented content (written and video) versus simply relying on verbal communication. 

Putting it into action

Below is an example email used to support one of our client’s CEOs in creating internal team alignment around implementing They Ask, You Answer as a way of doing business within their organization.

Hi [client name(s)],

Great meeting with you all today! Please watch the 3-minute video recap of our meeting and, if necessary, share with the rest of your team.

Below the video, you'll see some homework with corresponding links and resources that are referenced in the video.

VIDEO RECAP

[INSERT VIDEO RECAP (we use Vidyard's GoVideo to do this quickly and easily)]

LINKS, RESOURCES & HOMEWORK

  • Homework:
  • Visualize a successful They Ask, You Answer Implementation: The two success story videos in the links section below show exactly the outcomes we should be looking to achieve and the specific things we should be doing to get there together. Please watch the two success story videos below.
  • Align the rest of your team on They Ask, You Answer principles: Per my recommendation in the video above, you can improve your internal team’s alignment and buy-in by watching the following two videos as a team, perhaps during a company lunch:

We've got a couple of weeks until we meet again which should be ample time to complete the above homework. Remember that by completing the above you’ll dramatically improve your internal team’s alignment AND have much more productive conversations with your IMPACT consultant.

So... the sooner you can tackle it... the better for sure!

Thanks - and as always, let me know if you have any questions.

Talk soon!

Tom

Why this matters

By using written and video content to align with our clients, we create a shared doctrine and understanding that can be distributed beyond our point of influence to the rest of the organization, without risk of losing the impact of the original message.

Situation 5: Assignment selling when sponsoring or exhibiting at an event

Over the past few years, IMPACT has done quite well at generating follow-up sales appointments from events where we’ve exhibited.

Here’s a simplified version of our typical workflow on the trade floor:

  1. Prospect comes to the booth
  2. They qualify us through a series of “so what do you do” questions
  3. We qualify them through a series of “needs assessment” questions
  4. If they agree it makes sense for us to continue speaking after the event, we set up a sales appointment via our calendar links right away
  5. Prospect walks away and we move on to the next conversation

However, it was only in the last year where we saw an opportunity to leverage assignment selling to improve the quality and effectiveness of those post-event follow-up conversations.

Putting it into action

To do this, we inserted a couple of actions between steps four and five above.

Instead of allowing the prospect to leave the booth and hope that they remember they’ll be having a conversation with us in a week or so, we ask them to do something in the meantime.

We ask them to read the book They Ask, You Answer prior to the conversation. We have copies of the book in our booth, and hand it to prospects, but only if they actually promise they will crack it open and read it.

You might be thinking a couple things at this point…

The first is, “Did you really make them promise you?” Yes, we absolutely did.

The second is, “That’s a lot to ask of someone.” It sure is. But again, it’s important for any sales organization to be absolutely certain that they’re spending time with the prospects that are going to put in the same level of effort.

Below is a high-level version of what this script looked and sounded like.

IMPACT: So with everything that we’ve discussed thus far, do you feel like it makes sense for us to continue the conversation?

Prospect: Yeah, absolutely. I think I’d like to include my VP as well.

IMPACT: Awesome — I think so too. So I’ve got Marc’s calendar up on the screen here... Is there a specific day and time that works best for you both?

Prospect: Let’s do Wednesday, the 24th at 3:30pm ET.

IMPACT: You got it. Since we’ll be spending more time together, I want to make sure you’re able to have the most productive conversation possible with Marc. Everything we talked about today was a highlight from the philosophies outlined in this book: They Ask, You Answer. Before that conversation with Marc in two weeks, can you promise me that you’ll get through at least the first 100 pages if I give you the book?

Prospect: Yeah, I’m a pretty avid reader so that should definitely be enough time for me to get through it. 

IMPACT: Really glad to hear that. And I promise that by the time you’re done with it, YOU’LL be the one leading the conversation with Marc!

Prospect: Ha! That’s great. Really looking forward to it.

 

Now we all know that with the whirlwind of an event or tradeshow, there’s always the risk of our prospects’ assignments falling by way of other competing priorities.

So below is an email template we send a few days later in advance of the follow-up sales conversation as a check-in to confirm that they haven't forgotten about the meeting and have completed the reading.

Hi [prospect name],

Everyone at IMPACT enjoyed meeting you at [event name]!

I recorded a quick 1 minute video for you below.

[insert 1-minute GoVideo]

As you know, we have a meeting scheduled on [meeting date] to continue to talk about They Ask, You Answer and how you can get started with it at [prospect company].

You received a copy of the book. During our meeting, we'll discuss what about it resonates most as it relates to your organization, so please come prepared. If you’re not able to get through the reading, please let me know now so we can find a better time to connect.

Otherwise, I'd encourage anyone else in your organization, in leadership, marketing or sales who shares your mindset of becoming the most trusted voice in your industry to also attend our meeting.

Here are a few additional resources to get your team members up to speed quickly:

Kind regards,

[salesperson]

 

Why this matters

Assignment selling is the connective tissue between the event and an effective, follow-up sales appointment.

Without it, we risk allowing our sales efforts on the trade floor to be wasted on no-shows or prospects who aren’t ready for the buying process.

If we go back to what the sales objective really is, it’s about booking the most qualified sales appointments, NOT the greatest number

Key takeaways

At IMPACT, we have found assignment selling to be a crucial tool in educating prospects and strengthening the sales process.

At times, we ask ourselves to fight against our instincts — by pushing a meeting back or cancelling outright — but we’ve always seen our ultimate sales goal as booking the most qualified sales appointments.

If we can educate our prospects about our company, our track record, and our philosophy, we can move more quickly through the sales process, knowing we can skip certain questions that can best be answered by content.

In turn, our process is shorter, our leads are more qualified, and our sales reps are more productive. 

At every stage of the process, we have content specifically designed to assist our sales reps. If they find there’s something they need that doesn’t exist, we ask our marketing team to produce it. As a result, we are consistently becoming more efficient.

What’s more, our prospects can see how committed we are to our central tenets, and this dedication builds trust and demonstrates transparency.

For us, assignment selling is a vital part of what we do, benefiting our team members and our prospects as they move along the path to becoming clients.

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