Stephen Zarick, President, VO Sales Group

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Intentional Progression refers to a style of moving sales through your sales cycle.  In other words, this is as opposed to those that do not have any idea what their sales progression looks like. There is a phrase as well as a sales book by the same title “Hope is not a (sales) Strategy.”

Let me repeat this:  HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY.

Intentional Progression refers to moving your prospects through your sales steps intentionally.

Stop Lying to Yourself

I think one of the first steps in sales is … stop lying to yourself. Some prospects will never or should never move through your sales cycles because only you think they are qualified. Some just are not interested, the timing is wrong, they do not qualify, they should not be in your forecast, and they even told you this … yet you are still delusional about forecasting the opportunity or even making a sale.  These are actually what we call an opportunity cost.

“Stop Lying to Yourself”  -Stephen Zarick

Intentional Progression – Acknowledgment

When you do have a qualified prospect, and the timing is good, then this style will work for you.  Whether you have competition or not, you need to keep your prospect engaged until you get a definitive NO.  Intentional Progression embraces that Hope is NOT a Strategy and that you are leaving little to chance.  You also must acknowledge that your competitor just might be smarter than you and actually has a play book that works for them.   What is your play book?

A little story: When I was a younger man, I would tell my mother about a sale that I was working on….she would say, “Stephen, honey, just pray to God that you make that sale”, I would say, ‘but Mom, what if the other guy is praying too….which one of us will win this sale?’   and she did not have an answer for me.  Then I would push her more, “Mom, what if all the fans on one team prayed for their team to win, and all the fans on the other team prayed for THEIR team to win, and they each had the same number of fans….who is going to win?”   Mom never had an answer for me.

Unlike my prayerful mother, I am leaving little to prayer and to chance. I embrace strategies that work, practice makes perfect, scouting the competition, and having a play book where I know that I can beat my competitor.  But more importantly, I have a solution that fits my customer.  Even at my age I still do not “wing it”.  I plan, I prepare, I role play, I demonstrate empathy, I play to win and to not only win the sale, but the customer satisfaction of the deliverable, so that my competitor is backed onto their heels, not me back on mine.

Acknowledge your Competition while saying your Prayers.

Intentional Progression – The Sales Person Chase

Intentional Progression is really simple.  What we have observed over the years is the chase…the sales person’s chase.  The next step, let’s talk again, meaningless, unintentional, are you ready to buy, please take my phone call, I’m starting to feel desperate, 15 voice mails later and I have forecasted this to my boss …chase.

Many times sales people are winging the 1st appointment only to not understand why anyone should even have a 2nd appointment with them.  Then they move to the chase.  Calling and calling and calling and not understanding why the prospect does not return their call when they seemingly had a good 1st meeting probably of which the sales person did all the talking.

We could go into many other reasons as to how to run a 1st meeting, how to get a 2nd meeting and the psychology of buying signs, but this discussion is about progression.   That’s a topic for another day.

What we advise our customers to do is 1st, recognize this chase and stop it and then fix it.

 “Stop the Chase” – Stephen Zarick

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Steps of Intentional Progression

Below we are using bullets to outline how to effectively embrace Intentional Progression. Otherwise this article will become a book.

  • Each meeting in your sales cycle should have a purpose and at least an internal name for each meeting and each step.
  • Each meeting should lead into the next meeting. Intentional Progression.
  • Recognize that there are User Buyer, Technical Buyers, and Economic Buyers.
  • Recognize that there likely will be a committee of voters and influencers and all need to be satisfied.
  • Titles of meetings could be:
    • Executive Briefing
    • Discovery Call
    • Demonstration
    • Comfort Call to get past cynical customers
    • On-site meeting to meet the committee
    • A call to discuss security issues
    • A call to review your deliverable and answer specific questions of the technical buyer
    • A meeting to introduce integration issues, etc
  • Each meeting should have a function, a meaning and we think a given name.
  • Each meeting ought to satisfy at least one of the buyers on the buying committee.
  • Each meeting should lead to the next meeting, never unload the whole trunk.
  • Mention the next meeting in each meeting.
  • If using a Sales Prospector or a Sales Prospecting group have them set the 1st meeting with both  an agenda and a time commitment.
  • Then you must embrace Executive Relevant Selling.  The agenda of the 1st meeting should be relevant to the executive that is sitting in.  In other words, sometimes meetings should only be executive briefings about your financial play, other might have to be a bit deeper given the buyer.
  • The goal of each meeting is to satisfy that Buyer while setting setting the next meeting with INTENT.
  • We set the next meetings using phrases such as, “let’s cover that next time….”  or… “next time when the rest of your team is on the phone we will show you x.”
  • Control the conversation by knowing your next steps.
  • Never ask “what are your next steps”….you, the sales person should control the conversation.
  • Always have your calendar out to schedule the next meeting….take action when the buyer is in “I want” mode.

Some sales cycles have a 3 step close while others have a year’s worth of meeting since there is a long and large due diligence effort before they buy your solution. Either way, you, the sales person, need to control the conversation, control the steps, suggest next steps, be the expert, the a peer executive to your prospect and keep things moving forward to satisfy all.


If you are asking what the next steps are, if you are unaware of the buying committee, if you do not demonstrate empathy and focus on your customer, if you do not listen and all you do is present, you really do not deserve to win their business. Stop with the bad habits of presenting til death. Start listening, demonstrate empathy, solve problems, be real.

Stop the “chase” by Controlling the Conversation by Intentionally Progressing forward.


  1. Stop Lying to Yourself
  2. Make sure you have a solution that fits your prospect.
  3. Recognize the bogus chase and stop it.
  4. Embrace Intentional Progression to control the conversation.
  5. Demonstrate Empathy and Listen so you know what the prospects needs to see to satisfy them.
  6. Embrace Executive Relevant Selling.
  7. Recognize the User Buyer, the Technical Buyer, the Economic Buyer and satisfy each of them with a progression of discussions that YOU control YOU suggest, while YOU  control the Sale.
  8. Progress Intentionally

-Stephen Zarick, CEO – President, VO Group, LLC