Great sales start with even greater detailed meticulous planning. All the homework, research, and effort you put into your pre-call sales plan will lead to great conversations and even larger sales. The proof of this is in your own experiences and in the habits of the highly successful salespeople in your company.
Putting in the effort to plan for your sales call removes the risk of error, nasty surprises, and wasting of time. The more you prepare, the easier the sales call is. In fact it is so easy it is like having a great conversation!
Doctor, bear with me. You and I are going to be looking at this presentation for the very first time. – Anonymous Salesperson
Failure To Plan Is A Plan To Failure
Yet most salespeople do not do anything in regards to pre-call sales planning. (Looking up information in your computer before you walk in to a call does not count as pre-call sales planning. It is more like cramming for a test.) The excuses as to why not are as numerous as the stars in the sky. You have:
- I know all there is to know about my customer. I have been calling on them for years!
- I have so much to do that there is no time! Besides, I have practiced my presentation numerous times.
- The data is old, wrong, and not applicable to my customer.
- A personal favorite… Hmmm, let me think about it and I’ll look up some information after the call.
Do any of these sounds familiar? Have you said them yourself before?
You know when a call goes bad because you did not plan at all for it. Questions sound awkward. The customer is politely listening but you can see in their eyes they feel sorry for you or even begging that you end the torture. What was once an hour appointment is done in ten minutes. You never even get the chance to ask for the business and if you do it is completely inappropriate.
The sales call is so bad, so horrible, that you even consider becoming a hermit. If you do not have that insight and you cannot understand why you are not making sales… well, what does your pre-call sales plan look like?
Meticulous planning will enable everything a man does to appear spontaneous. – Mark Caine.
9 Steps To Pre-Call Planning
- Review all the sales notes, previous contracts, previous buying habits, and other information on the customer you are going to call on.
- If it is a brand new prospect – review who their vendors are, buying habits for same priced items, and how they win business.
- Review the image of the company you are going to visit by looking at their website, facebook, twitter, blog, and any other information you can find on the internet.
- If the company is public review their annual report. This will help you see how profitable they are, what their vision is for the future, and if they have announced any major plans that will effect your business.
- If you know other vendors that work with your client/customer talk to them. Find out about payments, length of contract negotiations, and who they turn to in times of trouble.
- Google who you are meeting with and where. If they are on LinkedIn, see how removed you are from them and if you can get connected.
- Compile the information from your research and look for gaps in information.
- You will turn these gaps into “areas of interest.”
- Create a hypothesis as to why these gaps in information exist.
- Write open-ended questions that will test your hypothesis and help you fill in the information gaps.
- Visualize the sales call:
- How do you expect it to go?
- What will you do if you are cut short?
- What will you do if you are given more time?
- Where do you expect the customer give you objections?
- When do you want to close the sale?
- Create anticipated objections from the information you have gathered.
- Practice your sales presentation with your questions in front of the mirror, your friends/family, and in the car.
A lot of my time was spent searching, thinking and planning my life. – Ryan White
Time Invested = Big Money
Pre-call sales planning is a time consuming process that reaps huge rewards. You are likely to spend more time on the pre-call plan than you are on the actual sales call. That is okay. It means that you are digging deep to understand more about the needs of your customer. It means that you are preparing to enter into a deep conversation that will be enlightening and have an impact.
What most salespeople do not like is the fact that proper pre-call sales planning takes time away from other things, like watching TV. Yes, you have been called out. The dirty little secret is that you, the salesperson, get paid the big bucks because you do not punch in/out on a set schedule. Sales can occur at anytime. Therefore you have to use your downtime to plan, practice, and prepare for success.
Will you use everything that you have planned for? Most likely not, but you will be prepared. That preparation equals confidence, which equals being ready for anything. Having that feeling you will walk into any presentation, sales call, or meeting looking taller, stronger, and calmer than the other people in the room. Your confidence will rub off on everyone else. You will feel as ready as ever to take on the world.
The great conversation – the magic – that happens from investing your time into pre-call sales planning will result in larger sales.
How do you plan for sales success? What are some examples of pre-call sales planning failures?