Most sales professionals will admit to not dedicating enough time to sales call planning. However, it doesn’t have to take long to plan. Which of the following three critical sales call planning tasks do you still need to work on?
Critical Task # 1 in the Planning Stage: Identify your goals and objectives
What is your Sales Goal (long term) or desired outcome for this account?
What is your Sales Call Objective (short term) or what you want to accomplish at the next sales call?
Critical task #2 in the Planning Stage: Identify the decision makers and influencers
Are you meeting with all the right people? Are there additional people influencing the decision making process? Make the mistake of failing to identify and gain access to all the decision makers and you miss out on important sales opportunities.
Critical task #3 in the Planning Stage: Prepare the appropriate resources
What and Who do you need to bring to the sales call? Would a product demonstration help? Should you bring a technical expert or upper level manager?
Successful sales professionals follow a roadmap to effectively plan and conduct sales calls. STAR’s 12-part Essential Selling Skills online training series teaches a 6-Stage Sales Call Process and the critical tasks for each stage. Visit STAR’s Essential Selling Skills online training for more information. Module 2 Stages and Critical Tasks of Selling and Module 3 Pre-Call Planning go into more detail on the 6-stage process and how to successfully plan for sales calls.
As a former sales professional and sales manager, I saw firsthand for myself and my sales team how important it is to do pre-call planning well.
There are three critical tasks that should be done before every sales call – we call these tasks the What, the Who, and the How, for short.
The first critical task is referred to as the "What” of your plan, meaning: What specifically do you want to accomplish on this sales call? Have you set clear sales goals and sales call objectives?
This is the most important step because it ensures that every sales call should be purposeful. A sales call without an objective is a visit. You are a sales professional, not a well-paid tourist, so don’t make visits!
The second critical task of your pre-call plan is the "Who” of the sales call. Your sales goals directly influence who should be at the sales call. Who do you need to speak with, either on the phone or in person, to achieve your sales goals and objectives?
At the risk of stating the obvious — you can’t accomplish your sales call objectives if the right customer contact isn’t at the sales call.
The third critical task is the "How.” After you’ve set your goals and objectives and scheduled an appointment with the right person(s), then you should plan and organize what you will say and do during the sales call.
Depending on the specific customer situation, you might plan some (but not all) of these factors:
•How to open the sales call•Questions to ask about the customer’s needs•Benefits and differentiators to highlight about your company and product/service•Likely objections and how you will respond•Actions/next steps that you want the customer to take
For some additional reading on pre-call planning, please visit an earlier blog post: Back to Basics: Why Pre-Call Planning is Crucial. Sales managers interested in helping their salespeople improve pre-call planning skills visit the Sales Meeting Kits: Pre-Call Planning page.
Why is Pre-Call Sales Planning So Crucial?
What can be more fundamental and important than pre-call sales planning? A wasted sales call is a lost opportunity.
What Elements Should Be Considered in Pre-Call Sales Planning?
The pre-call sales planning process doesn’t have to take long, nor does it always need to be written down, but it should address these 4 core elements:
- Your Sales Call Objective: What specific results or actions do you want to accomplish with this customer at the conclusion of this sales call? Your objectives need to also take into consideration factors such as "what can I do to strengthen the business relationship with this client” and "what can I do to help this customer during these difficult times?”
- Critical Questions to Ask the Customer: A few good questions must always be part of your sales call planning process. "What has changed since our last conversation?”, "How can we help you?”and "What are you finding difficult in your business today?” are some examples. .
- Benefits and Value to the Customer: What benefits will you highlight about your sales solution? Can you offer the customer a new or different product or service that will provide value? When you do some pre-call planning on benefits and value statements, it helps you to avoid the mistake of feature dumping your way through a sales call.
- Possible Objections: Depending on the product or service that you intend to highlight during the sales call, you can probably anticipate the most likely objections. How will you respond? What is your fallback plan if the customer says no?