How often do you go into a sales call or meeting and aren’t sure what to say?
It’s totally normal and common for salespeople to go into each call and wing it. If you want to succeed long term in the business of getting people to give you money, it’s massively important that you take the time and think through your conversations before they happen.
I am going to give you a few tips and a framework on how to make the most of each customer interaction.
This week, I have been listening to countless hours of sales calls for clients and looking for the areas of opportunity. And for myself, I had a few rather large sales calls too. I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of the insights I have found and a few ways you can make the most of your next sales calls.
BONUS: If you didn’t see, last week I finally launched my podcast on Sound Cloud after being hounded by my friend Jayson. It was a blast to set up and now it sounds pretty cool. I will be doing these for most of my posts so you can keep listening to the audio. Here is the link or click the play button below:
I have also created a sales call script template and training video you can buy for $19. Access it here.
If you had unlimited time, you could contact customers, spend hours getting to know them, and eventually land on some good ideas. But do you have unlimited time? No.
I don’t have time to plan!
I have heard this countless times over the years from “busy” reps. And also, most people these days tell me how “crazy busy” they are. It all comes back to the question of, “What the heck are you busy doing?”
Think about that for a second. You are busy. Others are busy. And by others, I mean your customers too. So why would you expect them to give you all the time in the world to figure out your stuff?
The more you plan your sales calls, the more effectively your present, the better you build trust, and the higher chance you have of getting a deal. If you don’t plan, it’s just a numbers game. Don’t be simply efficient, but be effective.
So the big thought is that you don’t have time NOT to plan your sales calls.
5 Steps to Sales Call Pre-Planning
So how can you do it effectively and still have time to actually make the calls?
Sales Pre-Call Plan #1: Research your markets and types of customers
You don’t have to know everything about every customer. You would go insane. But what you can do is take the time and understand these two things:
- What are the common discussions you need to have with similar decision makers? You can dramatically speed up your sales call planning by looking for the similar challenges your segments have. For example, one area I have been working on is helping business owners remove themselves from the sales process and handing off selling to reps. That is a very specific discussion, but one that has a framework that I can use with all potential clients in this space. Now I can build some assumptions, questions, and insights, to better resonate with their needs.
- How can I build insights around the industry I am selling to? Whatever industry or industries you sell into, take some time to immerse yourself in them. You don’t have to have experience in that industry, but you do have to know most of the moving parts to be seen as valuable for the sales discussion. What are some trends and factors that influence the markets your customer is in? Subscribe to newsletters, research similar websites, and even participate in Linked In forums and groups.
Sales Pre-Call Plan #2: Build some insights that will get the “ah-ha”
It is said that today’s buyers are about 60% of the way through the process before they engage with suppliers. When I talk to reps and teams, they all feel this in their worlds. That buyers are more informed than ever and increasingly commoditizing the sales process. They just ask, “What is it and how much is it?” Then you fall into the black hole of Q & A and miss the chance to sell.
Face it – you are no longer the gatekeeper of information.
But…You DO have an edge. While your buyer may have identified a problem or a need, I am sure they have only dealt with this challenge once or twice before. YOU have done it hundreds or thousands of times. The real value in every sale is YOU. You are the differentiator and YOU are the first buying decision.
In the consultative era of selling, it was normal to go in and do a deep qualification by asking a ton of questions. In today’s sales environment, you better already know the issues of your customers, the issues of their customers, and some powerful ideas they can apply immediately. Whether they buy from you or not. This is how you move from simply being a vendor or a nuisance to someone who is seen as a resource or trusted advisor. In the next section, we will look at asking questions, but it is more important for you to pre-plan those questions to build insights first.
Take some time and come up with some high level ideas or even one BIG idea that you can share with your potential customers. What is happening in the world today that you can show them the cause and effect nature of how it impacts their business. How can you show some urgency around changes in markets that helps them see opportunities or landmines?
There is a reason that only some salespeople succeed. It is their ability to find the hidden value and opportunity in every market they work in.
So grab a coffee, sit down at the coffee shop and start listing some of the big ideas and revelations you have for your customers. Remember the song, “Things that make you go hmmm.” – PS thanks Mike Bunker!
Here are some of the areas you should explore to build your insights:
- Are there new trends that they should be aware of?
- Who are your customers customers, suppliers, and partners? How does that supply chain function and what challenges exist?
- Have there been any shifts in the market that are pushing them to change?
- Are there specific financial, operational, or regulatory concerns or priorities that we may need to consider?
- What is happening either internally or externally that is causing them to take action? The “why now” question.
- Are they growing, shrinking, or holding on?
- Is their market growing or declining?
- How have customers in their industry changed?
Sales Pre-Call Plan #3: Write out some awesome questions
In my video post on SPIN Selling, I reviewed a method for building questions which, in a sense, still works today. The key to questions is to not ask basic, surface questions, but rather to ask a good question, and then dig deeper to gain insights. Don’t make it feel like you are an interrogator.
Go back to my post where I cover the three part sales conversation for a more detailed framework. Essentially, you need to use questions to more effectively help your customer frame the problem, rather than you rushing to solve it. I see this happen way too often where reps just try and jump in and anticipate the needs. That will not only cost you potential business, but it reduces the chance for you to find hidden value.
Your ability to provide insights and use questions to help them frame their challenges better will open up more non-competitive deals and increase the average dollars per sale.
The questions from SPIN Selling you want to ask are called “implication” and need-payoff” questions. But take it a step further. The goal is to get a deeper understanding and show your customers all the moving parts. Your questions, done correctly, build insights as well.
Here are some questions you can build:
- “Why did you decide or choose…?”
- “How do you plan on doing…?”
- “What will the impact be if you did this?”
- “Who else is affected by this or should be involved?”
- “What happens if you don’t do this?”
- “What else is possible if you took action on this?”
- “Why is now a good time to explore this?”
- “Do you see any trends in your industry that are either making you nervous or excited?”
The key to these questions are to open the dialogue, so you can identify a deeper question and create a more comprehensive discussion. Your real sales value is your ability to facilitate a dialogue. Not to just pitch a product.
Sales Pre-Call Plan #4: Have multiple commitment objectives
Your only goal in selling is to move things forward. If you aren’t getting commitment, you aren’t doing your job.
“Let me take this and think about it” and “Okay, let me know what you think” is not the way your calls should end.
Every call you have or meeting you go to, make sure you prepare different commitment objectives that you will be asking for. You want a primary objective, a secondary, and a tertiary. Each one is designed to allow your customer to take a step that is the right size, while still getting them to take a step.
If you take a look at my post on buyer stages, you will see that at each stage, you should have multiple commitment objectives as well.
- Primary – Get the sale or the appointment
- Secondary – have them review a whitepaper, watch a video, fill a survey, set up a secondary meeting with other key stakeholders
- Tertiary – set another meeting/call with a specific objective to move it forward or not
I will go back to what I read in The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes where he said, “If you truly believe that your prospect should benefit from your product or service, it’s your moral obligation to help them make a decision and get on with their lives.”
Think about that for a second.
It is your MORAL OBLIGATION to help people make decisions. Read more about that on my post on influence.
- Know your markets – become one with them
- Build some insights to get an ah-ha
- Craft some killer questions that help your customers frame problems
- Prepare multiple commitment objectives
Once you get good at doing these four things, it will take less and less time. You will have insights pre-built, questions that work, and you will position yourself as someone of influence in your market.
And, of course, this is all about testing. Once you build it, you have to see what works. But by following a framework, you will eliminate most of the hard work that comes from winging it.
It will make your life easier and more importantly, make your conversations fun and energized. Your customers will want you to speak with them and ask you your thoughts ahead of time. You will get more deals from your key accounts and build long term partnerships.
Or…you can tell yourself you are too busy to plan.
Put this to the test. Take an hour this week and write these ideas out. Then test them. Land on just ONE thing that made an impact.
In the next post, I am going to talk about the pre-call thing that is even more important than all of this…your mindset and energy.
Let me know if I can help