Have you ever had a perfect sales call? One where everything went just like you planned? Spoiler alert: There is no perfect sales call. But with planning and preparation great salespeople achieve their sales call goals every time.
Do You Plan Your Sales Calls?
I’ve been reading The Seller’s Challenge by Thomas Williams & Thomas Saine (Tom & Tom for short). On page 31 they begin a discussion of “harsh realities of the sales call.” Tom & Tom encourage sellers to plan the sales call. If you have been reading my blogs for a while you may remember my favorite quote from General Eisenhower: “In planning for battle I have found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
I agree with Tom & Tom that the perfect sales call begins with a plan. Great salespeople know what they want to accomplish during the sales call and how they plan to reach those goals. But they are also students of history and know every sales call will take off in unexpected directions. Nevertheless, great salespeople are diligent planners.
Elements Of The Perfect Sales Call
Great salespeople know that a sales call is not a scripted play with written parts for each participant. But to be effective they know a sales call plan must contain:
- The contact’s name and title
- Date, time and location of the appointment
- Objective of the sales call
- History of this sales pursuit
- Next step in the sales process
- Trigger questions to ask
- Compelling opening and closing statements
When done effectively a sales call plan will help the seller lead the buyer to the desired conclusion.
Sales Call Objective
Every sales call needs a reason for making the investment. In one-call-close situations the reason is to get the order. In long sales cycle selling processes the seller needs to move the buyer along toward the successful close. Great salespeople know whether they are prospecting, qualifying, presenting or closing. Maybe the sales call is to maintain the relationship and get feedback on performance. The primary objective is always the focus of the sales plan.
Where Are You In The Sales Process?
Every sales pursuit has a process. The sales call plan outlines the history of the pursuit to date. What has gone before? What is now known about the buyer and their team? How concerning is the problem they are interested in solving? Are they talking with competitors? Have you identified the key selling points needed to close the deal? What are the roles of the various buyer team members? Who has the power to decide in your favor? Is their budget sufficient to solve the problem? Knowing the history of the pursuit to date can help you plan the perfect sales call.
What’s The Next Step?
If you are chasing a one-call close, the next step is to deliver the product or service. For longer sales cycle projects each sales call needs to end with a plan for going forward. What will you commit to doing? What do you want the prospect’s team to do next? As Tom & Tom say: “Each sales call should end with a commitment from one or more stakeholders that moves the buying process forward.”
What Are You Going To Ask?
To get to that next step a great salesperson includes trigger questions in the sale call plan. These are well thought out questions to get the information needed to close the sale. The trigger questions ask for the commitment to move the process forward. Since the process of the sales call is rarely linear, thinking of how the sales call might veer off track and questions to bring it back prepares the seller for the inevitable detour.
Begin With The End In Mind For The Perfect Sales Call
Perfect sales calls begin and end with compelling statements. The opening statement tells the buying team why they should invest time in this meeting and what you expect to have happen. Great salespeople get commitment from the buying team on the objectives for the meeting before moving on. The ending statement reviews progress, gets agreement on common understanding of the buying process so far and confirms the commitment for the next steps. The concluding statement crafted during the planning will be modified based on the conversations during the meeting. Like I said at the beginning, no sales call will go exactly as the seller plans so be prepared to modify your planned summary. Then confirm the next step.
Don Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford