For many people in business, the sales call can fill them with dread. Running a good sales meeting or call can be tricky, not least because you can’t script it.
You don’t want to appear nervous but you can’t run it by the seat of your pants, so it’s important to strike a balance, and to do that, you need to prepare.
Here are our suggestions for effective sales call planning.
1. Conduct extensive research on your prospect’s business and industry.
First and foremost try to understand what your prospect is dealing with. What’s happening in their industry, with their competition, and their financial situation. This should give you a sense of how to explain the real value that your product or service can offer them.
We talked about how to define your true value in our article, Your Value Is Not What You Do, It’s Why You Do It.
2. Understand who you need to talk to.
It should go without saying but you need to know as much as you can about the person you’re going to be talking to, especially their role and their decision-making authority. The value of a conversation with someone lower in the organisation chart won’t be the same as a conversation with a C-level executive.
But it shouldn’t end there; you should also do some more personal research on your prospect.
LinkedIn is the obvious place to start. How long have they been at their company? How long have they been in the industry? What are their specific responsibilities? Do they have any other content like posts, articles or thought leadership content that can offer some insight into their expertise and personality?
Having this level of insight helps you improve your pre-call planning and help you judge what tone to use when you talk, the specific points you’ll stress, and the degree of technical knowledge you’ll need to demonstrate.
3. Do you and your prospect have any common connections?
One element of successful selling is trust, and there are a number of ways you can build it and one of the most effective means of doing so is referring to mutual contacts. If you can talk about your relationship with someone your client trusts and respects, you can add a new degree of legitimacy to your call.
4. Define your goals for the call.
Not every call you make or meeting you hold will immediately result in a sale. Typically that’s not even the overall objective. What you want or can expect out of a call will totally depend on where you are in the sales cycle and who you’re talking to.
Perhaps your call is to learn more about your individual point of contact. It could be to better understand the circumstances of the specific team you’re targeting or the company as a whole. You might be trying to move the deal forward by getting put in touch with someone up the food chain — ideally with decision-making authority.
The point is that you need to know what you want out of your call. That will set the tone and dictate the nature of the conversation. If you’re engaging in a preliminary phone screen with a mid-level manager, you’re probably going to focus on asking thoughtful questions and accruing the right information.
If you approach a conversation like that trying to immediately close a deal, you’re going to put your prospect off.
5. Prepare any supporting materials you might need.
You may well need to be able to reference relevant information, whether that’s technical, process-oriented, or simply anecdotal evidence of how you’ve helped other customers. It can be hard to remember all of that, and you shouldn’t expect to. So make sure you have some support materials on hand to help you explain the ins and outs of your product or service.
Technical specs, case studies, and specific insight about your prospect’s company can and should be at your disposal for your call. Gather whatever you can that you feel will help guide you through the process.
6. Prepare the key questions you want to ask.
In asking thoughtful, relevant questions, you’re demonstrating that you took the time to understand the nuances and vagaries of your prospect’s business.
Preparing questions ahead of time might sound like scripting (which you really should avoid), but it’s not quite the same. Thoughtful questions help you to start a discussion and using open questions encourages your prospect to do most of the talking.
Show that you understand how the company is operating, its place in its industry, and how its industry functions as a whole. That way, your prospect knows you value their time and potential business.
7. Consider the objections and questions your prospect might have.
Try and think a few steps ahead when pre-call planning, so familiarise yourself with the most common objections you deal with during your general sales efforts and plot compelling responses for your upcoming call.
Make sure you also apply your company research here. Identify concerns that your prospect, specifically, might raise. Try to see if you can see if there are problems that are particularly relevant to their industry, businesses of similar size, or companies operating under similar financial circumstances.
Pre-call planning can be tedious and frustrating, but if you want to make the most of your sales calls, you have to do it right. Cover all your bases before you get on the phone.
Make sure you know what you want out of the call. Know who you’re talking to and what they’re dealing with, and be ready to maintain authority throughout the conversation while still giving your prospect room to participate. Calculated preparation is key to addressing all those points.
Are you or your team failing to prepare for sales calls? Perhaps we can help.
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