As a salesperson, that’s the last thing a prospect needs to hear on a sales call. If they’re going to take time out of their day to speak with you, you’d better have something better than that.
That can tell a prospect you’re lost. That can tell them you haven’t taken the time to actually understand their business. That can let them know you didn’t prepare for this call — either for lack of effort or lack of insight.
“Errr.” That just doesn’t cut it. When you’re a salesperson making a sales call, you need to have well thought-out talking points. You need to have an understanding of where the conversation could go. You need to plan.
Planning for a sales call might not be easy, but there are some concepts worth understanding and tips worth following to put yourself in a good position to succeed.
Pre-call planning is done in preparation for a sales call. It requires extensive research on your prospect’s specific challenges, industry, and competition. You use the information you collect from that research to create a model of your ideal conversation.
Pre-call planning is essentially a dry run for the real call. Though your real call may not go down as you have it sketched out, it’s still important to have that baseline preparation behind you.
It can provide a model that will help you come up with actionable solutions and prepare you for potential objections. The process should make you consider issues beyond your talking points. You should be able to identify shortcomings in your strategy and remedy them.
Pre-call planning doesn’t mean writing a script. You shouldn’t have some rigid standard of how points should flow. If you do that, you might be flustered when the conversation doesn’t go according to plan or come off as disingenuous when you constantly steer the conversation away from where the prospect takes it.
Ultimately, pre-call planning is tricky but necessary. There are some essential components you always need to address when planning a sales call.
1. Do your research.
This one might go without saying, but you need to know who you’re calling. Winging it is a bold strategy for a sales call — one that probably won’t pay off. Before calling, you should know some fundamental facts about the company in question. Who are its customers? What distinguishes it from the competition? Has it used products or services similar to yours in the past?
You should also know how far along it is in its buyer’s journey. That will be important in terms of writing relevant questions and planning for specific objections. The best way to do this is with a CRM system. By using a CRM, you’d have access to the information necessary to determine what and when a customer is looking to buy.
2. Be mindful of its competition.
It’s important to see what a prospect is doing better or worse than its competition. Understanding the edge competitors have on a buyer can help you structure your call and provide actionable solutions for them.
The same goes for any ways competitors might be underperforming. This kind of information can be an invaluable asset for planning your conversation. Consider researching the following:
• How a competitor is performing better with a specific demographic.
• Different messaging strategies that are helping similar companies.
• How its competitors are underperforming with products from your competitors.
This information will help you figure out how to best approach your conversation with a prospect and demonstrate your familiarity with its space.
3. Know your competitive strengths and weaknesses.
You have to be able to articulate what makes your product or service a better option for a prospect than your competition’s. While you should understand your buyer’s strengths and weaknesses, knowing your own is just as important.
Why should the prospect choose you? What can you offer that no one else can? Why shouldn’t it choose the option that’s X dollars cheaper or Y times faster or Z times bigger than yours?
You have to know yourself well enough to address those questions when they come up. Understand both what makes your product or service unique and where it might be lacking. That way, you can play up your strengths and prepare yourself for the objections about your weaknesses.
4. Set your SMART goal.
Sales calls are objective-oriented, so you should treat them accordingly. Your call is a means to an end, and that end should be SMART — specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely.
Know what you want out of your sales call. What, specifically, do you want from the person you’re calling? Do you want them to introduce you to executives? Offer information about their current vendors? Put in a good word for you to their company’s decision makers? Buy your product?
The objective of a sales call is to drive specific action. You’re not on the phone to figure out a reason for the call as you go. Have an outcome in mind, stick to it, and let the call revolve around achieving it.
You need to be able to look at the goals you set for your sales call and know whether you reached them. If your goal was to have your buyer introduce you to their executives, and you were able to arrange that meeting, you achieved your objective.
You know — without question — that you nailed it. Know what you’re looking for, make sure you can identify whether you were successful in attaining it, and make it your main priority.
Your goal has to actually involve someone doing something. By that, I mean you have to have something to show for it. For instance, an actionable goal would be, “By the end of this call, I will have convinced my prospect to set a meeting with company management.” That goal has weight to it. It actually means something because it revolves around a specific action with real results.
Lofty goals and daydream-esque ambitions are always great in theory. It would be awesome if you could land a meeting with the CEO of a FTSE 100 company, but that’s generally not how things play out. Know your limits just as well as you know your standards, and adjust your expectations and ambitions accordingly.
Deadlines are a key part of this process. There will be times where you’re expected to do something like arrange a demo or coordinate a face-to-face by the end of the call. Other times, your deadline might be a fixed date.
No matter the time frame, your goal has to have a clearly defined end. Getting fixated on a single case for an unreasonable amount of time is bad for you, your team, and your company as a whole.
5. Prepare some questions before the call.
As I said before, totally winging it isn’t the best approach to a sales call. You might hit lulls in your conversation with a prospect. It helps to have some thoughtful, prepared questions to keep things moving. Use your research to put together questions that demonstrate your stake in your prospect company’s business and knowledge about its industry.
For instance, if you were speaking with a representative from a midsize home appliance manufacturer about potentially purchasing a CRM, you might ask a question like, “I was going over your website, your eCommerce infrastructure looks great, but I noticed you didn’t have conversion paths for your blog. You have great content, are you generating leads from it?”
That question demonstrates a commitment to the prospect’s business while also leaving room for actionable solutions.
6. Be ready to listen and react.
As I alluded to earlier, you shouldn’t over-prepare. If you have every last word you’re going to say locked in and scripted, you might come off as too calculated, stiff, or inauthentic. A sales call is still a conversation at its core. That means you have to be genuine and give the prospect some room to take part in the dialogue. Listen attentively and respond accordingly. Get to know them to better understand what they and their organization are dealing with.
Sales calls, as a concept are naturally awkward. It’s a conversation where one party is doing everything they can to get the other to give them money in some way, shape, or form. It can feel uncomfortable and a bit confrontational.
That’s why you have to go into your calls with grace, compassion, and extensive knowledge of what you’re talking about. The best way to nail all three of those components is to plan ahead.
Do it often and do it well because “Errr” won’t help your case.
If you find that you’re saying “Errr” too often, maybe we can help.
If you found this article useful, don’t forget to subscribe to receive regular tips and ideas via the form below!