Many would agree that successful sales people are flexible during sales calls. But being nimble and responsive is very different from being unprepared and simply quick on your feet. There is a certain level of improvisation that needs to occur on every sales call, but it is still critical for sellers to start every meeting with a well-crafted call plan.
All business leaders go through a journey when making a complex purchasing decision. The modern prospect can also do a lot of their research online and move through a decision journey before getting involved with a sales person. Knowing where the prospect is in their journey will enable you to ask better questions and share more relevant information.
Look at the notes in your CRM and review them to determine where the prospect is in their decision making journey. If it’s your first meeting, give them a call or send them an email with some questions that will help you figure it out allowing for a more targeted call plan.
If you start with your desired outcome in mind, you can make questions that will help you get there with the prospect. As sales professionals, one of our main jobs is to ask thought provoking questions. But how will we know what ideas to provoke in our prospect’s mind if we don’t know what we want to accomplish in the meeting?
To set goals for the meeting, ask yourself questions such as:
The outcome you are seeking from the call will determine the questions you ask and the information you should be prepared to share.
Business leaders value their time. You shouldn’t have meetings just to “touch base”. Or “have a quick chat.” Why are you having that meeting? More importantly, why is your prospect attending the meeting? What’s in it for them?
If you establish a purpose for the meeting, it will help you engineer a plan that will accomplish that goal. Determining a purpose for the call will also ensure you keep the prospect’s priorities at the forefront. We should always be thinking about why the prospect is attending the meeting and what they will get out of it.
An agenda is something that can be adjusted as the call goes on. After all, no sales call goes exactly as planned. However, it is important to think about an agenda ahead of time and know exactly what steps you will take at what point in the call. Your prospect will also appreciate the fact that there is a sense of structure to the meeting.
As I mentioned above, no sales call ever goes perfectly, and we have to improvise as the meeting goes on. If the prospect shares information that was previously unknown, you need to respond with new questions that incorporate this new information, which can be very difficult. This is why it can be useful to plan a few back-up questions ahead of time.
You can do this through research on your prospect. Read about the latest company news. Find your prospects on LinkedIn and learn about their background. There are plenty of situations where we get stuck and run out of road during a call. This is when the prepared questions come in handy the most. If you plan questions ahead of time, you know that you will never have to be frozen during the meeting because you can’t think of where to go next.
We need to provide value to our prospective customers during the sales cycle itself. Preparing and planning ahead for our sales calls is the best way to ensure that we deliver on that promise well before the prospect even thinks about signing the check.
Want to train your team in the fundamentals of consultative selling, including planning more effective sales calls? Check out our comprehensive guide to consultative selling.