Ahhhhh the sales call. This is where the magic happens in any buyer’s journey. When it goes right, a sales call qualifies your buyer, drives enthusiasm, and sets the final deal in motion. But done wrong, it can eliminate trust, tarnish your brand, and send leads headed for the hills – permanently.
There’s a lot riding on a sales call. And if you don’t come to the table with a strategic Pre-Call Plan, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
When we’re working with the sales professionals in our community at the Selling Made Simple Academy, the salespeople who love their calls tend to do more pre-call preparation than the folks who don’t enjoy them.
The good news is that this pre-call preparation can be done in just a couple of minutes too.
So if you want to find yourself much more relaxed, focused and effective in your next sales call, then let’s start building your Sales Pre-Call Plan.
Step one is conducting a brief yet thorough buyer review.
Before picking up the phone, give yourself a few minutes to open your CRM and LinkedIn to read up on the person you’re going to be speaking to.
Now you don’t have to go too crazy with the details here. Just get enough information to inform the rest of your research and planning.
Try to answer these questions before you move on through the rest of your pre-call planning:
- When was the last time you spoke with this person?
- What has changed in their world this month?
- Are they qualified to do business with you?
2. Catch Up
Next you should have a couple of questions in your mind to bring everyone who’s involved in the conversation up to speed so you’re all at the same point in the sales process.
Have these questions lined up before dialing so you’re ready first thing.
Your catch-up questions could be:
- You’re still in the market to change X in your business, right?
- We’ve just made X change with our product. Do you think it could solve your Y problem?
- Is it fair to say that X is…?
I jot these catch-up questions down before each call so I have a firm starting point for every conversation.
You’re not going to close a sale on every call you have with a buyer. But it is important to always have a goal for the call that pushes the buyer forward toward a close. That way, you’ll always have an endpoint in mind. And you’ll naturally nudge prospects down that path, even if you aren’t doing it consciously.
Now additionally, I like to get the buyer to agree on the goal of the call before I make it. I usually do this at the end of the email setting up the call or at the end of the earlier phone conversation.
This is super simple to do too. All it takes to close the agreement on the next call’s goal is to say:
“On our next call, does it make sense to do X?”
If they say “yes” then you’ve got a clear goal for your next call. If they say “no” then you ask:
“What agenda for next week’s call would make sense?”
And you can work out the new agenda from there.
Again, it’s a simple step but it’s incredibly important.
Now step four is all about doing your objections homework. One of the traits of high-performing salespeople that we’ve uncovered with our research at Salesman.org is that high performers are optimists.
It’s not rocket science. If you never think anyone will close, you won’t make an effort to close them. This leads to a vicious cycle of a lack of personal belief and zero deals getting done.
So most high-performing salespeople are optimistic about the outcomes of their selling conversations.
With that said, it’s worthwhile to spend a minute to ponder what objections might come up on your upcoming call.
Now if you’ve been selling your solution for a while now, you may know the best responses to these objections already. If you’re new to the industry, it may take some studying.
I personally don’t write these objections out and make up a rebuttal for each and every one of them, for every single phone call. But I do predict what might come up ahead of time to give my subconscious brain a little time to process some possible rebuttals.
If you’re new to sales, you should keep an “objection journal”. An objection journal is a notepad where you write down any new objections that come up in conversations. Objection journals let you see what objections come up regularly so that you can then spend a little time coming up with a rebuttal for the most common issues you face.
5. Support Materials
Finally, in your pre-call planning you should pull together any information or materials that could make your call run more smoothly.
Nothing makes you look more amateur than having to fill 3 minutes of awkward silence on the phone as you try and find that piece of paper that you need from your messy work bag. Case studies, product catalogs, testimonials, use cases, whatever. Anything you need to help you sell, get it together before jumping on the call.
So pull together everything you might need for your call beforehand. And bonus points if you’re using either an overpriced “sales enablement” software tool or even better, something like Evernote to manage your selling materials.