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7 Strategies for Planning a Sales Call

city pay phones on wall with graffitti for post about sales calls

Looking for help planning a sales call. In addition to this article check out the Bowties and Business Podcast Episode #3, or register for our free sales call planning guide.

Clearly you’re here because something about Planning a Sales Call attracted you. Whether you have delivered a less than optimal pitch yourself and let’s be honest it’s happened to even the best sellers, including me, somewhere along the way. Or maybe you have been on the receiving end of a less than ideal pitch this piece is here to guide you to plan for a more successful sales call. All too often we see salespeople show up to a meeting and their only goal is to plan to sell something, make a friend or just hope someone buys from them. It’s a great way to miss your quota and leave money on the table.

What follows is based on a real-world sale and the process is followed. The Sales Rep at the time was in her 3rd sales role and 5 years into a career that was about to take off.  The Customer was, in this case, a rural Hospital 3 hours from the nearest major metro and the only emergency facility in a huge county.  Like everything in life, none of this is foolproof. You have to stop, think, and plan. Planning with no hard thought and effort is better than no planning at all, but not by much. In short, you have to do what all successful people do including top-performing sales professionals and do your prep work!     

Seven tips for planning a sales call words over picure of a laptop

Be an “A” student and do your homework

Understand the company you are meeting with;  The keys to their business and industry and who their customers likely are. Know their competitors and what is going on in their world at a high level. It might seem obvious but things move quickly so even if you have looked things over a week or so outdo one last check of trade publications, their press release section of their website, or their suppliers’ websites before walking in the door.

It all starts with the agenda.

This is a multi-step process. First, use your planning tool to draft the agenda that you want but you have to do it from a perspective that considers their needs.  If it’s the first meeting then when you plan your sales call the agenda can be more about discovery, learning about their needs, and problems. If it is a follow-up sales call with a presentation or proposed solution make sure to clearly list items that were discovered, required follow up, or address topics from previous meetings. It builds consistency and moves the sale forward.

Know Your Desired Outcome

Don’t laugh it may not be to make a sale. Ultimately that may be the goal but it could be to position a product or solution and it’s benefits to the customer. Or to not make the sale if your product isn’t the right fit for the customer.  

Another thing it could be is to get a meeting with an Influencer or key decision-maker within their business. It could be to refine the specifications, understand what other options they are considering (a key insight into who you are competing with to win the business). It could be to better understand the customer’s needs.  Which leads to the next point when it comes to planning a better sales call. 

Understand Your Audience

Who will be in the room matters? Yes getting to the person with the ability to say yes and approve the purchase is important but so is understanding everyone involved in the buying decision.  Who says yes, who can say no and who has a stake financial or otherwise in the area being discussed when planning a sales call.

Using Technology sales as an example; Once upon a time, a salesperson was planning to go into a small rural hospital and help them out with a new phone system.   Phone systems aren’t usually a matter of life or death except when it comes to operating rooms and medical departments in a hospital.

As part of the rep’s meeting prep, she asked if they planned to have anyone else attend the meeting for the “final presentation”  it turned out that the IT and Telecommunications staff were going to have 3 other people there who had not met with the potential supplier.  The Head of Nursing, The “Off-Premise” Director of Patient Care, and the Head of Procurement. In understanding who was attending it gave the sales rep the chance to ask their sponsor of the meeting additional questions not just about who was attending,  Names Title’s Etc, so they could be represented on the agenda but also questions about each person’s concerns about the proposed solution.   

Plant Your Questions to Improve Discovery

Note I didn’t say plan your questions.   This is about preparing and continuing with the example above by understanding the audience it gave the sales rep planning the call the ability to get introduced to the others attending the meeting.  She had her contact in the IT and Telecom Department’s views on what each person cared about. That gave them a chance to confirm those views by planing a few questions prior to actually getting in the room with them

The Head of Nursing had some serious input on what mattered to her but also mentioned how critical the operating rooms were both from uptime and their use through transition during the implementation of any new solution. 

The Off-Premise Director of Patient Care never engaged before the meeting. Yet the conversations with her sponsor and the Head of Nursing revealed that the hospital planned to open 8 more locations around the rural county in the next three years.  Something not published yet. So what looked like a 50 device “problem” across the parking lot from the main hospital was actually nearly a 500 device opportunity in the coming years.  

Have 3 Asks

What are the 3 things you need from the meeting? Asking for the order is obvious. Asking for information, introductions, insight, and even help are all acceptable.   Other than asking for the order the 3 asks should always be focused on building the business relationship and not necessarily on the question of closing the deal.

Practice with the Team

Get everyone on your side that is involved in the meeting in a room or on a web conference to review the deck. Understand who is covering what parts, who will be in the room.  Go through the agenda. If there are suggested changes make them, adjust the content, and confirm the changes with the customer. 

Now it’s time to put in to practice the seven strategies you have just learned and plan a better sales call.

Tim Kubiak is a Business Geek, Nomad, Aging Metal Head, Nerd, & Coffee Addict. Plus the only big guy at Hot Yoga. For over 25 years he's been building high-performance sales teams globally. With over 2 billion in lifetime sales in goods and services. Tim works as a coach mentor with Founders, Business Owners, Executives, and High Performing individuals to transform companies, bring new solutions to market and achieve their professional goals.

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