Let’s be honest most of you reading this missive don’t routinely plan for sales calls and you haven’t’ written out a sales call plan in years.
This is not meant as a criticism. It’s just fact, based upon our experience and informal polls in working with sales organizations all over the world and in a variety of industries. The most common reasons for not formally planning sales calls are as follows:
- Call planning is for beginners or amateurs. Pros don’t need to plan.
- I have been selling for years and I know what I am doing and don’t need a plan.
- Sales calls are fluid and they cannot be planned.
- I am at or above my quota every year. I know what I am doing without formal call planning.
The reality is that when “buyers” are asked about the effectiveness of the sales professionals that call on them, only 36% believe the sales calls were effective.1
We are not going to debate the pros and cons of call planning and whether it should be done verbally or in writing, but we will offer a few reminders about sales call planning and execution as food for thought.
A Few Gentle Reminders!
- Until you know what the customer is buying you don’t know what you are selling. You learn this by asking well worded questions that encourage the buying influence to provide you with a quantity and quality of information. When you plan you ask better questions.
- A sales call is a live performance. If you can’t effectively role play it with a peer or peers then you’re probably ineffective with customers. You may get orders and you may make quota but you’re not a professional. Remember even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while. Planning allows you to role play the call in your mind and ensure that you are prepared and confident.
- A sales call is focused; it’s focused on action. It must advance the buying process. It’s difficult to do this in a positive, professional manner that builds relationships without planning.
- In a sales call you are asking someone to give you professional time. During every sales call you must provide value that allows them to meet their business goals. The buyer’s currency is their time and they put a dollar value on it. You don’t get repeat meetings unless your effective and the buyer makes that decision. Planning ensures that you will be able to articulate value.
- In every sales call you control who you call on, what questions you ask and what information you provide. Planning improves your effectiveness.
- A sales call is your chance to develop or deepen relationships, build credibility, address concerns and communicate a vision that solves a business problem. Planning prepares you for the likely situation that you will face and ensures that you have a sound call strategy.
- There is no second call unless the first call went well. While you may get lucky and roll 7s eventually everyone loses. Planning lessens the likelihood of this mishap.
- It was a good sales call if the buying influence felt it met or exceeded their expectation. Remember they are the judge and jury; your opinion doesn’t matter. Planning forces you to think about the sales call through the lens of the buyer and not yours.
- Don’t confuse a customer visit with a sales call. They are different. Planning ensures that you have a specific purpose to meet with the buying influence and that purpose is meaningful to them.
- You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Planning keeps you from being a talking leaflet and it reminds you to listen!
- You cannot connect your product, service or solution or provide differentiation until you know what the buying influence wants to accomplish, fix or avoid. Proper planning allows you to ask insightful questions so that you can differentiate properly.
- Every sales call should end with an action commitment. If you don’t end with a measurable next step you have made a visit and not a sales call. Planning ensures that you define in advance the best and minimum actions that you desire to keep investing your time with this buying influence.
- A sales call is focused on the buying influence and what they want to accomplish, fix or avoid. It’s not about what you are selling. If you don’t ask insightful questions then you are pitching product. Most sales representatives cannot ask good insightful questions without planning.
Customers do business with you because you help them satisfy their customers, run their business more effectively and make money.
A few quotes are worth remembering.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin;
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln
and our favorite
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra.
After every sales call ask yourself “If you were the customer would you have thought this sales call was a good use of your time?”
- Sales Effectiveness Inc. Research. Roswell, GA.