Making sales calls is the number one duty listed on every sales position job description. Whether it’s cold calling or talking to warm leads, it’s something that sales reps must master in order to be successful. Like any other operational procedure, making sales calls has to have a plan that reps can follow and learn from.

Having a pre-call plan is crucial to making successful sales calls. The following are six easy steps to help you make the most of your pre-call planning.

#1 Research Your Prospect

This may seem like a rather obvious step, but you might be surprised at how many reps neglect to do it. They go into a call completely, or almost, blind. Taking the time to research both the prospect and the company is time well spent.

The purpose of this step is twofold. First, it allows you build rapport with the prospect. When you know a few things about them – which you can easily find on social media sites – you have instant conversation starters. Second, and most importantly, it provides you with valuable information about the company, the industry, and what issues they are having that your product can help with.

#2 Know the Prospect’s Competitors

Once you’ve learned about the prospect and the company, you should also learn about their competitors. By gathering information about what their competitors are doing – the good and the bad – you will be able to customize your selling strategy when offering solutions. Knowing what’s happening with competitors shows your prospect that you have done your homework and you understand their business, and that provides them with comfort.

#3 Know Your Objective for the Call

You not only have to know and understand the “who” of the sales call you’re going to make but also the “why.” Defining your objective before making the call helps you stay on track. Make sure you are putting all your notes in your sales goal software. How do you do that? You look at where you are in the sales cycle, and what the next stage is. According to Sales Training Connection, “The objective should be formulated in terms of the commitment desired from the customer that moves the sales cycle forward. Examples include: an appointment with a more senior person, an opportunity to present your solution to the buying committee, or a trial placement of your solution. The appropriate commitment is determined by where you are in the sales cycle and the person with whom you are meeting.”

#4 Plan Your Questions

Asking the right questions of your prospect will get you the information you need to make informed and appropriate suggestions about solutions. While you never want it to feel like you are reading from a script, you should prepare questions to ask ahead of time that will help advance the conversation. Use open-ended questions, and be prepared with follow-ups as well. But don’t be afraid to deviate from your list if the situation calls for it.

#5 Anticipate Objections

Along with having questions prepared, you should also plan for any objections you might hear.

“Whether you’ve been selling your solution for 20 years or one week, you should have a list of the common objections along with the appropriate response. During the call, you will need to determine if your solution is a fit to the client’s problems or not.” Smart Management: Pre-Call Planning for Success, Sales & Marketing Management

 

#6 Don’t Over-Prepare

There are a couple of reasons you shouldn’t over-prepare. One is you don’t want to sound like a robot who has rehearsed too much. The conversation should flow and be natural. You want the prospect to feel like they are part of a dialogue, not that they are being talked at. Additionally, you don’t want to prepare too much because that can lead to you anticipating what your prospect’s responses are when what you should be doing is actively listening.

Planning before you call is worth the time it takes. Knowing about your prospect, the company, and their competitors, having some questions prepared, and being able to anticipate and overcome objections makes sales calls more comfortable and productive. Having a clearly defined objective for each sales call you make provides purpose and encourages commitment from your prospect. So, before you make your next sales calls, do some pre-planning and you will see your sales pipeline grow.

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Jami Deloe