Leverage Pre-Call Planning to Gain A Competitive Sales Edge
On this Q&A episode: "What's an underrated selling skill that salespeople can develop to get an edge over their competition?"
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*** Enhanced Video Script ***
It's a great question. My answer, pre-call planning, might surprise you. We conducted a research study with Training Industry where we identified the two most important selling skills as identifying customer needs and building relationships.
While these are both essential selling skills, they can significantly be enhanced through effective call planning. Unfortunately, most salespeople don't effectively plan for sales calls and this is problematic because it's very challenging to line up calls. And effective call planning can significantly improve the probability that a call will result in a sales opportunity.
One of the reasons call planning is often overlooked is because most professionals lack a process they can follow. There are two key elements of pre-call planning. Number one, account analysis and number two, building a call objective.
1 | Account Analysis
This involves researching the account you're calling on and the specific people you're going to be meeting with.
As you research the account, you should try and identify key initiatives that the company is working on and how your solutions align with those priorities. As a starting point, you can visit their website to understand their business, products, and services and then take a look at their recent press releases to get a sense for their priorities. Also, if it's a public company, I'd encourage you to look at their most recent financial releases and any of the associated investor presentations.
As you research the person or people you're going to meet with, start by looking at their LinkedIn profiles to understand their backgrounds, experiences and interests, this will let you to tailor your conversation so that it aligns with their priorities.
Conducting pre-call research has the following benefits:
- It improves your knowledge of the customer and the buyer's situation, in other words, you've done your homework.
- It helps you identify more potential opportunities—have a good sense for their priorities and interests—and this could lead to more business opportunities.
- You'll have a better sales conversation, you're informed and therefore can lead a more productive conversation.
2 | Building a call objective.
As I noted earlier, it isn't easy to set up sales calls, so you want to make sure you take full advantage of every opportunity. Unfortunately, many salespeople use sales calls as what I'll call "professional visits," they're just going to stop by and see their customer as opposed to calling on their customer with a sense of purpose.
It's essential to think through what you hope to do on every sales call and this should be based on what you've learned during any prior interactions with that customer and the priorities you've identified as part of the account analysis. A good call objective focuses on the action you would like the customer to take as a result of that sales call. Remember, it's an action that customer will take, and here's a couple of examples.
As a next step the customer will:
- place an initial order.
- participate in a pilot program.
- arrange a meeting for me to present to the selection committee.
The key point here is that the objective is built around a customer action that can and hopefully will resolve in a sale. So the next time you set up a call, don't forget to pre-call plan for success.
About Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.