How Call Planning Can Improve Your Sales Win Rate

Selling Skills | Call Planning

Improving win rates is a priority for sales organizations because too much time and energy are spent on opportunities that fail to close.

For example, if a sales organization closes 30% of the opportunities in its pipeline, up to 70% of the effort is spent on deals that will not close. While low win rates can be improved through better pipeline management, the most critical factor for a sustainable increase in win rates is improving how your sales team prepares for sales calls. Unfortunately, many sales organizations tend to attribute losses to something that occurred later in the sales process as opposed to what should have happened much earlier in the sales process.

For example, a salesperson may claim they lost a deal because a competitor offered a lower price.

Although that may be accurate, the loss may have little to do with pricing and much more with how well the salesperson understood the customer’s priorities. Call Planning provides a framework for a successful outcome. While many sales professionals rely on rapport-building skills as the basis for the sales conversation, this is only the starting point.

Rapport building and likability are undoubtedly important attributes but are not a replacement for a documented call plan.

In many ways, the Call Plan is analogous to a game plan for a football game. While we can’t predict everything that will happen on the field, the game plan provides an overall strategy that sets us up for success and higher win rates, including the flexibility to adapt as needed.

Here are three elements of an effective call plan:

#1 Account Analysis

  • What business have we done with them in the past?
  • Who are the key decision-makers and influencers?
  • What are their strategic priorities?
  • How do our solutions align with these priorities?
  • Who are we competing against?

Account analysis requires research and can include sources like LinkedIn, financial reports (publicly traded companies), press releases, and industry reports. Keep in mind that the initial account analysis is a basis for an informed conversation and will require updating as sales professionals learn more about the customer.

#2 Call Objective

  • Is there a clear call objective?
  • Is the objective realistic?
  • What commitment are we looking for from the buyer?

A clear call objective in your plan is vital since it helps avoid a qualitative evaluation of the sales call. For example, salespeople often include statements like “good meeting” or “they really liked us” when they review calls with their managers. These are undoubtedly positive sentiments, but they do little to inform the next steps in advancing the opportunity towards a win.

#3 Call Opener

  • Build rapport (keep it short)
  • Purpose of the meeting
  • Confirm that meeting objective aligns with the customer’s expectations

Highly skilled professionals can quickly build rapport and transition to the purpose of the meeting. Before continuing, however, it is essential to confirm that the purpose aligns with the customer’s objectives. This requires flexibility in our mindset and approach since customers may have new or different issues they want to discuss.

Preparing to Win

Call planning sets the foundation for winning and can improve your team’s win rate overall.

It demonstrates to a customer that the salesperson is prepared and ready to engage based on what they have learned about the customer. Unfortunately, way too many sales reps prepare for meetings by practicing their “pitch” instead of taking the time to understand their customers' needs.

This can be avoided by remembering that the foundation of value-driven selling is guiding customers through their purchase process by aligning how we sell with the way they buy.

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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.