Pre-call planning is critical to sales success. Too often, salespeople plan the call objectives and questions – but don’t think about the advance.
After many, many years of sitting in on sales calls and more than 10 years of providing feedback to salespeople in sales simulations, one thing we have noticed is the variability in the amount and quality of pre-call planning. Pre-call planning efforts often are stepped up a notch when someone else is on the call – be it a sales manager, colleague, or even a consultant along as an observer. Over time, this extra effort often doesn’t last. Too often, in fact, it’s replaced by the amount of time salespeople have in their car prior to the call or the time it takes to drink a latte at Starbucks.
We all know this story – it’s been told thousands of time. What’s more interesting is talking about what frequently is a missing ingredient in pre-call planning. We’ve found that salespeople do an okay job planning what they want to say and what questions they want to ask, but are much less thoughtful about what they want to propose as the next step to move the sales cycle forward.
What do we mean? Well, recently we were working with a sales team to identify some sales best practices for their company when one of the sales managers said – and we paraphrase – every sales person should leave a call with a reason to get back in front of the customer.
We agree – absolutely! Most sales people know what they want to do in the call. What they often don’t do is propose an advance at the end of the call. When giving feedback in sales simulations we often share with sales reps and managers that the sales person should plan multiple advances. Why? If the call doesn’t go as well as planned, they still need to close the call with something else that moves the sale along – giving the salesperson a reason to get back in front of the customer. On the other end of the spectrum, what if the call goes better than anticipated? If salespeople haven’t thought about a more aggressive advance – how will they close the call? Too often the result is a missed opportunity.
We acknowledge that planning call exit strategies can only go so far – we’ve all been in sales calls that we thought would go east but the customer took the call west. That happens, but the more a sales rep thinks through potential call exit strategies, the more likely the call will be successful. After all, the best planned and executed sales call that doesn’t end with moving the sales cycle don’t lead to generating revenue!