Five Questions To Ask As Part of Your Sales Call Planning
Is This The Right Call To Make?
Now that you have scheduled your sales call, it seems as if it might be too late to ask this question. It’s not. It is still a necessary question to ask, and it often prevents wasting your time and your dream client’s time. It can also keep you from losing deals, and from calling on prospects where no deal is possible.
You have just scheduled an appointment with a prospect. Is this prospect a dream client? Is this prospect the kind of company for whom you can create and deliver something exceptional? Something revolutionary? Something breathtakingly wonderful? Or, is this prospect simply activity report fodder that should have been mercilessly disqualified?
You have completed a number of needs-analysis sales calls, and now you are scheduled to present your solution. Are you presenting your solutions because you are certain that you understand the ground truth? Are you certain that should your dream client’s buying committee vote in the next 24 hours that you would have the votes to insure that you win?
Sometimes we make the next call because we believe we are supposed to follow a logical progression. But the logical progression of a sales process or a buying process is not what is indicated in the boxes on the sales process chart; the logical progression of the sales process is embedded instead in the outcomes represented by the stage.
What Is My Desired Outcome?
Your sales process represents certain outcomes that must be obtained in order to advance the deal. In order to advance a deal, you have to achieve the outcomes necessary to doing so.
Too often, however, salespeople want to believe that any call is a valuable call, describing any call that didn’t achieve a real and measurable outcome as relationship building. While the importance of developing the relationships necessary to both win the deal and to execute the solution should you win are critical, it isn’t enough to make it the single outcome of your call.
The question that must be answered is “What are the outcomes I need to achieve on this sales call to be able to advance this deal to the next stage?”
It may be access to individuals necessary to winning the deal. It may be access to information that will inform your solution. It may be working to verify and understand your dream client’s vision of the right solution. It may be to present, and it may be to close to acquire the business.
It is rare that the outcome is ever to “have a friendly conversation.”
How Will I Make This Call Valuable for my Dream Client?
Your dream client’s time is their most precious and valued commodity. In order to be able to gain continuous access to their time, you have to be able to create a valuable experience for them on each and every sales encounter. This isn’t an east standard to maintain, but planning to do so can make it more achievable.
What will your client gain from having spent their time with you? This question helps to ensure that not only are your outcomes achieved, but that your dream client’s outcomes are achieved as well.
If you are completing your needs analysis, you may make the effort valuable for your dream client by helping them to explore and identify the problems, the constraints that exist to improving the outcome, and the exploration of possible solutions. You may also help them identify the resources on their own team, as well as the obstacle to a change effort? You may help arm them with the information that they need to build consensus during the sales calls that occur between the decision-makers when you are no longer present.
Asking the question as to how you can make the experience valuable is the necessary first step to being able to do so.
What Is the Furthest Advance I Can Reasonably Hope to Obtain?
Your sales call plan needs to include your outcomes, your dream client’s outcomes, as well as the next commitment you need to obtain to be able to advance the deal.
You need to plan and choose the advance that you need before you make the sales call. The advance that moves a deal forward must be one of the outcomes of your sales call plan. Ultimately, this is the goal by which you measure whether your call was a success, or whether you failed to achieve your outcome.
But it isn’t enough to simply choose an outcome. You must choose an outcome that moves you as far as close as possible to deal based on what you can reasonably hope to obtain. The mistakes that are made here including choosing an advance that goes too far or that don’t go far enough.
Making the advance “to close the deal” on early calls with dream clients, calls where not enough is known and where not trust has been developed, isn’t realistic or healthy; it isn’t the right choice, and should you obtain the business, you are not prepared to execute.
Alternatively, sometimes the choice of advance doesn’t’ go far enough. Sometimes the buying signals are so strong that you have to choose to an advance that meets the client’s needs. Even if doesn’t meet yours. In these cases, you have to be prepared to choose the advance that makes sense for the client, and you have to make the case that you are going to have to go back to some earlier outcomes that you passed over in order to execute well.
What If Can’t Obtain My Outcome Or My Advance?
You know the one about the best-laid plans. Sometimes you cannot obtain the outcomes or the advance that you need in order to move a deal forward. It is important to plan for alternative outcomes or advances, should you not be able to obtain what seemed the like right choice when you made your plans.
The question you have to answer here is “How can I keep this deal alive and progressing forward should I not be able to obtain the outcomes or the advance I believe I need?” Answering this question prevent deals from stalling and give you a second bite at the apple.
If you believe you are ready to present your solution and you suspect that your dream client may not be ready to assemble the buying committee, then choosing a pre-presentation meeting in which you present your solution to your champion alone may be a good backup advance; it is a commitment that can reasonably be interpreted as advancing the deal.
If you are going to take the time and energy to write an effective Plan A, write the Plan B.
No sales call should be made without first taking the time to plan the call. Your plan needs to include all of the elements that will allow you to move your deal forward, as well as considering what you might be able to achieve should you not achieve your outcomes or your planned advance.
- Do you spend enough time planning your sales calls?
- How much more effective might you be with a solid call plan?
- Do you have a way to ensure that your create value for your dream client on every sales call?
- Are your chosen outcomes meaningful enough, or are they soft outcomes that are difficult to measure and provide little proof that you have advanced the deal?
- Does your plan include contingencies should you not be able to achieve your outcome?