Only thirteen percent of customers believe a salesperson can understand their needs.
And why is that? Because the way we sell is broken. If you go into a call with a transactional approach, you’re not concerned with your customer’s needs, only your own. We’ve got to flip your approach on its head.
How you engage with a prospect, seek to understand the problems they face, and what their world looks like are crucial to providing value. The way you find out about their world is through pre-planning your sales calls. Is it a lot of effort? Yes. But the more reps you get in, the more intuitive it becomes.
So how do you get to know your prospects and go into sales calls prepared? This article will help you form a template that you can personalize and use to go into sales calls with effective language and a plan.
Reliably Increase Your Win Rate With a Pre-Call Planning Template
There is never a reason to show up to a client meeting without having done your homework. To have successful sales calls, you need to engage in pre-call planning. What is pre-call planning? In short, it’s the first step to a successful sales call.
You should absolutely know the prospect’s experience in their industry, but if you want to enter your new sales relationship in a one-up state, you’ll need to bring more than baseline information to the table.
Related Read: The One-Up Mindset
You need to come with a briefing. Be prepared to bring your prospect valuable insights about their challenges they can’t get from any other sales rep. Those insights will help them see you not just as a salesperson but as a trusted partner and advisor in their decision-making process.
When you don’t plan your sales calls, you won’t know how to advance the conversation appropriately. At best, this leads to unproductive conversations and a longer sales cycle. At worst? Your prospects won’t feel like you can offer them anything of value and they’ll ghost you to get away.
Let’s take a look at my foolproof pre-call planning template. Follow these six steps to plan for your calls as effectively as possible and increase your win rate.
Pre-Call Planning Template
- Identify the purpose of the call
- Decide who needs to be on the call
- Determine which questions you need answers to
- Provide Proof
- Plan the opening
- Plan the closing
1. Identify the Purpose of the Call
Your first step in planning your call is to identify the purpose of your call. Of course, the ultimate goal of any call is to advance the sale but remember: you don’t want to consider only your goals. To succeed in sales, you must consider your prospects’ goals first.
What outcome does your dream client want? What pains or challenges is your prospect facing? In other words, why should your dream client agree to take your call?
You can find the answer to this question by following this four-step process:
a) Research their company and industry
Start by researching the company and the industry. Are there any recent trends affecting this industry? What patterns have you seen in other businesses in their industry? And most importantly, how are you uniquely positioned to meet their specific needs?
b) Research their competitors
No business operates in a vacuum. To understand the challenges and opportunities present for your dream client, you need to understand their competitive landscape.
What differentiates your prospect from their competition? Gain a solid understanding of your prospect’s strengths. Additionally, you should examine your prospect’s weaknesses. What are their biggest pitfalls, and how can you help them overcome those challenges?
Related Read: How to Practice a Value-Based Selling Approach
Bringing these insights to your sales call will help show your prospect that you value their time and can help them achieve their goals.
c) Research the person you’re reaching out to
You’re selling to a company… but ultimately, you’re selling to a person (or, more likely, a group of stakeholders). Where are your buyers’ in the process? You should make a plan to help them no matter what stage they are at in the buying process.
Help them diagnose their problem based on their symptoms. You have the expertise they can use to solve their challenges. Additionally, you are far enough removed from the problem to offer them a new perspective. You also need to be able to demonstrate that you have helped others in the same position.
Overall, you need to put your prospect’s needs first to increase the odds of a successful call.
d) Overcoming Common Sales Objections
Chances are, your prospect will have objections or concerns about your pitch. How can you overcome those objections and build consensus?
Though every sales conversation is unique, most follow a similar pattern. As a result, you can use sales scripts to guide the conversation and advance the sale. Some of the most common objections you may encounter are price objections, a brush-off objection, or claims that they already have a solution that works for them.
Be prepared to overcome any and all of these objections to build consensus and advance the sale.
2. Decide Who Needs to be on the Call
Once you’ve identified the purpose of the call, your next step is to decide who needs to be a part of the conversation in question. First, look internally. Are there other members of your team who should attend to create the most value?
Next, establish the parties who must join from your client’s side. Who are the key stakeholders who need to be involved in the call? The last thing you want to do is move through a sales call, believe you’ve gained consensus… only to find out a key stakeholder who was not involved has later decided not to move forward with the deal.
Consider gatekeepers, end-users, and management team members in your prospect’s organization. You need to ensure that you are taking steps to prepare a pitch that provides value for each stakeholder on the call.
3. Determine Which Questions You Need Answered
A successful sales call isn’t just a presentation—it’s a conversation. When you’re conducting your pre-call planning, you should plan for an exchange of information on your sales call. Though you can gain a lot of information during pre-call research, some information is best provided by the prospect themself.
Prepare a list of questions you must ask to help your dream client achieve their goals. Coming prepared with strong questions shows your determination to provide value to your clients.
You should also prepare to field questions. What questions might your prospect ask? Do your best to anticipate their needs and prepare thoughtful answers.
Lastly, end the call with an open-ended question, such as “What else should we know about your needs that we didn’t ask?” Including this type of question allows your prospects to educate you on how best to help them and ensures that no lingering doubts are left unanswered.
4. Provide Proof
Some things you just need to see to believe. What about your offer will feel that way to your prospects? You want to ensure you’re prepared to demonstrate that you can actually deliver what you’re promising them.
Prepare case studies and testimonials from other customers in similar industries and situations. Use these to prove that your solution differs from the other things they have tried in the past.
Related Read: How to Successfully Ask For and Obtain Referrals
You don’t simply show up with a list of customer quotes, however. Have stories and be ready to paint a picture. Demonstrate your clients’ former pains, then walk your prospect through their journey and show them how your solution helped them achieve their goals.
5. Plan the Opening
Whether this is a planned meeting or a cold call, your opening is one of the most important pieces of the entire sales call puzzle. In the first few seconds of the conversion, you need to establish why you’re worth your prospect’s time.
How can you achieve this? Using talk tracks and scripted language. Modern sales conversations focus on making sure your reps always have the right words to say. Below, I’m including an example of an effective opening for a sales conversation:
“Good morning. This is Anthony Iannarino with XYZ Widgets. I am calling you today to ask you for a twenty-minute meeting where I can share with you an executive briefing about four trends that will have the most significant impact on manufacturers in the next eighteen to twenty-four months. I’ll also provide you with the questions we are asking and answering with our clients so that you can share them with your management team. Even if there is no next step, you’ll know what you might start exploring and what you might need your team to start putting in place.”
6. Plan the Closing
The call opening is vital, but the close is the most important part of any sales call. How can you plan the close? Follow this template.
Related Read: How to Close More Deals in 2023
First, you should ensure you thank them for their time. Take this opportunity to review the outcomes you achieved together during that time, confirm any commitments you made, and confirm your client’s future commitments.
Commitment and follow-through are essential in the close. The best way to gain their commitment is by explaining exactly what value you intend to create for them in the next meeting. This is called the trading value rule.
Trading value is the basis of modern sales. It establishes that the contact has nothing to fear from moving forward in the sales conversation—they already understand what they stand to gain from the next meeting.
Create Your Own Pre-Call Planning Template to Win Calls
If you want to crush your sales targets, your pre-call planning template must make sense to you and allow you to personalize your process.
Planning calls and using scripts to outline calls is a great way to be prepared, but don’t become over-reliant on a template. You also need to develop advanced skills to steer the conversation in the right direction, including:
- Mindset training
- Relationship nurturing
- Discovery Training
- Presentation Training
- Negotiation Training
Are you ready to take the next step? We can help you flourish and reach your full potential! If you want more reps and to execute your best sales calls, check out my free resource, the Sales Hustler Guide.