How many more sales could you make if your sales cycle was cut in half? After diagnosing thousands of sales situations over the years, sales coach Dave Brock is convinced that the average sales rep makes twice as many sales calls as needed to close a deal.
What happens when you don’t close as soon as you can? In the worst case, buyers lose patience and you lose the deal. Even in the best case, you waste your most precious resource: your time. Of course the timing and tempo of the sales cycle is often driven by the customer’s buying process. But a chunk of the blame rests with the salesperson. Be honest and test yourself on these three issues:
- Do you forget to execute everything you had planned on a sales call? Do you come back to the office saying “Oh no! I forgot to ask that!”
- Do you find you ever have to make another call due to lack of preparation or research? Telltale signs: “We were blindsided by this issue.” “Turns out we were calling on the wrong people.” “We didn’t have all the people with us to answer their questions.”
- Do you ever hold back to avoid rejection? It’s probably inappropriate to ask for the order on the first or even the second call, but many salespeople fail to set aggressive goals for sales calls. This failure extends the sales cycle.
Develop sales call plans
Planning helps us be prepared and reduces the chance that we will forget something or be surprised. It helps get the most out of every call we make. Most important, it maximizes the value of the call to the customer.
But many of the “plans” Brock sees are just casual notes and reminders that do not represent focused, aggressive thinking about how to maximize the results of the call. A more disciplined approach to sales call planning will increase effectiveness and the results produced in every meeting.
A high-impact sales call plan answers these five questions:
1. What do we want to accomplish on this call? Think about a stretch goal for the call. Also, be very clear in identifying how you know whether you have accomplished your goal. It should be measurable and time-bound. One approach: Write down both the purpose and the desired outcomes.
2. What might impact our ability to accomplish what we want? Analyze all the potential barriers that could prevent you from achieving your call objectives. For example, you might want to think about whether the right people are participating in the call, on both sides of the table. Brainstorm everything that might keep you from accomplishing your objective and develop strategies to eliminate or minimize their impact.
3. What do we need to learn from the customer in this call? This is your chance to make sure that you are getting everything you need out of the call. This is the part of the plan that keeps you from forgetting those details that would require another call. Write your questions down, check them off as you ask them.
4. What does the customer need to learn from us? The customer may have questions about your company, capabilities or solutions. They may express those questions as objections. Anticipate what they might bring up and be prepared to respond during the call. Try to avoid having to say, “We’ll get back to you.” What about the “question from hell?” Customers always have a way of asking that one question that you hoped they would not ask. Spend some time preparing a response.
5. What’s in this call for the customer? Why should the customer invest time with us in this meeting? As consultative sales professionals, it is critical that we create value for the customer in every encounter. If we cannot answer this final question, then we need to do more work before the call.
Spend 15 minutes
Spending 15 minutes thinking about these issues has tremendous power in focusing your call and producing results. For most sales calls, you can develop a strong plan in just that amount of time.
For those tough calls, invest more time and make sure you have a bulletproof approach. Write the plan down. Committing your plan to paper makes it real and tangible. It also keeps you from forgetting things during the meeting.
Try this process on your next 10 sales calls. See for yourself the impact more disciplined planning has on your sales results. Every follow-up call that you avoid gets you that much closer to the sale.
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