Pre-call Planning is an Absolute Must!
Don Buttrey is the president of Sales Professional Training Inc., a company that offers in-depth skill development for sales professionals and sales support. He has trained thousands of salespeople over 25 years and clearly understands the selling environment of equipment dealers. His curriculum is comprehensive and proven. All courses are now available as web-based Elearning. E-learning is ideal for training individuals and smaller sales teams! Don can be reached at (937) 427-1717or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out this website link salesprofessionaltraining.com for more information – or to purchase online sales training. This week he is sharing all of the reasons why pre-call planning is an absolute must for our salespeople.
What preparation should I expect my salespeople to do before picking up the phone or meeting with a customer?
Most of the time salespeople do the ‘typical’ prep such as considering the situation, doing some research, or reviewing notes on the customer such as past sales, problems, internal politics, personal facts, previous calls etc. That is important – but it is not enough. Often, at that point they just charge in or pick up the phone and “see how it goes”. I call this, “showing up and throwing up”. There is another part of pre-call planning that is an absolute must!
One of the most important disciplines and skills I teach is, tactical pre-call planning. This involves consideration of the customer contact person, situation, competitors, etc. and then designing and perfecting the expected interaction. I love that word – “interaction”. The last part of that word is action. And if you want to get action – you must be a master of the interaction! When salespeople make proactive calls, they are on the “offense” and they should prepare their offense!
First, what is the objective for the call? If a salesperson does not know why they are there – the customer doesn’t know why they are there! Sales Professionals must have a purpose or defined reason for every call. If our veterans get in the habit of calling on buddies and just stopping in to say; “got anything for me” or “I just happened to be in the area and thought I would stop by” you will end up with a team of professional visitors. We need professional salespeople!
What will salespeople say to start? What questions will they ask and how will they word them for maximum effectiveness? What benefits of product or distributor value will they leverage? What is their action-oriented objective and how will they ask for commitment or action?
The SELL Process Tool
For the last two decades my mission has been to help salespeople pre-call plan using the SELL Process tool. SELL stands for Start, Evaluate, Leverage, Lock: and each of these steps should be prepared in order to maximize every precious customer interaction. My training curriculum teaches this powerful process in great detail and provides a simple, but profound tool as a framework for effective pre-call tactical planning. It’s like learning a proven offense, that with time, empowers sales professionals to execute each uniquely different call brilliantly! Preparation and ongoing practice are essential. You play like you practice—and salespeople just don’t practice enough. I am a firm believer that we should even be doing dry runs and scrimmages before critical calls!
Using the SELL Process framework, my training teaches sales professionals to write out their tactical plan. Yes, write it. Writing makes the message exact. If you don’t write it, you can’t fix it. Tooling out what you will say to Start will keep you from getting “diarrhea of the mouth” and overwhelming the customer with jabber. Writing out the questions you need to ask and perfecting the wording of those open-ended questions helps you be a consultant and increases the chance that you will find out the real needs and situation –and listen! Plus, writing provides some notes for you to follow and indicates to the customer that you cared enough to get ready for this important investment of their time. Writing helps you remember, helps you prioritize, and keeps the meeting on track and in control. Your confidence and improved non-verbals will show!
And this is not just for big calls. It is an essential daily discipline to prepare appropriately for every precious customer interaction prior to making a call. When a sales professional is prepared, it shows respect to the customer. It presents a professional, consultative image. Buyers are sick of cocky salespeople who wing-it and don’t even listen. Plus, the deal at hand may come down to this do-or-die call – and if the salesperson is not prepared, the opportunity is lost. Careful preparation assures that the message is focused on the customer and not the salesperson. It keeps the call focused, concise, and clear without veering off on useless rabbit trails!
I accept the reality that selling is very dynamic and that anything could happen in each unique call. Pre-call tactical planning with the SELL Process is not a silver bullet. However, it empowers sales professionals with skill and brilliant execution of their offense and defense to maximize every opportunity. The market for a small, independent construction equipment dealer is extremely competitive. Every call counts. The days of winging it are over. Pre-call tactical planning is a must!
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