It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of sales call planning. It works and you need to do it. You should commit time to planning for every sales call in advance. How much time? Sometimes it may be just a few minutes.
However, there are situations when salespeople need to invest more time in pre-call preparation and planning.
- Senior Executives. In the B2B major accounts market the expectations of senior executives are higher than ever. So you have to be prepared. As a baseline being prepared means you understand the industry and company. But you also need an understanding of the company’s business challenges. When meeting with senior executives you must in advance be knowledgeable about the challenges the company faces and have insights and a point of view about the path forward.
- New Products. The investment in bringing a new product to market is substantial. The more innovative the product, the more new sales challenges there are to overcome. When the products or solutions are new entries to the marketplace, the salesperson must deal with new customers and new sales challenges, such as: a different buying process, new call points, and new objections. This warrants more sales call planning time.
In B2B major accounts, sales call planning should be viewed from two perspectives: plan for both the information you want to get from the customer and the information you want to give to the customer. Either way, it’s not a simply “more is better.” Given where you are in the sales cycle what information do you need for moving forward and what information would be of value to the customer?
In some situations it’s useful to translate your sales call plan into a meeting agenda that is shared with the customer. There are two advantages of sharing an agenda with customers before a sales call.
- The customer can add to your initial outline for the meeting – minimizing surprises during the sales call.
- You can vet the agenda with other people at your company who might know the customer as well as your internal champions in the customer organization to see how it will resonate with the customer.
In regard to asking colleagues, you may find out that someone has recently visited the customer. This prevents you from being caught off guard. In addition, demonstrating internal communication is always a plus. Checking with your colleagues also makes you aware of what your company has done before with this customer in your department and in other divisions.
Are there other information sources salespeople should look at when it comes to upping their pre-call planning game? Absolutely. Here is a starting list.
- Review the customer website
- Review company financial reports, like Annual Reports, 10-K, 8-K and press releases, too
- Read recent articles on the company and industry
- Look at profiles available online, such as Hoovers.com
- Become familiar with the backgrounds of the people you will be meeting with via LinkedIn
If you typically sell to a certain industry, immerse yourself in the literature of that industry. Join their associations, get their newsletters, review their websites, read blogs, and join LinkedIn groups.
If you sell to the same decision makers, focus on associations that represent these positions, like VPs of Sales or CIOs, so you can learn more about the challenges they are facing.
Sales call preparation and planning are always important. But some situations are more critical than others because the payoffs of getting it right or wrong are more significant.
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