How to Nail Sales Pre-Call Planning

pre call planning

Pre-call planning helps your sales professionals convert more prospects, yet many sales professionals either don’t do pre-call planning or they don’t do it well. As a sales leader, you can help your team win more deals with sales coaching on six essential pre-call planning skills.

Planning a Sales Call Should Be Your First Step

Some of life’s greatest experiences come from acting on spur-of-the-moment decisions. But if you’re a smart sales professional, you’ll know to save those impromptu endeavors for weekends and vacations.

That’s because, in any business venture, planning is important. In sales, it’s often the difference between success and failure.

A thorough pre-call plan is one of the most overlooked steps in the sales process, but it’s critically important. The more you know about the buyer in advance, the better chance you have of being perceived as a strategic resource for your prospect and for maximizing the time you have in the face-to-face phase of the sales process.

In a crowded marketplace, all other things being equal, the one with the most information, who knows how to use it, wins.

How to Prepare a Sales Call Plan

Chances are, you’re not the only one seeking to do business with your potential client. In a competitive landscape, knowing everything there is to know about a prospect can give you the edge. When it comes to research, more is more.

When planning a sales call, it’s good practice to scour available resources for any relevant information. Here are a few questions you don’t want to leave unanswered:

  • Who am I competing against?
  • What are my competitors’ weaknesses?
  • Am I calling on a decision-maker or primarily an influencer?
  • What are their budget constraints?
  • What is the single biggest problem I can help them solve?

If you’re in the process of planning a sales call, you’d better be thinking like Sherlock Holmes to stand out from your competition. Tap into any resources that might hold the answers to your long list of questions, and don’t be afraid to get a little creative in your search.

Google is a good place to start, but don’t discount other sources such as your prospect’s internal newsletters, public documents, and promotional material.

Don’t forget that people are great sources of information, too. Try picking the brains of your current customers or of anyone your prospect sells to or buys from to learn more about the organization.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Sales Call

Don’t forget to ask yourself a few questions before you make the call. Set clear, specific objectives for every call and be prepared to answer the questions your prospect will likely ask you. This is a critical step and one many sales professionals forget.

  • What are your objectives for the call?
  • What specific questions do you need answered to advance the sales process?
  • What are your preferred next steps?

Sales professionals tend to be people of action, but this critical step of the sales process requires you to slow down and take the time to dig around for answers. The more you find out while planning a sales call and can share with your prospect, the more likely they will regard you as an asset—and the less chance you will be surprised.

6 Essential Skills for Pre-Call Planning

1. Research the Prospect and Their Company

It seems so basic, yet many sales professionals rush from call to call without so much as looking at a prospect’s company website.

Google and  LinkedIn are a sales professional’s best friends during pre-call planning. A LinkedIn profile is an especially rich source of information for making a personal connection.

What college did your prospect attend? What teams do they root for? Where is their hometown? These details can be easy to uncover and helpful as a first step in building rapport during calls.

The goal is to be well informed. This allows you to position yourself as a subject-matter expert and to be seen as a strategic resource for the buyer.

Sales Leader Tip: Encourage your sales team to refresh their intel on their contact’s company, industry, role, and other relevant details before each call.

2. Identify Where the Prospect Is in the Buying Journey

Knowing where a prospect is on their buying journey can help the sales professional ask the right questions, solve the right problems, and move the prospect to the next step of the journey.

Is this a cold call or a follow-up? Is the prospect actively seeking a solution? Are they comparing options?

Sales Leader Tip: Use a consultative selling approach such as IMPACT Selling® to help your team quickly identify where a prospect is in their process and meet them in the correct step.

3. Identify Objectives for the Call

Sales professionals who take the time to identify their objectives for the call are much more likely to achieve them. Have your sales professionals answer these questions before each call:

  • What specific information do I need to get out of this call?
  • What specific information do I want the prospect to have after this call?
  • What is my desired outcome for the call?
  • What should be the next step after this call?
  • How will this call move the prospect closer to the buying decision?

Sales Leader Tip: Use this step to reinforce your sales process. Remind your sales team how to move prospects forward and build those activities into this portion of their pre-call planning.

4. Plan the Questions

Based on the previous steps, your sales professionals can now plan open-ended questions to ask the prospect. These questions should be designed to help uncover relevant information, achieve the prospect’s goals, and achieve the salesperson’s goals.

Sales Leader Tip: Help sales professionals stay on track by focusing on the most relevant questions and keeping the meeting efficient and beneficial to the prospect.

5. Send the Prospect or Customer an Agenda

To set the meeting up for success and ensure it covers all the most important information, sales professionals should send out an agenda prior to every sales call or meeting.

This is an important step in the pre-call planning process, but it’s often overlooked. The agenda should be simple and can even be included in the email meeting invite. Buyers will appreciate the heads up, so they know what to expect on the call.

Sales Leader Tip: Coach your sales professionals to send out an agenda to prospects and customers before each meeting.

6. Plan Breathing Time Right Before the Call

One mistake sales professionals often make is either rushing from one call to the next or spending time right before a meeting flustering themselves with last-minute details.

A calm sales professional is a confident one. Taking a few minutes to breathe, center yourself, and visualize success before each call is a good use of time.

Sales Leader Tip: Teach your sales professionals the value of taking a few minutes to visualize success before each call.

Nail Pre-Call Planning for Better Sales Results

Effective pre-call planning should be a part of every sales process. As a sales leader, you can help your sales team progress sales more quickly, perform more consistently, and win more deals by coaching them in these essential pre-call planning skills.

Check out our Pre-Call Planning workshop to see how your team can make the most of every sales call.

Written By

Lisa Rose

Lisa Rose is Senior Group Vice President of Sales at The Brooks Group. Lisa has passion for helping managers develop a unique, motivational sales culture in their organizations. She can drive sales managers who merely put out fires day to day to flourish as visionaries who can motivate their team and generate results for their sales organizations.
Written By

Lisa Rose

Lisa Rose is Senior Group Vice President of Sales at The Brooks Group. Lisa has passion for helping managers develop a unique, motivational sales culture in their organizations. She can drive sales managers who merely put out fires day to day to flourish as visionaries who can motivate their team and generate results for their sales organizations.

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