Effective pre-call planning helps your salespeople convert more prospects, yet many salespeople either don’t do pre-call planning, or they don’t do it well. As the manager, you can help your salespeople win more deals by coaching them in these key pre-call planning skills.
Skills to Master Pre-Call Planning
One: Research the Prospect and Their Company
It seems so basic, yet many salespeople rush from call to call without so much as looking at a prospect’s company website.
Search engines and LinkedIn are a salesperson’s best friend during pre-call planning. Encourage your people to refresh themselves on their contact’s company, industry, role, and other relevant details.
The goal is for your sales reps to be well-informed on the call. This allows them to position themselves as subject matter experts, and to be seen as a strategic resource for the buyer.
For making a personal connection, a LinkedIn profile can be a powerful source of information that can be used to establish a fast bond.
Did the prospect attend the same college? Do they root for the same team? Are they from the same home town? These details can be easy to uncover and powerful in their effect on rapport during calls.
Two: Identify Where the Prospect is in the Buying Journey
Is this a cold call, or a follow-up? Is the prospect actively seeking a solution? Are they comparing options?
Knowing where a prospect is on their buying journey can help the salesperson to ask the right questions, solve the right problems, and move the prospect to the next step of the journey.
Three: Identify Objectives for the Call
Salespeople who take the time to identify their objectives for the call are much more likely to achieve them. Have your salespeople 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?
You can use this as an opportunity to reinforce your sales process. Remind your salespeople of the steps required to move prospects forward, and build those steps into this portion of their pre-call planning.
Four: Plan the Questions
Based on the previous steps, your salespeople can now plan a few key 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.
This planning helps the salesperson stay on track with only the most relevant questions – keeping the meeting efficient and beneficial to the prospect.
Five: Send the Prospect or Customer an Agenda
This is an important step in the pre-call planning process, but it’s often overlooked by many salespeople.
To set the meeting up for success and ensure it covers all the most important information, coach your salespeople to send out an agenda to the prospect or customer before the meeting.
The agenda should be simple and can even be included in the email meeting invite. (Use this blog post to create the perfect email meeting invite.)
Buyers will appreciate the heads up, so they know what to expect on the call.
Six: Plan Breathing Time Right Before the Call
One mistake salespeople often make is either rushing from one call to the next, or spending the time right before the meeting flustering themselves with obsessive planning.
Teach your salespeople the value of taking a few minutes to breathe, center themselves, and visualize success before each call. Prospects will feel the calm and confidence that this important step creates.
Effective pre-call planning should be a part of every sales process, and a standard call plan sheet can help salespeople make this part of their workflow.