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From Improvised to Prepared: How to Plan for a Sales Call and Close the Deal

<this article was written by a human (me!) and not AI generated>

Do you have an upcoming sales call with a client? Are you properly prepared with a detailed call plan or will you just wing it and improvise the call? And what if your colleagues are attending too, do they know their role in the meeting? With proper planning and preparation, you can ensure your calls run smoothly and increase your chances of closing a deal. Let's dive into the details of how to plan a successful call and don't forget to download the sales call plan spreadsheet so you can get started planning your next meeting right away.


TL;DR

Use the spreadsheet, provided below, as your template for planning a sales call

Document your clients objectives for the meeting, and verify with them

Don't forget to document what you want from the meeting, make it specific

Share the agenda with the client in advance, they often give feedback that helps

Planning in advance for objections/concerns will pay big dividends

Never, ever, leave a meeting without agreeing next steps and agreeing a follow-up

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Why bother with a sales plan? I know what's needed from the call, there is no point

Over the years, I have heard this many times from sales managers and team members and I can understand their point of view. But it's wrong. It's wrong because every good sales person I know, prepares for and plans their meetings and doesn't leave anything to chance. And every poor sales person I know, never plans for a meeting, often jumps from one meeting straight into the next one, talks more than they listen, asks dumb questions they should already know the answer to, but never asks the questions they should be asking.


Trust me, your client will see and appreciate the planning you did for the call and realise they are now dealing with someone who values their time, will listen to their needs and bring them some value.


TIP # One of the best sales leaders I know, Dennis Sorrenson, would ask his sales teams are you just playing or are you planning, preparing, and practising too? In other words, do you rock up to your sales meetings without first spending the time to plan the detail of whatever it is you want to achieve, then preparing the detail



Define the objectives for the call

The first step in planning your sales call is to define the objectives that you and your client want to achieve. I use the term client, rather than customer, deliberately. When I hear the word customer, it brings up visions of a transactional sale, a customer buying a product or service from a vendor. Is that how you like to be considered, as a vendor? I like to consider myself as a partner to my clients, regardless of whether they are paying clients or prospective clients. Sure, we are ultimately in the business of selling a product or service to other people or the business they work for, but it doesn't mean we treat our clients as a transaction to be closed as quick as possible before moving on to the next.


A client will understand the difference between a partner they trust in and a vendor they transact with, and it's up to you to set the right tone as early as possible.


Getting back to objective setting, remember that a set of well defined objectives will be obvious as to whether they were achieved at the end of your call or not and there should be no ambiguity.


Begin the sales call planning process with a focus on documenting your client's objectives for the meeting. What pain points, concerns, and questions of theirs need to be addressed? And what if you don't know yet or only have a vague idea?now is the opportunity to go ask them and clarify, before the call, and not during it. I'm not suggesting having 'a call before a call', I'm saying you should have at least some idea of what they expect from the call, and get that confirmed quickly and updated if needed.


Now that you are clear what the client wants from this call, what do you want? Your objectives can be defined in terms of what would you like to have achieved when the meeting has completed. Is it a qualification call where you need to have confirmed you and the client are a good fit for their needs? Is it a negotiation call, and you hope to agree on the terms and conditions of the offer? Think it through, because this will guide the agenda for the meeting and ultimately how successful it will be, for you and the client.


Set a clear agenda

When setting the agenda, it's important to be clear on how the meeting will flow, what role each meeting attendee will play in the agenda and how long it will take. Having already defined your meeting objectives, you can now break them down into discrete agenda items that will help you achieve each objective.


Prioritise the most important issues and allow time for questions and discussion. If you only have 30 minutes, then the agenda needs to ensure you have enough time to cover the objectives you set out at the start. If you find it doesn't? Extend the meeting or shorten the objectives, rather than simply run out of time and scramble to get through all the agenda items.


TIP #1 Plan for at least 5 minutes at the beginning of the meeting to be wasted through late arrivals or technical hitches (particularly if meeting face to face). In timing each section of the agenda, allow for q&a unless you say specifically that will come at the end of the meeting. Time always goes quicker than you plan for, so better to have the meeting time a little longer (45 mins?, 1hr?) than too short. If your meeting is well planned and you stick to your timing, the client will come to expect that from you (which is a good thing).


The Participants

Consider each meeting participant and their role in the meeting but also their relationship with you, whether they are an influencer in decision making or part of the decision making team. If it's not clear to you prior to the meeting, then make it one of your meeting objectives to uncover this information.


TIP #2 Don't be surprised if your key decision maker is a no-show and you are left with influencers/non decision makers. Then you need to decide whether to re-schedule or plow ahead, but be prepared for this and have a plan to deal with it. I heard a great story once of a sales team that flew overnight from the USA into London for a prospect meeting with the CEO and his leadership team. Just before the meeting started, he pulled out and asked them to go ahead without them as he had an emergency he had to deal with it. The sales team leader, said no, it's ok, we'll reschedule because we need you in the meeting. They flew back the next day and re-scheduled for a couple of weeks later. This takes guts, but it shows determination to be in front of the decision makers only.


One of the benefits of participant planning is that your colleagues who are attending.



NOVA question

An important technique to use during the call is the NOVA question. It stands for Needs, Opportunities, Visions and Actions. By asking open-ended questions that focus on these areas, you can better understand your customer's needs and tailor your pitch to their specific situation. Here are some examples of NOVA questions:



Needs:

What is your biggest pain point right now?

Opportunities:

What opportunities do you see for your company next year?

Vision:

What does success look like for your company?

Action:

What are the next steps after this call?


Prepare for counter arguments


Another important aspect of planning your meeting is to prepare for counter arguments in advance. Consider possible counter arguments your customers may raise and prepare to respond to them. This can help address customer concerns and increase the chances of closing a deal. Here are some common objections and possible answers:


"I'm not interested":

"Maybe you're not interested right now, but could you tell us more about what you're looking for in a product/service?"

"Too high":

“I understand that you are concerned about the price. Could you tell me your budget and values?”

"I am happy with my current provider":

“Thank you for being happy with your current provider, but we would like to talk to you about how our products/services can bring unique value to your business.”


Assign Next Step

Finally, assign actions and next steps to owners with target dates. This ensures that the conversation doesn't end on the phone/video call and the deal moves forward. Be clear on who is responsible for each action and set clear deadlines. This keeps everyone accountable and helps ensure transactions go forward.


To make the planning process even easier, we've created a detailed template to help sellers capture all this information.The template includes defining goals, understanding client needs, creating an agenda, and NOVA questions. Includes sections on using, preparing counterarguments, and assigning next steps. The template can be downloaded for free right here :

SYSVelocity _ Sales Call Plan Template 01
.xlsx
Download XLSX • 146KB




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