The 5 Best Tips on How to Prepare for a Sales Call
Congratulations! Getting past the gatekeeper and getting access to a decision maker is no mean feat.  However, you can't rest on your oars just yet; your sales cycle has only just begun.

Did you know that most sales are closed before the meeting even starts? Half the time (57%), a purchase decision is completed even before a sales person contacts a customer. With the amount of information available today, your buyers have probably researched their options and are only looking for the best fit for their business.

With the cold calls made and subsequent appointments agreed on, how come many salespeople never reach their full performance potential?

The truth is that too many people attempt to wing their way through their sales calls. But they soon find that without a logical call plan to follow, their previously warm prospects soon start to grow cold. And because they don’t realise what they're doing wrong, they tend to repeat these ineffective tactics over and over again.

On the other hand, having a consistent game plan for your sales calls can boost overall performance by as much as 50%. This is because a good sales process will mirror the pattern that your customers use to make buying decisions.

With no sales call system in place, salespeople can only see whether they won or lost a sale. If you don’t know what went wrong or why, how can you improve your performance?

We can't escape making these sales calls; an estimated 90% of all customer interactions take place via the phone. So, instead of winging your way to a “no”, here are five recommendations to help prepare for your next sales call.

1)   Know your objectives

Always start with the end in mind: what is your desired objective for this call? Take the time to think about what you want to happen as the result of the call.

Depending on where the prospect is in the sales process, your objective may be to continue building rapport, establish credibility, or to secure agreement for a meeting. Identifying (and writing out) an objective may seem like an insignificant thing to do, but it can help you come up with the right questions to ask that will eventually lead to your desired outcome.

But, since sales is a numbers game, it's not prudent to want to write out the objective manually for every single call you're going to have to make. Rather, do this for the types of calls that you have to make eg. asking for confirmation about having a meeting.

Working in the 21st century, it's likely that you have access to some kind of CRM system. Simply ensure that when you schedule the next call to a particular client, annotate what type of call , based on it's objectives, it has to be.

If you're not working from a CRM system, and using manual tools, still come up with some code system for yourself so that you are able to see easily what type of call each needs to be.

2)   Research your lead

Once you’ve identified your objectives, do some detailed research on your prospect, the company, and the industry at large. Knowing your audience is generally thought to mean understanding the company itself, but it involves much more than that.

You'll find that when it comes to selling to executives, it's not enough to quote their company figures from last year’s annual report. You must do your due diligence and demonstrate some level of expertise in the buyer’s industry.

Some great questions to ask at this point are:
  • What are the issues affecting the company? These may be on their own website, or found in other places.
  • Is their company/sector in the news?
  • Are there any recent challenges/issues in the industry?

Questions like this give you a better opportunity to tie your capabilities to a company’s strategic initiatives, thus giving you a better chance of standing out among other salespeople.

Finally, spend some time learning more about the person who will be your contact at the company. It is always better to relate to your prospect on a personal level: we all suffer from information overload and any untargeted messages will fall on deaf ears.

Proper research will allow you to speak the prospect’s language, engage in a conversation that adds value, while accentuating your credibility as an expert.

Most importantly with any research that you have done on a prospect, make sure it's easily at hand in any kind of follow up calls. Why wow the person on an initial call, only to seem a bit vacant in the second or third call, because that research is not at hand again.


3)   Compile qualifying questions

Now that you understand your prospect and their industry more, compile a list of questions that will give you a feel for what their biggest problems are.

Unfortunately, many salespeople tend to go into a call with only a vague idea of what they want to know. Stand out by compiling the right questions and arrange them in a logical order.

Suss out the required information by avoiding questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Some open-ended questions that work well include:
  • What are the challenges and objectives you are currently facing?
  • How long have these challenges affected the firm?
  • Which individuals will be involved in the decision making process?
  • Are you considering other firms? What do you need to know to make an informed choice between these firms?
  • Has your organisation invested in a similar solution in the past?
  • If there is an existing solution in place, when will that solution or contract expire?

Asking these types of questions in a sales call will cause the customer to open up more while helping you to build rapport with them at the same time.


4)   Consider your positioning

With the research done and sales call plans laid out, now it's time to determine how you'll position yourself during the call. To an extent, this may depend on the size of your business, but being a small company doesn't mean you can’t be a thought leader. After all, any current giant of an organisation started out small once too!

Using your research data, identify how your product or service can have a positive impact on your prospect's company. Make the effort to position yourself as a thought leader in the industry by taking advantage of tools like social media (LinkedIn is a great tool for this) and blogging to brand yourself as an expert.

Whilst on the call, you can refer the prospect to your social media or blog pages that display your knowledge of their industry. Nobody likes to be sold to, but everyone appreciates a helping hand. By positioning your sales team as trusted advisors, they'll have more success than those who only push for a sale.

This part of your call is vital. In the property market, an expression is used: Location, location, location. You need to think the same way about how you position yourself, and throughout the call, build into your prospect's psyche where you are, and why you're valuable.

5)   Allay their objections

After all this research and creating elaborate sales call scenarios, you will occasionally run into objections. And although it's impossible to prepare for every objection, your research can help you identify the most frequent ones in the industry.

Some of the most common ones are:
  • You are more expensive than the competition.
  • I can’t authorise this.
  • Let me think about it.

Faced with objections, most salespeople try to wing it. But this risk can be avoided by going into the call prepared. Make a list of some of the most common objections in their industry and prepare your answers to each of them before making the call.

In sales, like in any endeavour, practise makes perfect. Practise your script over and over. You can even record a mock-sales call and play it back to hear how you come across to a prospect. The way that you answer their objection must sound natural, and the client should not immediately think you're on the back foot.

We'll be the first to admit it, sales calls can be tricky; but they don’t need to be. With some simple preparation and plenty of practise, you can fine-tune your sales call approach so it leads you closer to your desired outcome. And most importantly, always remember that a sales call is never about what you need, but what you can do for the prospective client.