Making good calls is a vital skill for all salespeople. Whether it’s cold calls or following up on warm leads, the quality of the call is critical in creating opportunities, so it’s no surprise that 82% of buyers say a cold call was the reason for an eventual meeting.
However, too many salespeople don’t actually like making calls. Especially when there is no previous relationship. Going into a call with no prior history, totally cold, may seem a daunting prospect, and nobody likes being told a clear ‘no’, but pre-call planning is the remedy.
What is pre-call planning?
Pre-call planning is the process of preparing for a call before actually making it. Some salespeople like to shoot from the hip and go in blind, but pre-call planning is particularly helpful when making cold calls to companies or prospects you don’t know a lot about.
Essentially, it’s about being ready. It’s about doing the correct research on the prospect, the industry, the company, and the needs they have. Pre-call planning should be used to get a better understanding of the prospect’s role and responsibilities, so you can tailor your sales spiel accordingly.
Why is pre-call planning important?
Aside from the benefits of being better prepared for the sales conversation, pre-call planning inspires call confidence, helps you deal with possible roadblocks, and improves relationships.
From a call-confidence point of view, the more you know, the more comfortable you’ll be on the call. It, therefore, goes without saying that arming yourself with the right information is going to lead to a more confident call. You’ll be able to respond to the prospect better, appear more credible, and think on your feet.
An additional benefit of pre-call planning is preparing for any possible roadblocks you come across. A good pre-call plan should include how to deal with objections and the possible scenarios that could send the call to the fire. The aim is to be one step ahead of the prospect in order to combat concerns.
Lastly, prospects will respond better if they think you’ve done the relevant homework. If you come across as uneducated and out of your depth, you’ll lose credibility and goodwill. If you are prepared and know how you can help them, you’ll be able to build a longer-lasting relationship, even if the prospect isn’t ready to buy then and there.
What makes a good pre-call plan checklist?
The obvious next question is what makes a good pre-call plan? Everyone is different, but you can use this checklist as guidance.
Step 1: Research the prospect
The first step is to know your prospect, which includes both the person and the company. Ask yourself, what are their pain points, what industry do they operate in, do you know anyone who could be a connection, and what are their goals within the business?
You can find a lot of this information on public places such as LinkedIn or corporate websites, but look as far and wide as possible. The more, the merrier.
Step 2: Understand your competition
Before you speak to anyone, have a general understanding of who you are likely to come up against. You should be prepared to be able to answer, why buy from your business rather than someone else’s.
Step 3: Define the key goals
What’s the upfront contract? What do you want to achieve from the call, and the second call, and so on? What’re the objectives throughout the process. Breaking the process down into goals helps measure success.
Step 4: Prepare your questions
To aid the conversation, and showcase your listening skills, have some open-ended questions prepared to ask the prospect. This is particularly helpful if the prospect isn’t giving much away, and you find yourself needed to coax information out of them. When they answer, listen and make notes.
Step 5: Prepare for objections
As said earlier on, prepare to deal with objections and roadblocks. If you have prepped before the call, you can predict better what concerns the prospect might have and how you’ll answer them. Obviously, you can’t anticipate every question, but being prepared for the most common objections puts you in a good position.
Step 6: Improve
Pre-call planning is a never-ending learning experience. It shouldn’t stop evolving, and you should add to it every time you come across some new industry information or an objection. Don’t rest on your laurels!
So, making sales calls, particularly cold ones, isn’t easy, but being prepared will help inspire confidence and move the conversation forward. Pre-call planning doesn’t guarantee results, but putting in the effort to research and plan your calls will improve the quality of them.