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Tennessean Column- Sunday, September 6

Posted on: September 15

Author: Tom Black
Tennessean Column- Sunday, September 6

What is preplanning the sales call?

Planning a sales call is essential to top performance in sales.  When I talk to salespeople and ask, “Do you preplan your calls?” most salespeople answer yes.  There are a few cowboys out there winging it, but most salespeople believe they are preplanning their calls.  I don’t believe they are.  I think most of us, including me, do an incomplete job of preplanning.  Recently, I made this list for myself and the salespeople in my companies.

1. LinkedIn: Have you looked on LinkedIn for information about your prospect and their company?  Most companies have a LinkedIn page.  Further, have you looked for other people that your prospect is linked to?  Seeing the whole picture that LinkedIn paints of your prospect and their company is an important part of preplanning.  By the way, you don’t do this research between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday.  That’s people time, not research time.

2. Facebook: Have you looked for your prospect on Facebook? You won’t always find them, but you should look. If you find them, it will help you connect with them when you meet them for the first time. You can search for them by their name and their company name. Do both. Their company may have a Facebook page as well. Take the extra time to do this.

3. Website: It always surprises me when I am on a sales call with my own salespeople and I ask if they have looked at the company’s website and they answer “no” — or worse, “I glanced at it,” which means “no.”  When I press and say, “What did you learn from the website?” most have a weak answer. Start looking at the prospect’s website with the thought, “What can I learn that I can use?” There is usually a lot of information you can use if you click all the tabs. Don’t just look at the home page.

4. Directions: I worked with a woman in Seattle who always allowed an extra hour to get to the prospect because she would always get lost. Preplan your route and arrive on time. Traffic, wrecks and getting lost are weak excuses that losers give for being late. Preplan your travel to arrive on time. Better to be an hour early than 10 minutes late.

5. Rapport: If you are in sales (we all sell something — a product, an idea or a service), ask yourself, "How do I establish rapport with a stranger?"  I never go on a call without preplanning my opening questions with a prospect. I never open with “How are you today?” I might as well say, “I am a salesperson and I want to sell you something.”

Usually, as my butt hits the seat in a prospect’s office, I say “How long have you been here?” or, if the prospect is the founder, “When did you start your business?”  Then, my second preplanned question is, “Are you originally from here?”  Now, I am looking around their office for something personal.  My third preplanned question is “Where were you before this?”  By now, I better be ready for a fresh question. Maybe something I learned from Facebook or LinkedIn, even something as general as, “I looked at your company’s LinkedIn page. Has it produced any revenue?”

Here’s the point. I take control of the conversation from the first and start looking for something I have in common with the prospect. Preplanning allows me to do this. If I don’t, the prospect will say, “Tell me what you are selling.”  I never want that to happen, so I preplan questions to help me establish rapport as quickly as possible. Vocabulary.com says “rapport is a good sense of understanding and trust.”  It doesn’t say you can’t preplan to get there.

6. Needs based questions: No matter what I’ve sold, I always find myself asking the same questions in the discovery phase of the sales process. So now I have written these questions down and put them on a piece of paper.

I print it out in big print, double spaced, and I use it to take notes on when I am in a sales call. That way I am prepared to find or create a need before I go on the call. It also helps me to remember every question and not just ask from memory.

When I showed this list of six items to some salespeople, the general consensus was, “It is a good idea but a lot of work” and “It is a good idea, but I don’t have time for all of that.”

I always think there are two kinds of people.  One finds a way and the other finds an excuse.



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