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Don’t Leave Home Without It: Pre-Call Planning

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Jul 05, 2024

Remember the tagline and series of commercials by American Express, “Don't leave home without it?” In this case, we don't want salespeople to leave the office without pre-call planning and pre-call preparation. This is a specific discipline, a hallmark and habit of all great salespeople.

As we work with companies across the country and this topic is introduced, what’s interesting is the resistance that we often receive. The pushback typically comes in a number of different variations. One reason that we will hear is, “Hey I'm a veteran. I've got 20 years of experience. I've been down this road before. I know what I'm doing.” Another excuse we hear is “Listen, I'm really busy. I have a lot going on. I have a lot of calls I need to make. I don't have time for this.”  Other salespeople will say, “I'm just going to wing it. I will rise to the occasion.” And that last one makes me chuckle, and my answer is respectfully, you will not rise to the occasion. Here's what you're going to do. You're going to sink to the level of your preparation, which in your case, might be none or very little.

Sure, there are many things that a salesperson has to do well to be effective and drive consistent results year after year. You have to know your stuff, and you need to be charismatic, and be able to connect with people. You need to build relationships. You need to sell consultatively. You need to be asking all the tough questions. All of that is true. But most importantly, for your prospect or client’s sake, is that you've got to be prepared. It must matter to you enough that you will not think of a sales call as just a sales call. It must matter enough to you that you are at the top of your game every time you roll out into the field and you roll up to a prospect. You're not going to rise to your level of the moment, you're not going to rise to the occasion. That's the athlete in college telling the coach, "Put me in, and I'll show you what I can do." And the coach saying, "Why don't you show me what you can do in practice, and then I will put you in." That's the role of an effective sales leader and coach.

Let's dive right into this best practice of pre-call preparation. Are you or your team doing this or not? And if you're doing it, how well is it going? What is the current status of pre-call planning? Is it something you do all the time? Is it something you do only when you have the time? Is it having the intended effect of increasing your confidence as you go on the call and increasing the effectiveness of your questions while you're on the call?

Let's talk about combustion points. A combustion point, loosely defined, is any opportunity in the delivery of a company's products or services where something can go wrong. There are many things that can go wrong on a sales call. And the purpose of pre-call planning is to engineer out those combustion points. It is designed to not only minimize them, but also to give you a much greater sense of confidence so you can go into that call and get done what you need to get done. We would define that as being very consultative in your approach, asking lots of robust, fierce questions, and being a great listener. And if you don't pre-call plan for that, it is very likely that when the heat's on and it matters the most, you're just going to defer to whatever is known, whatever is comfortable, and whatever is easy. And for most salespeople, what is known and what is comfortable and what is easy, is to talk. They talk way too much.

A good ratio might be 80/20. 80% of the time it should be the prospect talking and 20% of the time it should be you talking. And your 20% of the time talking should be spent asking the questions that then get your prospect to spend 80% of the time talking. That's how it should work. Imagine a sign over your prospect's head that is flashing, wait, wait. And that is an acronym for “Why Am I Talking?”  

If you are convinced that your team needs a structure for pre-call planning, you can download a free worksheet HERE!




Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, pre call preparation, sales training tips, pre call planning


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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.


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