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Pre Call Planning: The Key to Call Success, Every Time!
By Jim Kasper, President & CEO, Interactive Resource Group

Pre-call planning has its origins in tactical military battle field planning. If the enemy makes a certain move, their opponent has a pre-determined counter movement

Pre-call planning has its origins in tactical military battle field planning. If the enemy makes a certain move, their opponent has a pre-determined counter movement to insure quick and decisive action. Pre-call planning can best be described as, "If they say or do this, then we'll be prepared to say or do that." Like any other planning function, its success relies heavily on 2 factors:
  1. That we learn from past experience (from both successes mistakes).
  2. The salesperson's ability to think through all possible outcomes of their sales process.
There's also a great sports analogy for Pre-call Planning. Hours before every professional baseball game, each starting pitcher and catcher meet with their respective pitching coaches to discuss each batter in their opponent's line-up. The tactical objective of this meeting is to determine the pitch sequence that will be thrown to each batter given different base runner positions or different game scenarios. In many cases, these are actually written down and reviewed between innings by the catcher and pitching coach as the game progresses.
Top salespeople prepare no differently before entering the "sales field." So what does the Pre-call Plan look like? The process begins with the salesperson completing a Pre-call Plan for calls he or she has scheduled for the next day. We recommend new sales representatives prepare a plan for every call; veterans may want to limit their preparation for calls on "key" accounts, initial calls or "big" deals. The process is quite simple and stimulates a mental rehearsal of each individual sales call, telephone or face-to-face. Exhibit #1 is an example of a Pre-call Plan.
Exhibit #1:
Customer:           ___________________________________________    
Decision-maker:  ___________________________________________  
Influencers:          ___________________________________________              
Sales Cycle Objective (next stage in the sales cycle):                 
Benefit to customer for spending time with me: _____________________
Open-ended questions that I will ask this prospect/customer:
  • OEQ. 1:
  • OEQ. 2:
  • OEQ. 3:
  • OEQ. 4:
  • OEQ. 5:
What questions do I expect to be asked by the prospect/customer? And, how will I answer them?

Objections that I expect from this prospect/customer and my "overcome strategy:"

Closing statements that I will use to ask for commitment or recommend we move to the next stage in the sales cycle:

The "NO" game plan (what will I do if they tell me "NO"):
Once the salesperson has completed their Pre-call Plans, it's a good practice to review them by a sales manager or fellow salesperson. Specifically, this review should focus on the salesperson's sales cycle objective. The proper entry for this line should always reflect the next stage in the sales cycle. In other words, the sales representative must understand that the only real objective of the sales call is to move the sale forward, if not close it.

The next critical area for review revolves around the benefit that the prospect or customer will derive from spending time with the salesperson. Experience proves that the #1 reason customers won't spend time with a sales professional is that they do not perceive a benefit for doing so. In other words, "What's in it for me?"

Rookie sales representatives, along with many veterans, tend to ask too many direct questions. The Pre-call Plan review session should critique these open-ended questions to be sure that they will solicit the proper information for the respective stage of the sales cycle. Salespeople must understand these questions provide a script to maintain control of the sales call and solicit important information by keeping the prospect talking.

No one likes an unpleasant surprise. That's the exact reason why sales representatives are well prepared on the sections concerning potential customer questions and objections. This is the point where the sales manager or coach can lend expertise and background in building confidence that the salesperson is able to field any "off-the-wall" question or objection. This is also a great time to verbally rehearse.

Finally, the Pre-call Planning session ends by rehearsing the exact words that the sales representative will use to either close the sale or recommend commitment for the next stage in the sales cycle. The key is to for the rep to not only ask for commitment, but to be prepared to respond immediately if the response is a "No." The rep must be prepared proper response to "No" because many sales professionals take that as the final word when in fact the sale could be saved if the salesperson would only ask one question, "Why?"

Pre-call Planning is a marvelously effective tool and can be conducted via distance telephone. When used consistently, it results in sales success!

Jim Kasper is the Founder and President of Interactive Resource Group. Mr. Kasper has over 26 years of practical experience in direct sales, sales management, sales training, and marketing. Contact him at www.salestrainers.com or call 800-891-7355

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