Preparation is key to success in any industry; but when your job is to win over strangers and convince them to give you thousands of dollars, the ability to be prepared is so crucial. Enter pre-call planning.
Far too many salespeople trust their natural talent to make them successful in the sales world. And while that does indeed go a long way, even the highest performing sales reps can benefit from a decided pre-call plan process that prepares them for a plethora of situations on the call. In this post, we will break down the pre-call plan and how to build your template so you can begin maximizing your sales strategy. For a deeper dive into the subject, visit the SBQ Sales Training Room.
What Is Pre-Call Planning
Pre-call planning in sales is exactly what it sounds like — creating a sales gameplan before you ever engage with a prospect or customer. Pre-call planning is a two-step process:
- Profiling an account before prospecting. Before you even start prospecting, you must know a thing or two about a thing or two. Take the time to gather at least some base knowledge about your prospect before you send that first email or get on your first phone call with them. This allows you to sound educated from the start and prove your worth.
- Prepare for any meeting in the sales process. Pre-call planning does not just relate to qualification or discovery meetings. While the early stages are likely the most important to have a set pre-call plan, you still need to be prepared for demos, upsells, and any other future meeting.
The goal of pre-call planning is simple: it allows you to show up and sound intelligent right out of the gate rather than fighting the uphill battle of continuously earning the prospect’s respect. When you make it evident that you prepared for a call, you begin to create an emotional connection with them from the beginning and show you understand them and their problem. In turn, they start believing you are committed to their success.
Pre-call planning should be leveraged before any and all sales meetings — it’s a way to show up prepared, earn trust, and win more deals.
Building Your Pre-Call Plan Template
There is no one-size-fits-all template for pre-call planning. Salespeople work and think differently, and it’s crucial to construct a template around your unique strengths. For me, that involved tedious note keeping and file-by-file organization early in my sales career to help me customize my approach to each client.
Whatever your approach, build a repeatable process that you can follow time and time again using the following points.
1. What Information Can You Find Publicly?
The internet is a beautiful place when it comes to prospecting, and it’s the first tool you should use when creating a pre-call plan. There is so much public information available that allows you to start relating to who you are talking to, understand their company, and begin establishing a relationship. LinkedIn, the company’s website, and Google search (both the prospect and the company) are great ways to start collecting information.
2. What Can You Leverage in Your Prospecting Outreach?
Using this information, start to recognize points that you can leverage in your call. Do you have intimate knowledge of the struggles facing their industry? Use it. Are you able to recommend strategies fit for a company of their headcount? Do it.
Use whatever information you can leverage to continue the relationship-building process. To understand more about the craft, take our three-part course on prospecting today.
3. What Are All the Possible Outcomes of the Meeting?
This is a crucial step that too many people skip over. Early in my sales career, I feared some prospecting and initial discovery calls because I knew that if it didn’t go well, that was it. There’s no way to reverse the first-impression you give someone, something crucial to success in the sales world.
Because of this, I began realizing the benefits of preparing for a wealth of different outcomes. The result? I had answers ready without having to sit in the hot seat and handle objections under pressure. To this day, this allows me to very calmly address any fears when they show up (not if) and move the conversation back in the direction it needs to go. This swift thinking is not possible without considering all of the possible outcomes of a conversation.
4. Is Your Sales Strategy Actually Strategic?
Again, salespeople like to rely on their gifts to win deals. As the old adage goes, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. While it’s true that you can’t be successful in sales without natural selling talent, it’s also true that strategic sales plans can take you to the next level.
How to Pre-Call Plan
Breaking down the information above even further, there are three parts to crafting a concrete pre-call plan:
- Research the who, what, when, where, and why of your prospect and company.
- Map out all the possible outcomes.
- Understand the circumstances out of your control that could get in your way, and have an answer for them.
Let me give you a personal example. As a tech SaaS sales rep selling HR and payroll technology, I was prospecting a restaurant group with a few intricacies. I began the process by prospecting directly to the CFO for months, but it became apparent that they were going to wait for their HR hire to come on board before making any purchasing decision.
Immediately when they made the hire, I reached out to her on LinkedIn, told her I had been working with her new CFO for the past few months, and told her I wanted to earn the opportunity to have a conversation about their current HR and payroll technology when she was ready. Here’s what I noticed early in the process:
- She was highly analytical with a history of working with enterprise-level technology and a large team
- The CEO and CFO were both disconnected from the buying process
- Their current technology was outdated
- They had a limited headcount and budget
I did my due diligence and in my pre-call plan and hypothesized that, based on her background, she’s probably used to having enterprise-level technology and CRPs and a robust HR team. In her new role, she’s not inheriting any of those benefits, and her life will be flipped upside down if we don’t create the environment she had in the past that allowed her to succeed.
In taking this stance, I became an ally of hers and genuinely cared about her and her success. This research drove my pre-call planning and allowed me to prepare for outcomes and questions, such as:
- What if she wants to keep their current technology?
- What if she wants to use the HR and payroll solution from her old company?
- What if she has closer relationships with other HR providers competing for her business?
In the end, I was ready for multiple outcomes and ended up winning a deal worth nearly 5x our average.
Take the Next Steps
Mastering any craft requires practice, and such is the case for pre-call planning. To begin, go back to previous discovery and qualification meetings and ask yourself how prepared you were for the call.
Did you do diligent research on your prospect? Did you prepare for multiple outcomes and obstacles? Did you rehearse your call to perfect it?
From there, have a manager or other high-performing salesperson hold you accountable and practice with them. I’m confident that the results will speak for themselves.