Preparing for Sales Calls: Innovative Ideas to Beat the Competition
You know that prepared sales professionals are more likely to win the business because they appear educated and credible. But, did you know that if you use your research to create a common language with your prospect, you’re more likely to build a lasting relationship? Whether you’re brand new to sales or a grizzled industry veteran, here’s a few innovative ideas to make the most of your prep time.
Success is where preparation meets opportunity.
While these tips are designed for selling to businesses, they can be altered to work for consumers, too.
#1 Research the Prospect
Start by reading your prospect’s websites; be sure to check out their products and services as well as mission, vision and values statements. Read blogs and social posts published by your prospect and look for newly released products and marketing campaigns. Congratulate the prospect on any recent awards or accomplishments. This puts a positive spin on the meeting and highlights your attention to detail.
If you use Customer Relationship Management software, be sure to review your contact, company and account notes to see if your company has spoken to this prospect in the past.
Tip: When you can pose your product or service in your prospect’s vocabulary, you naturally smooth and speed the decision making process. Better yet, organizations with similar missions and values are poised for long-term relationships,
#2 Research the Industry
Even if you’ve sold within this industry before, be sure to read the latest news affecting your prospect. A sudden development or industry trend might provide buying motivation OR it might become an unexpected stumbling block. It’s good to know what events will affect the purchase process. Plus, you can build credibility with your prospective client by sounding educated and informed.
Tip: In addition to old standards like the Wall Street Journal, try free industry-oriented news services such as alltop.com or marketwatch.com
#3 Identify Qualifying Questions
Every sales expert knows that it’s important to qualify leads early in the sales process so that you don’t waste your time OR your prospect’s time. If you don’t have questions yet, you might want to start with these:
Challenges & Objectives
- What challenges are you currently facing?
- What problems are you trying to solve?
- How long have these challenges affected you?
- What drove you to consider our solution?
- What are your objectives for this project? What benefits do you expect, and what would be nice to have?
- If you could change one aspect of your business right now, what would it be?
- Which individuals will be involved in the decision making process? What roles will they play?
- How can I support you as you involve others in this decision?
- How have you approached similar decisions in the past? What factors help you make the best decisions as an organization?
- Are you considering other firms? What do you need to know to make an informed choice between these firms?
- Which individuals will have the final say on the purchasing decision? What issues are important to them?
- What obstacles do you foresee in selecting and implementing this product/service?
- How is your company feeling about the future? Are there concerns that will affect your decision?
- Are there any individuals that may be opposed to this decision? Why?
- Has your organization invested in a similar solution in the past? What pitfalls or obstacles did you experience?
- What is driving you to look for a solution now?
- What is your timeframe for making a decision?
- What factors will speed-up or slow down your decision?
- If there is an existing solution in place, when will that solution/contract expire?
- When will you have the time and availability to begin an implementation?
- How will you develop a budget for this project?
- What factors will affect your budget process?
- Who is typically involved in the budget process for products like ours?
- If you don’t invest in a solution at this time, what impact do you expect to the business?
- What risks have you identified in selecting a solution? How can I better help you understand or mitigate those risks?
For more ideas, check out this article by James Geoffrey.
Tip: The key is to make your prospect feel like they are gaining value from the qualification process – it shouldn’t be about you. Use qualifiers to help prospects better understand their needs and wants, potential obstacles and how they should approach the decision process.
#4 Create a Listening Template
The best sales professionals spend more time listening than talking. To make the most of your sales call, create a Listening Template. Start by listing your qualification questions and any questions that arose as you gathered research. Include sections on how your prospect plans to use your product/service and note which features your prospect finds most helpful or interesting. Add space for other questions that pop up during the meeting. Finally, if you are meeting in person, be sure to capture your observations about the office or meeting room. For example, does the prospect display mementos that highlight professional organizations or personal hobbies?
#5 Prepare for ObjectionsTip: Consider asking for permission to take notes. Every prospect will say yes and they may be impressed with your attention to detail.
Over time, sales professionals become experts in objection handling. Objections are actually blessings in disguise. When prospects object to your proposed solution, they are telling you more about their needs, desires, and concerns. While you can’t prepare for every objection, you can prepare for the more frequent issues. Use your research to help you identify some of the more common concerns that will arise.
Tip: When handling objections, use the “feel, felt, found” methodology. For example, if your prospect says, “I’m worried about your price,” you can say; “I understand why you feel concerns about pricing. Some of my other clients felt the same apprehension about their budgeting process. However, what they’ve found is that their overall expenses go down because their company is more efficient and more effective, leading to a positive Return on Investment.”
#6 Personalize Marketing Materials
Take time to personalize your marketing materials. If you’re using a PowerPoint, add the client’s name to the first slide. If possible, include images and written materials that are specific to your client’s industry. Prospects are more likely to buy from vendors that customize materials and demonstrate their knowledge of the prospect’s unique needs and challenges.
Tip: Streamline the presentation by cutting extraneous slides and saving them in a separate file. If you are surprised and need to talk about a feature that you thought was not relevant, you can still pull up that information.
#7 Boost Your Confidence & Begin
We recommend memorizing your opening line for the sales call. Having the words ready in your back pocket keeps you from stumbling on “uhs” and “ums” and sets the tone for the entire meeting. Don’t go too far; you don’t want to sound like a scripted robot. Rather, try a simple, “Gary, it’s so nice to meet with you. How is your day going so far?”
Another outstanding idea comes from Ted Talks. According to Amy Cuddy, “Standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain.” Taking a “power pose” increases your confidence, which can lead to improved chances for success.
Tip: Try Amy’s idea of going into the bathroom just before you begin a meeting so that you can strike a power pose, without being seen by on-lookers.