Congratulations! Getting past the gatekeeper and getting access to a decision maker is no mean feat. However, you can't rest on your laurels just yet; your sales cycle
has only just begun.
Did you know that most sales are closed before the meeting even starts? It's said that half the time (57%), a purchase decision is completed even before a sales person contacts a customer. With the amount of information available today, your buyers have probably researched their options and are only looking for the best fit for their business.
With the cold calls made and subsequent appointments agreed on, how come many salespeople never reach their full performance potential?
The truth is that too many people attempt to wing their way through their sales calls. But they soon find that without a logical call plan, their previously warm prospects soon start to grow cold. And because they don't realise what they're doing wrong, they tend to repeat these ineffective practices over and over again.
On the other hand, having a consistent game plan for your sales calls can boost overall performance by as much as 50%. This is because a good sales process will mirror the pattern your customers use to make buying decisions.
With no sales call system in place, salespeople can only see whether they won or lost a sale. And if you don't know what went wrong, or why, how can you improve your performance?
We can't escape making these sales calls; an estimated 90% of all customer interactions take place via the phone. So, instead of winging your way to a "no", here are five recommendations to help prepare for your next sales call.
1) Know your objectives
Always start with the end in mind: what's your desired objective for this call? Take the time to think about what you want to happen as the result of the call.
Depending on where the prospect is in the sales process, your objective may be to continue building rapport, establish credibility, or to secure agreement for a meeting. Identifying (and writing down) an objective may seem like an insignificant thing to do, but it can help you come up with the right questions that will lead to your desired outcome.
But, since sales is a numbers game, it's not prudent to want to write out the objective manually for every single call you're going to have to make. Rather, do this for the types of calls that you have to make eg. asking for confirmation of a meeting.
Working in the 21st century, it's likely that you have access to some kind of CRM system
, which even exist for mobile now - as explained by Resco, who we've linked to here. Simply ensure that when you schedule the next call to a particular client, annotate what type of call, based on it's objectives, it needs to be.
If you're not working from a CRM system, and using manual tools, you should still come up with a system for yourself so you're able to see easily what type of call each needs to be.
2) Research your lead
Once you've identified your objectives, do some detailed research on your prospect, the company, and the industry or market they're in. Knowing your audience is generally thought to mean understanding the company itself, but it involves much more than that.
You'll find that when it comes to selling to senior executives, it's not enough to quote their company figures from last year's annual report. You need to do your due diligence and demonstrate some level of expertise in, or knowledge of, the buyer's industry.
Some great questions to ask at this point are:
- What are the issues affecting the company? These may be on their own website, or found in other places.
- Is their company/sector in the news?
- Are there any recent challenges/issues in the industry?
Questions like this give you a better opportunity to tie your capabilities to a company's priorities, giving you a better chance of standing out from other salespeople.
Finally, spend some time learning more about the person who will be your contact at the company. It's always better to relate to your prospect on a personal level: we all suffer from information overload and any untargeted messages will fall on deaf ears.
Proper research will allow you to speak the prospect's language, engage in a conversation that adds value, while accentuating your credibility as an expert.
Most importantly with any research that you have done on a prospect, make sure it's easily at hand in any kind of follow up calls. Why wow the person on an initial call, only to seem a bit vacant in the second or third call, because that research is not available.
3) Compile qualifying questions
Now you understand your prospect and their industry more, put together a list of questions that will give you a feel for what their biggest problems are.
Unfortunately, many salespeople tend to go into a call with only a vague idea of what they want to know. Stand out by compiling the right questions and arrange them in a logical order.
Work out what's likely to be needed by avoiding "closed" questions -- those that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no". Some open-ended questions that work well include:
- What are the challenges and objectives you are facing at the moment?
- How long have these challenges affected the company?
- Who will be involved in the decision making process?
- What do you need to know to make an informed choice between suppliers?
- How has your organization invested in a similar solution in the past?
- If there is an existing solution in place, when will that solution or contract expire?
Asking these types of questions in a sales call will cause the customer to open up more, while helping you to build rapport with them at the same time.
4) Consider your positioning
With the research done and sales call plans laid out, now it's time to determine how you'll position yourself during the call. To an extent, this may depend on the size of your business, but being a small company doesn't mean you can't be a thought leader. After all, any current giant of an organization started out small too!
Using your research data, identify how your product or service can have a positive impact on your prospect's company. Make the effort to position yourself as a thought leader in the industry by taking advantage of tools like social media (LinkedIn is a great tool for this if you're selling to businesses) and blogging helps to brand yourself as an expert.
While you're on the call, you can refer the prospect to your social media or blog pages that display your knowledge of their industry. Nobody likes to be sold to, but everyone appreciates a helping hand. By positioning yourself or your team as trusted advisors, you'll all have more success than people who only push for a sale.
This part of your call is vital. In the property market, an expression is used: Location, location, location. You need to think the same way about how you position yourself, and throughout the call, build into your prospect's psyche where you are, and why you're valuable.
5) Deal with their objections
After all this research and creating elaborate sales call scenarios, you'll still run into objections. And although it's impossible to prepare for every objection, your research can help you identify the most frequent ones in the industry.
Some of the most common ones are:
- You are more expensive than the competition
- I can't authorise this
- Let me think about it
Faced with objections, most salespeople try to deal with them "on the fly". But this is very risky, and should be avoided by going into the call well-prepared. Make a list of some of the most common objections you expect, and prepare your answers to each of them before making the call.
In sales, like in any endeavor, practise makes perfect. Practise your script over and over. You can even record a mock-sales call and play it back to hear how you come across to a prospect. The way you answer their objection must sound natural, and the client should not immediately think you're on the back foot.
We'll be the first to admit it, sales calls can be tricky; but they don't need to be. With some simple preparation and plenty of practise, you can fine-tune your sales call approach so it leads you closer to your desired outcome. And most importantly, always remember that a sales call is never about what you need, but what you can do for the prospective client.