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Pre‑call Planning for Sales Call Success

Pre‑call planning can take your sales strategy to the next level. Learn how to elevate your approach and get excellent results in this comprehensive guide.

Calls with prospects are the ultimate test for sales professionals. This is where you put your customer research, product knowledge, and selling skills to work in hopes of closing the deal. If you do well, you’ll not only land the sale but also build lasting customer relationships that lead to repeat business.

Like with any big test, the more you prepare, the better your results will be. So, what’s an excellent way to get ready for these important calls? Pre-call planning. It’s the key to ensuring you know what to say and how to deal with all parts of your sales chat.   

If you’d like to ace your sales exam time and again, it’s time to make thorough planning a priority before making sales calls. Learn how in this guide on effective pre-call planning tactics for sales reps.  

What is pre-call planning in sales?  

Pre-call planning involves researching, preparing, and customizing your sales approach to fit each customer’s needs. It’s the behind-the-scenes work you do before a sales call that helps you better connect with clients.

This process starts by learning about each potential client’s:

  • Business: You research what the client does, what they sell, and how they stand out in their market.  
  • Challenges: You figure out what problems the client is facing so you can show how your product or service can help. 
  • Decision-makers: You learn who makes the big decisions in the company and what matters to them.
  • Competitors: You look into who the client is competing with and what makes those competitors strong or weak.
  • Goals: You discover what the client is trying to achieve, now and in the future.

Planning before each sales call also prepares you to handle common objections about product fit, pricing, and value. This improves your ability to deliver your pitch and address relevant questions, leading to better sales performance and outcomes. 

Why upgrade your sales cycle with pre-call planning

Being prepared is all about making a positive first impression. In sales, this impression goes a long way in showing customers you value and support them. The extra time and attention sets you apart from other sales reps, which helps build rapport and drives sales. Here’s how creating a pre-call plan ensures you impress prospects early on. 

Understand potential customers better

When you plan ahead, you get to know your potential customers on a deeper level. You learn about their company’s challenges, needs, and goals while looking at the overall business landscape. This knowledge enables you to speak in a way that resonates with their unique situation. Your clients feel valued and understood thanks to your extra effort, ensuring they remember you when it comes time to buy.

Anticipate potential objections

Planning empowers you to anticipate potential clients’ objections, such as concerns about pricing and feature gaps. You can confidently guide sales chats past these hurdles by preparing responses in advance. This smooths the path to closing deals and gives customers true peace of mind about the value of your products or services.

Streamline the sales conversation

The best sales calls come from a well-structured plan. You need to have a clear roadmap for the conversation if you want to focus on what matters most to the customer. A solid plan also helps you directly address the client’s needs while clarifying that your product or service is the ideal solution. Your sales calls go from ordinary to exceptional, increasing your chance of landing the sale.

Nine key steps in the pre-call planning process

Carefully preparing for each sales call enables you to guide prospects to become happy customers. Whether you’re cold calling or reaching out to warm leads, putting in planning time is the secret to success. Good selling comes down to excellent prep, so use this roadmap to turn basic calls into truly productive sales chats.

Step #1: Complete pre-call research to learn about the prospect’s company

Begin your pre-planning journey by researching the prospect’s company inside and out. This homework lays the groundwork for building a strong connection. Consider using a pre-call planning template or simply jotting down notes in your sales notebook to keep track of your findings.

During your research, strive to gain a well-rounded understanding of their business. This means digging into their mission, values, history, products, and customer base. Explore their website, LinkedIn page, and relevant news articles to uncover these insights. Also, search online for their business name and products to gauge how people feel about their brand. 

Step #2: Research the prospect’s competitors to understand the business landscape

Understanding the prospect’s company is a great start, but you also need a clear view of the entire business landscape. This involves studying your prospect’s direct rivals to glean key insights from their online presence.

While searching online, look at each competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, products, pricing, and customer satisfaction. Try to identify gaps and opportunities that can help your prospect improve, stand out, or lower costs. Then, reflect on how your solutions could help them achieve those goals.

When you know the competitive landscape, you can better explain how you can help your prospect succeed. This sets you up as a key player in their brand’s success story, making every sales call more meaningful.  

Step #3: Identify the decision-maker and see if you have any mutual connections

Pinpointing exactly who has purchasing power is essential prep work before making effective sales calls. Even if your next meeting isn’t with the sole decision-maker, understanding their role and needs can help close the deal.

Research online to find the person or team who gives the green light for purchases. This can involve checking the company website, social media pages, and reviews. Seek their name, title, responsibilities, and bio details. Then, explore mutual connections on LinkedIn to leverage if possible.

Identifying the company’s decision-makers and activating social capital gives each sales conversation more weight. This research also prevents you from wasting time pitching to leads who can’t approve or deny a sale.

Step #4: Use the prospect’s needs and pain points to define sales call goals

After learning about the prospect’s business, think over what challenges might be slowing their progress in reaching their goals. Then, use those needs and pain points to determine what you aim to achieve on the call.

For example, if you’ve discovered that the prospect struggles with high overhead costs, your goal could be to present how your product can help save money. If their pain point is slow customer response times, you might want to showcase how your product improves efficiency instead. This shows that you’ve done your homework and thoughtfully tailored your offer to their needs.

Step #5: Develop your value proposition and gather proof to back your claims

Next, it’s time to develop a value proposition that lets customers know how they can benefit from your product or service. Even if you already have this statement created for your business, it’s a good idea to tailor it to match each potential client’s needs.

To communicate the value of your offerings, follow these steps:

  1. Revisit what you’ve learned about the customer’s needs and challenges.
  2. Identify what sets your product or service apart from the competition.
  3. Customize your value proposition to address the prospect’s unique pain points.
  4. Support your claims with evidence, like case studies and testimonials. 
  5. Focus on the positive outcomes the customer can expect when buying from you.

When you prove that your company offers exceptional value, you can say goodbye to basic sales pitches. Instead, you get to deliver impactful messages that motivate prospects to make a purchase. 

Step #6: Prepare a list of open-ended questions based on your research   

Open-ended questions invite potential customers to share their thoughts, needs, and challenges. Since they’re not easily answered with a yes or no, these questions get people to express themselves fully. They’re like keys that unlock valuable information during your sales call.

To create these questions, reflect on what you’ve learned during your pre-call research. Then, write queries that prompt the client to provide in-depth insights. For example, instead of asking, “Do you have any budget constraints?” go with, “Can you share more about your budget and how it impacts your decision-making process?” Aim to come up with at least 10 open-ended questions before your call.  

Step #7: Think about potential objections and prepare some responses

Objections are like roadblocks on your sales journey. They have the potential to slow down or even halt your progress. To navigate these obstacles, think ahead about these concerns and decide how to best respond.  

To do that, make a list of worries your potential customers might have. This could be concerns like not getting a good return on investment, facing resistance from decision-makers, or wondering if your product is the right fit.

After that, figure out how to address each concern in a way that reassures the prospect. Your ability to handle objections calmly and confidently shows that you care about their needs. It keeps the conversation going and builds trust in what you’re offering.

Step #8: Practice your sales pitch and conversation flow on mock calls

With all the pieces in place, you’re ready to practice your sales pitch and conversation flow. Set up mock call scenarios with your Sales Manager to refine how you handle sales calls.

Scenarios you might want to practice include:

  • Making an initial cold call to pique interest
  • Reaching decision-makers at big companies  
  • Responding to pricing concerns and objections
  • Conducting product demo calls showcasing key features
  • Closing the deal and setting up implementation plans

These mock call scenarios will help you become more skilled and confident in handling real sales calls.

For even better results, record your practice sessions and review them on a regular basis. This will help you identify your strengths and determine how to improve your pre-call plans and approach. 

Step #9: Plan your follow-up steps for after a successful sales call

The final piece of the planning process is mapping out your follow-up strategy. Keeping in touch with the customer reinforces your connection and shows that you value their business.

Effective follow-up emails involve more than just a thank-you message. Start your email with all the key points covered in the sales call. Ensure this recap highlights how your solutions align with the customer’s needs and goals. Then, go over the next steps. This might include hopping on another call, scheduling an in-person meeting, or sending over a proposal.

After that, it’s just a matter of completing the next steps as promised within the given timeline. Let the customer know you’re available for ongoing support through the buying process and beyond. This helps create a long-term partnership, not just a one-off sale.

Level up your sales process with pre-call planning

The top sales reps don’t wing important calls. They study accounts, customize pitches, and practice conversations so that when the call comes, they seal the deal. Preparing your strategy before picking up the phone shows customers you understand their needs and transforms you into a sales superstar. Leaning into this winning habit is the easiest way to have the most successful sales calls of your career. So, do your pre-call homework and watch your numbers improve as you turn more prospects into satisfied long-term clients.

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