You might have heard salespeople say “Sales is the lifeblood of any business,” and they do say that for a reason. Sales is the driving force of a company because when you think about it, nearly all business processes, from manufacturing to accounting, do generally require sales orders to move forward. Additionally, all the efforts of business marketing will not matter if a company is not generating adequate sales. Therefore, at its core, all business comes down to that sales call made by the company’s sales representative.
Most salespeople want to figure out what went right after having completed a successful sales call, especially to add the successful aspects of that call to their list of best practices. The sad reality is there is not an ultimate guide for success because a variety of salesperson behaviors, buyer conditions, and numerous other outside factors can influence a sales call’s nature. This post aims to discuss some actions to take or habits to develop for salespeople in order to improve their effectiveness before they even begin their direct communication with prospects.
The first thing to touch on is not actually planning or preparing for the sales call with that prospect. In order to improve efficiency, a Sales Hacker post by Fergal Glynn recommends a quality over quantity approach in which companies should put the time and effort to qualify sales leads earlier in the cycle so that the salespeople will not spend too much time on low-quality opportunities. This is crucial since it will not only help salespeople to make better use of their time, but also can give them a morale boost for having higher close rates.
The next step after having qualified leads is to conduct research on the prospect’s company, industry and customers in order to have some sort of a SWOT analysis at your disposal. This initial preparation will help the salesperson structure a sales proposal that better connects with the circumstances and needs of the prospect. Having a formal sales proposal tailored to that prospect will communicate professionalism if the salesperson has an appointment to have a sales meeting. Depending on the situation (such as the number of buyers in the meeting), the proposal can be in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, a printed document, or both. One key aspect of an effective sales proposal is to keep it focused on the prospect’s business as much as possible. Highlight the needs of the prospect and some potential solutions instead of simply putting information on what products or services you are offering. To highlight the importance of preparation, Bob Davies uses this famous quote from Benjamin Franklin in his Salesforce post: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” What to keep in mind is that the number one reason behind the preparation process is to have issues to address and discuss during the sales call, which will show the buyer that you care about their business and genuinely want to provide them some solutions.
The last consideration before making a sales call (either on the phone or in person) is to have a call objective ahead of time. This will clarify the salesperson’s agenda for that call so that they can focus on specific goals. This may be something besides making the sale, such as getting an appointment for a future meeting or obtaining some key piece of information from the buyer about their company to determine how to move further ahead in the sales process. However, a significant issue about sales calls is that they will almost always require you to change or evolve your initial call objective. Davies recommends that salespeople should try to figure out if it is a good time for the contact to have a conversation, which can be done by simply asking “How are you today?” and paying attention to their tone and body language. Based on the circumstances, it might be a better idea to reschedule or make an adjustment to the planned presentation, such as keeping the meeting brief (not by going too fast, but by removing and/or postponing some parts of the presentation). Therefore, salespeople should keep an open mind about how the sales call might turn out, so adaptability in the face of change is an important attribute in order to better connect with prospects and achieve positive results.
This post aimed to provide some guidelines on what salespeople should consider before tackling sales calls. Things to keep in mind are: qualifying earlier in the process, researching to develop a SWOT analysis, creating a formal sales proposal, having a call objective, and more importantly, always keeping it about the prospect and being adaptable! Consistently utilizing some of these steps before sales calls will turn them into habitual behaviors, and will make sales calls feel less like uncharted (or even hostile) waters, and more like familiar territory.
Written by Furkan Ozunal
Furkan is an undergraduate marketing and finance student at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. He loves skiing, the Turkish rock band Duman and the sports club Fenerbahce.