Sales can be a great job. There aren’t many careers that offer the income potential, freedom, and recognition of being a sales professional. But the job also gets a bad rap and can be seen as an easy gig. It isn’t. When done correctly, and by correctly, I mean achieving consistent success, the job is hard work.
Success for the sales professional is tied to 3 major activities: pre-call preparation, asking good questions and listening with intent. These three things may not, on the surface, sound like hard work, but they are.
What happens before every sales call creates what happens during every sales call. Good or bad. Good planning equals good calls. Bad planning or no planning equals a bad call. Pre-call planning is the activity where it’s easiest to take shortcuts. From cold calling to closing, every sales call needs a plan. Said another way, what is the purpose of your call? If you aren’t clear on your purpose, you haven’t planned the call. To be crystal clear on the purpose of your call, you can ask and answer the following questions internally:
What do I already know?
This question is where your homework starts—reviewing previous call notes in CRM, reviewing their company website, LinkedIn profiles, press releases, and any related news.
What do I need to know that don’t?
Make a list of the things you need to know but don’t so you can formulate the questions you’ll need to ask on the call.
What do I need them to share?
Everyone sells the same thing, outcomes. So what are the possible solutions, deliverables, or outcomes you provide to a customer? These are the things you should be listing for.
What should happen next?
Stalled or dead deals are often the result of the salesperson not planning for or asking for the next step. If you don’t put thought into the next step before you start the call, it can be challenging to get there.
When the heavy lifting of pre-call preparation is done, creating the right questions should be simpler. The best questions get the prospect to tell you their story—lending insight into their current situation and desired outcomes. Ultimately you need to know both the “what” and the “why”. One of my favorites is, “Can you help me understand what you are trying to accomplish and why it’s important?”
Listening is the hardest thing we never do! Yet, as a Sales Professional, we must listen with the intent to understand both “what” our prospects are trying to accomplish and “why” it is important to them. The “what” speaks to the logical reason they need to buy, and the “why” speaks to the emotional need they want to satisfy. You must discover both! As part of your pre-call planning, it can be helpful to put thought into what answers you might hear to the questions you plan to ask. In other words, plan out what you should be listening for.
The profession of sales isn’t typically physically demanding but does require work in the form of planning and execution.