Richard Ruff wrote a great article on Sales Call Planning, it provoked me to extend the discussion–with a twist.
We know sales call planning is important. We want to make we are prepared, we want to be sure we achieve our goals, we want to move the customer through their buying process, we want to make sure we create value in each call. As a side note, we know these things are critical, but I’m amazed by the number of sales people who continue to “wing it” in sales calls.
But effective sales calls and meetings are a two way street. We want to make sure our customer is prepared for the sales call. If they aren’t prepared, regardless of how well prepared we are, we won’t be as effective or impactful as we can be. Likewise, our customers won’t feel their time has been well spent.
So it’s critical that our customers are prepared, as well as us!
Isn’t that presumptive and arrogant? Absolutely not! No one wants to waste their time. To me, it’s a demonstration both of our respect for the customer and our professionalism.
How do we make sure the customer is prepared for the meeting? Simple, we share our plan with them. We do this by providing an agenda in advance and agreeing on the agenda. we can share objectives or goals for the meeting, “Tom, in our meeting on Wednesday, this is what I hope we can achieve…….” The magic to this, is we are aligning ourselves with customers in advance of the meeting. We are collaborating with the customer to maximize our shared success in the meeting. We are laying the groundwork for making decisions and taking actions in the meeting.
Doing this helps both us and the customer to:
- Assure the right people are involved and participating.
- Identify potential concerns or issues up front, so we can be prepared to address them in the meeting.
- Assure we both are prepared with the information/data critical to the meeting.
- Assure that we are aligned with our expectations.
- Assure that we actually accomplish something, moving forward in the buying/selling process.
Doubters will say, “Why do you want to reveal what you want to achieve in advance?” That question is based on old, misguided thinking about sales, thinking that somehow we have to hide our goals and agenda. People know I’m meeting with them because I believe I can help them achieve their goals through the solutions I provide. In short, they know I’m trying to get them to select and buy my solutions. So why hide that?
Why not be purposeful, and direct? Why not simply say, “This is what I hope we can achieve in this meeting?”
Upon reading that last sentence, people ask, “What if they say that’s not do-able?” To my mind, this is wonderful, my immediate response is, “Why do you feel this way?” I might probe, “What could we change about the agenda to achieve this goal? Or I might ask, “What do you think we can accomplish instead?”
Before we conduct the meeting, this process forces both us and the customer to align around the goals of the meeting, and that we both want to accomplish something.
Make sure you are prepared for your sales calls and meetings. But go a step further, engage your customer in the planning process, make sure they are prepared for the meeting, as well.
You and your customer will be amazed by what you can achieve. Each participant becomes more effective and impactful. We create much greater value for the customer by helping them move through their buying process effectively. We assure both the customer and we use our time most effectively.