Sales call planning, especially when meeting with a decision maker of a high-value deal, is critical in B2B sales. It’s not easy going through the arduous process of prospecting, getting past the “gatekeepers” and getting through to the top management.
After going through the wringer, meeting with a decision maker is where I don’t want to falter. I make conscious efforts to ensure that these meetings go a long way to influence the final outcome in my favour.
Detailed sales call planning needs to be executed when the occasion concerns a large deal or a marquee logo that we desperately want in our client list. In order to ensure my plan of action is ironclad, I implement a methodical approach for a figurative head-to-toe analysis of my potential client.
Before I jump into the thick of it, there’s one thing I’d like to mention: sales call planning is only as good as the sincerity behind it. What I mean is that the epicentre of every effort should always be the client; moreover, the thought process should revolve around adding value, providing intelligible solutions, and helping the client effectively eliminate his/her problem areas.
My thought process revolves around looking under every nook and cranny without cutting any corners. Before they invest in me, I invest in them by way of extensive and exhaustive research.
Typically, buyers expect salespeople to know basic details such as performance, demographics, company size, etc. Therefore, it’s inadvisable to use a meeting with a stakeholder to discuss facts available in the public domain. This shows a lack of preparedness, which can consequently eliminate the chances of a second meeting—that’s the worst case scenario I must always circumvent.
To do so, I segue into research mode without turning it into a monotonous procedure. It’s imperative to be observant, almost like a super sleuth. Consequently, I get my detective mode on and ensure all senses and systems are a go!
The Sales Call Planning Checklist
Although the process is long, I try to incorporate as many relevant pointers as I can. My outline primarily includes going from basic research to combing through the information for finer details. However, knowing where to begin poses a challenge when there are innumerable starting points vying for your attention.
Therefore, a step-by-step approach works best when there’s a great deal of information to gather, so I make life simpler by jotting down a list of action items for both ends of the spectrum.
Basic Research Includes Sifting Through:
- 1. Information about revenue, company size, number of employees—sourced from LinkedIn, company websites, databases or public directories.
Basic company demographics help understand the scale of operations, potential problems, decision-making processes, etc.
- 2. Information about company profitability and performance growth—sourced from Google and/or from public financial statements.
This helps discern priorities, budgets, and financial health to get an accurate gist of the task at hand.
- 3. News about the company and industry. Together, they create a composite picture of the organization’s difficulties and show me how I can successfully eradicate the problems.
The Finer Details:
- 4. LinkedIn profiles acquaint me with the background of the person, both professional and academic. The information I gather ranges from colleges attended, companies worked for, to common connections and other interests.
- 5. If I know someone in the company, I speak with them to understand the company culture, dynamics, key stakeholders, problem areas, and other top priorities.
- 6. As a part of my sales call planning, I always do a quick check with any fellow salesperson I know, both within my company or in my extended network, who has done business with the stakeholder or the company. This source is invaluable in getting a comprehensive understanding of the client.
- 7. As a part of any sales call planning exercise, I seek to understand the social style of the person and craft my approach accordingly. If the person is direct and straightforward, I keep my interaction and presentations effectively succinct. If the person is expressive, I aim to build a rapport first. If the person is analytical, I lead with facts or ask for details. Catch the drift? Typically, it is not possible to ascertain the social style beforehand, so I keep myself very sensitive to this point during the meeting and make adjustments as I go.
Preparing for the meeting
The last piece of my preparation is preparing for the meeting. It’s like piecing together a puzzle, and at this point I already have the pieces in my hands due to the above-mentioned best practices. Now, all that’s left is to focus on how I’d like to run the meeting, and this is how I get down to it:
- 8. First and foremost, I try to understand the stakeholder’s expectation from the meeting. Does the stakeholder want to see a demo of the product? Is he/she looking for an exploratory conversation or wanting to see my credentials? Usually, I get my answers by simply asking. If that’s not possible, I address such questions by perceiving the situation from the client’s perspective.
- 9. I try to know beforehand all the attendees of the meeting. It gives me an idea about the kind of questions to expect, the messages I need to drive home, and the questions I need to ask.
- 10. After giving due diligence to the client’s probable questions, I make a comprehensive list of mine. I regard this as a very important part of the preparation. Therefore, I always take time to think about the “I wish I knew” questions. Specifically, I think about what is it that I should know that will help me differentiate my proposal. At times, gaining that extra edge hinges on asking pertinent questions like what are the unsaid criteria of evaluation? How critical are they to yearly goals and careers?
I endeavor to prepare as much as possible beforehand. The point is to use the encounter to get answers to those “I wish I knew” questions, which enable me to understand the decision-making dynamics, build a good rapport, and effectively communicate my value proposition. With this, I leave you to implement this background prep before your high-level meeting. I hope it’s as dependable for you as it is for me.