In With a Plan, Out With a Sale

binder of sales call plan

I’d like to say this once and for all – Luck is not a business plan! “Talent” is not a business plan! Whew! I needed to get that off my chest. We’re talking about having a sales call plan, and that’s a plan for success.

No Sales Process

I work with small to medium sized businesses, and sometimes really large ones, and I’m amazed at the number of times I hear that there is no skills review or specific sales plan for the sales team to follow. Entrepreneurs hiring sales reps tell me, “they should know what they’re doing.” Um, yeah, but so should you. You can’t set revenue targets based on luck and expect to achieve them. Luck is not reliable and repeatable, and without a reliable revenue stream, you’re out of business.

Most people who start a business are not sales experts, just like I’m not an automotive expert. But your sales reps should be. They should be going into every sales call with a sales plan that helps them qualify the customer, helps build rapport, and presents that customer with the right product to fill their needs. (There are sales reps out there who aren’t generating or working with qualified leads! What a time-waster!) If your reps don’t do those things, every sale they make is based on luck, intuition, or personality. There’s little chance they will consistently hit their sales goal. Not good.

For more on what works in sales right now, click here.

What’s the Purpose of the Call?

Every sales call should have the same purpose: pave the way to a sale. The sales cycle for each business is different; selling cars is different from selling medical equipment. Each one will have a different sales call plan. What are the necessary steps for a prospect to go from zero to sold? All of them are part of your sales process. What needs to happen in person? Those are the parts of a sales call plan. Every sales rep should be using every part of the sales process. If they aren’t, they’re not doing their job. They should be able to discuss it with you, and they should be able to fine-tune and improve it over time. That way, they can share best practices between them, and all improve steadily.

Buyers Are More Sophisticated

While we’re at it, let’s stop selling like it’s 1995. There is nothing your customer can’t learn or find on the internet. They can probably buy it cheaper, too. That means you need to be there, on the internet, where your customer is doing their homework. Have some solid online support for your business and your reps. Have a great website, and include a FAQ page. Do some inbound marketing, with social media (anything retail), white papers (business and professional services, technology), a blog (food, fitness, arts, in-home services) or newsletters, all linked directly to your website. People don’t buy from businesses. People buy from people. Create a web presence that helps your customer learn your business’s personality, and help them know, like and trust what your business will provide.

The Minimum Plan for a Sales Call

Different types of sales calls require different plans, but one thing is always true: a sales call is also a marketing call. It’s a demonstration of what it’s like to work with your company. You can demonstrate professionalism, ease of use, convenience, quality, and more. Make sure to leave a great impression, whether a sale is going to happen notwithstanding.

Then, each sales call should help the rep learn more about the buyer’s needs, and help the buyer develop a clear picture of what solution they want and when. Who will be affected by the purchase? Will it affect a process or timeline? Each call should also advance the qualification of the buyer. Who needs to sign off on this purchase? What is their deadline to have a solution in place?

After you’ve discovered as much as you can about the buyer’s needs and they are well qualified, it’s time to make your recommendation. Use “you told me” phrases from your notes as you present all the ways your solution fits their needs. This should set you up beautifully for a close.

So, to recap: have solid web presence to help your clients learn about, know, like and trust your business. Sales reps should have a specific set of skills and a sales  plan to learn to “right size” the solution they offer your client. Your company should have a clear, repeatable sales process that builds clarity and urgency with clients. The plan should evolve over time based on the successes of your sales pros. You can’t rely on talent or luck to provide a steady revenue stream. You need a plan.