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Sales is simply a game and knowing the rules of the game makes things easy. The intent of the article is to help you improve your sales skills, help you become a better sales leader while growing sales and increasing revenues.

How many times have you gone into a sales meeting without a plan, hoping the prospect would do what you want? More than likely you did not get the desired results. And no, the objective of a sales call is not to always get the sale. Some objective could include identifying the decision maker, determine the competition, and determine the impact of the problem and so much more. Without preparation, you are planning to fail.

[Tweet “Buyers think that only 13% of sellers are adequately prepared for a sales call.”]

A recent post on LinkedIn stated, Research says that buyers think that only 13% of sellers are adequately prepared for a sales call. If this is true this is a frightening. As a business owner when someone comes into my office to sell me something and they are not prepared I stop the meeting as soon as possible and politely escort them to the door. I really don’t like it when someone wastes my time.

Success starts with a plan (1)

Success starts with a plan. Every meeting you have with a prospect, suspect or client needs to be well planned with a specific reason to meet with your prospect. Your risk of not being prepared is significant. At best you look unprofessional. At worst you look incompetent.How do you prevent that and look like the pro you are? You need to prepare and it doesn’t take long, especially once you do it a few times.

The Easy 5-Step Sales Planning Process Anyone Can Use

Let me share with you a planning process I take all my client through. I will overview the process then break in to specific action steps.

Step1. Begin with an end in mind.

Or stated differently, ask yourself what outcome do I want from this meeting? Generally speaking there are only five outcomes (I am only looking at the most common) the average sales person wants to achieve. They are:

  1. Get the prospects to say yes to your product or service
  2. Define the problem (see if there is a problem we can help with)
  3. Define the impact of the problem (why would they want to fix the problem)
  4. Determine the budget is (how much are they willing to spend)
  5. Understand who the decision makers are and their role in the decision making process (who do I need to sell to)

What is the outcome I want to achieve? Let’s say I want to understand the problem to see if I can help. The next step is to define the questions to ask.

Step 2. What questions do I need to ask to achieve the desired outcome?

Assuming they told you about a problem they are having before the meeting (or agreed to meet with you) here are some questions to gain both clarity on the problem and impact the problem is having:

  1. Ask the prospect what they want to get out of the meeting. This both confirms why you are there and helps ensure you can help them achieve the desired results. If you don’t know what they want how can you ensure the prospect achieves the desired results?
  2. How long has this been a problem? If it is a long standing problem we need to know that. If it is a long standing problem I want to why they did not take action sooner or why they are taking action now.
  3. Why are you wanting to take action now? This will help understand the urgency of the prospect.
  4. What is the impact if the problem is not fixed? This will tell you the potential impact if it is not fixed. I’ve heard these types of answers: I will get fired if it is not fixed, nothing significant I am exploring my options, I can’t make payroll, etc. NOTE: This is where both budget and value is built.
  5. What have you tried in the past? I do not want to come back with the same solution they tried in the past, especially if it did not work. I want to know what did not work and why so a better solution can be provided. If I do come back with a similar solution I need to be prepared to tell them why this is different from the prior approach.
  6. Who is involved in the decision making process? I want to know if I am speaking to the right person, the decision maker. If the person is not the decision make I need to figure out how to get in front of the decision maker.
  7. Is there any money in the budget to fix this problem? If they don’t have any money, is it a real opportunity? Probably not. If there is you want them to give you an idea of how much they want to spend. I do not want to provide a Cadillac solution when they have a VW budget.

The intent behind these questions are to determine if they have money to spend to fix the problem, do they have the authority to make a buying decision, is the need great enough for them to take action and to define the time frame in which the decision will be made.

Step 3. What does my prospect need to hear to drive the action I am looking to achieve?

Sometimes this information is gathered and another meeting is required to present the best solution. A great outcome would be to have a follow up meeting. Let’s assume you acquired the answers you wanted and it is time to take the next step. A great question to ask the prospect is, What do you think is a good next step? If the prospect tells you want they want to do they have started to buy into you and your selling process.

[Tweet “when you help clients understand the impact of their problem you come across as competent and professional. “]

Additionally, when you help them understand the impact of their problem you come across as competent and professional. If there is low impact or the impact is less than other challenges they are dealing with you have enough information to know if you what to revisit at a later date or help them understand the power of dealing with the opportunity now.

Step 4. What is the best way to conduct this meeting?

first date (1)

I am a big believer in using visuals. It could be a simple PowerPoint (movie, flip chart, etc.,) to a well-structured discussion. Keep in mind your location. If you are talking in Starbucks and you are approaching delicate information, maybe Starbucks is not the best place to have a discussion. Location of the meeting can play a large part in the success of a sales call. When I expect to be talking about budget, employee problems or impact I like to get them out of their office or at least in a private space where we cannot be over heard.

[Tweet “Location of the meeting can play a large part in the success of a sales call.”]

Step 5. What is the agenda that will drive towards this outcome?

  1. Prior to the meeting confirm the agenda, location, date, time, reason for the meeting and other material needed for the meeting
  2. Ask the prospect (customer) why they agreed to meet and what they want to get out of the meeting
  3. Ask the prospect if anything has changed since you last talked. If so, ask questions to gain clarity on how this will impact your meeting.
  4. Share with the prospect what you hope to get out of the meeting. This could be as simple as seeing if there is an opportunity, getting clarity of a next step (no next step is a good next step.)
  5. Ask permission to ask question. This is important because you could potentially be asking some question that could be construed as probing. Permission takes the edge off some of the more direct questions as you are exploring both the problem and the problem’s impact.
  6. Lastly, I always add a next step. I want everyone to know I am expecting a decision on the next step. Sometimes there is no next step and that’s ok. If there is no next step at least everyone agrees and there is no time wasted in possible follow up. I will ask the prospect this question at the end of the meeting: From your perspective what do you see as the next step? If they do not offer one, I am really with what I think is a good next step.

Hopefully after reading this you realize how some simple preparation can make the difference between success and failure in the sales call and how professional you look.

If this makes sense and you want to learn more you can download my book, Ron Finklestein?s Sales Pursuit: How to Really Win at the Game of Business. Not only will you think differently about sales you will receive access to three modules to help you grow sales.