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Effective Sales Call Planning Guide: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

Maria Sundström
11/5/20 1:57 PM

You might not be doing it knowingly, but the industry fact is that 85% of prospects and buyers are dissatisfied with their on-the-phone experiences.

They showed shallow understanding of the buyers' business, hence the buyers' needs. It's obvious that sales reps are not well-prepared enough for a successful conversation. 

The solution, therefore, is simple – plan your sales call better, right? Well,  nope. 

Too much of preparation and you'll sound like a robot. Too little of it, and you'll be choking on the phone. 

That's why we've put together a question-oriented guide to help you strike the balance between being well-prepared and being natural. 

Ask yourself these seven golden pre-call questions for more successful sales calls! 🏆

  1. Do I understand my customers' interests?
  2. What is my objective / desired outcome for this call?
  3. What are my top 10 questions / information pieces?
  4. What are the competitive advantages of my product?
  5. What are the possible objections?
  6. Do I know the best times to call?
  7. Am I mentally prepared to make the call?

1. Do I understand my prospects' interests?

Ask this question to give yourself the lay of the land. Calling a prospect without doing a background research is like starting to build without laying the foundation for a building.

Your solid knowledge of the customer’s business is the first thing that’ll differentiate you from most of your competitors. 

  • What are their goals?
  • What are their challenges that stand in the way to achieving the goals? 
  • Who are their customers? 
  • What are their sales processes? 

At the beginning, this might feel difficult and time-consuming when you try to match your product benefits with the prospect's pain points. Once you've practiced enough, it'll become your second nature. Customer first, then your product. That'll help you win in the long term.

Pro-tip: New information might surface during the call. Don't let them throw you off your game. Relax and ask for more details while buying time to come up with a better pitch for it!

2. What are my desired outcomes for this call?

Research shows, when you write down your goals, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

Once you have enough background intel, reflect on the purpose of the call.

  • Is this a “cold call”? Then your goal is probably a simple follow-up meeting. It could also be that you’re trying to supplant a competitor’s solution?
  • Is this a “discovery call”? Then you’ll basically be prospecting and your goal is basically to get to know your customer’s needs better, learning how your solution might be able to help them and in the process build a rapport, warm up to them for the next call.
  • Is it a “warm lead”? If you’ve already had previous calls with them, then it’s probably time to sell them a suitable product?
  • Is this a “resale call”? Then you’ll probably be reviewing the results from the previous year and maybe provide new product improvement information and give them solid reasons to renew the contract/order.

Add more examples of such goals to this list depending upon your particular sales situation.

3. What are my top three questions to be answered?

When you have clear goals, it’s also easier to formulate your questions and gather the right pieces of the puzzle that’ll help you achieve those goals.

So, write down the specific questions you want to be answered or things you want to discuss during the call.

Pro Tip: Create an informal structure for the conversation. It’ll help you maintain some control.

Practice how you’ll open the call, introduce/ recap. Then, map out how you’d transition from topic to topic towards your defined goals.

Design your questions and talking points based on this conversation structure.

4. What are the competitive advantages of my product?

This step is especially important for those who are at the “sales pitch” stage of the selling funnel. 

Know how to play up your strengths and deal the right cards to get a ‘yes’.  Leverage them to make your sales pitch the most convincing.

How do you know which card to play to whom?

Categorise your product advantages / your strengths and match it to the customer’s characteristics:

  • Is it easy to implement without technical know-how? Pitch it to someone who's looking for a low-maintenance quick-fix.
  • Is it a clean UX/UI ? Throw it at someone who cares a lot about aesthetics and experience.
  • Is it heavily customisable? Geeks with a fixation on personalisation will love it.
  • Is it cost-efficient? Don't use it on the ones who only care about "getting the job done".

5. What are the possible objections?

Whether you’ve been selling your solution for 20 years or one week, you should have a list of the common objections along with the appropriate response. Anticipate these questions based on your obvious disadvantages.

Maybe you have less experience than your competitor? Maybe your product has a higher price tag than the other company? Maybe they already have a supplier and you are calling to substitute them, which means a big organisational change, which is always more difficult? 

Work on your counter-arguments when these objections appear during your call. 

Here are the most common objections during a sales call:

  • “This is not a good time.”
  • “Where did you find my contact info?!”
  • “Just email me the info”
  • “It’s too expensive” /
  • “Product X is Cheaper.”
  • “I don’t like long-term contracts”
  • “I already have another solution/contract.”
  • “I need to ask my boss / talk to the team.”
  • “We Want Different Features” / “You Don’t Offer Feature X.”
  • “I Had a Bad Experience with a Similar Product”
  • “We don’t work with companies we don’t know.”
  • “I’m Just Not Ready to Decide” /
  • “I Need to Get a Few More Quotes.”

6. What are the best times to call?

You might be prepared to the teeth but it’ll all go in vain if the person on the other side doesn’t pick up!

Each industry has their own golden hours and days to get the highest response rates. Studies show, by knowing the best day and time to call you can increase your connection rate by almost 50% and the chances of the lead converting goes up by 25%.

If this is the first time you’re contacting them, skim through our blog post that lists the thumb rules for the best days and time(s) of the week to make sales calls.

7. Am I mentally prepared to make the call?

A study found that 50% of sales reps worldwide feel anxious about making sales calls. So, even if your pitch is perfect it won’t matter if you have a trembling nervous voice. Breathe, be confident before you start dialling!

  • Calm down. The call is important but it’s not a life or death situation. It’s 2020, it’s hard. So, cut yourself some slack. Besides, every call is a learning opportunity for you. So, nothing goes totally wasted.
  • Go with the flow. You don’t have to hang on to every single word written on the sales script. Just be yourself to create a natural conversation and establish rapport with the one on the other side. They're humans too!
  • Remind yourself to listen. It’s a two way conversation –– listen to the answers. Understand the pain-points. Learn as much as you can. Take good notes of everything important.

In case you want a more detailed lowdown on the subject, take a look at our blog post on sales call anxiety and how to overcome it.

What should you do now?

Try Salestrail out: Want to test-drive the solution? No worries! Just sign-up for a free 14-day trial to see how Salestrail can be your gamechanger.

Learn more: If you’d like to master the art of sales call, head to Salestrail blogs for in-depth guides, free templates, researched articles and more.

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