It continues to amaze me that so many salespeople shuffle into most of their sales calls with very little, if any, prior planning. I suppose that is why this is one of the practices of the best.
Most surveys of how field salespeople really spend their time conclude that the typical salesperson spends somewhere between 20 to 30 percent of the workweek actually talking with customers. Just think about it – that time spent with customers is the heart of your job. Of all the things that you do in a typical workweek, of all the tasks that you perform, nothing is more important than that!
Without time spent with your customers, your company would not need to employ you. Everything else that you do is either a result of, or in preparation for, your person-to-person sales times.
Combine that with the growing pressure on your customers to make good use of their time, and you have tremendous pressure on salespeople to manage an effective, purposeful, and valuable sales call.
Preparation is Key
How can you possibly do that without spending time preparing for it? The answer is, of course, that you can’t.
That’s why the best salespeople meticulously plan every sales call. That planning process brings greater value to the customer and greater return to the salesperson.
What’s involved in planning a sales call? Typically, a well-planned sales call has these components:
- A set of objectives for the call.
- An agenda.
- A set of questions, prepared for the situation
- All the necessary material and collateral (literature, samples, etc.).
- A variety of “next steps” the customer can take as a result of the call.
- Time spent reviewing the account profile and/or personal profile previously compiled on this customer.
Sounds a bit arduous doesn’t it? Clearly, this takes some time.
The 80/20 Rule
In my first full-time sales position, my manager shared some advice with me that has stuck with me ever since. “Spend 20 percent of your time preparing for the other 80 percent.”
I’ve followed that rule ever since. It means that you discipline yourself to invest the necessary planning time for every sales call. Then, the time you spend in conversation with your prospects and customers will be valuable to them, and valuable to you.
To shrug it off and make a sales call that is unplanned, unfocused, and unorganized is to waste your time and your customers’.
That’s why the discipline of thoroughly planning every sales call is a best practice. Those salespeople who don’t strive for mastery of their jobs inevitably slide away from the discipline to do it the way the best do it. Consistent, disciplined behavior – that’s what separates the best from the rest.