I love playing music and when I get in the groove – I start ‘riffing’ – going ‘off the cuff’ based on the feel of the piece – but for every riff or ‘going with the flow moment’ – it is back by hours of preparation. In the case of music – I spend twenty minutes to an hour practicing scales and going over pieces of music until it is just right.
With sale, especially senior sales reps, it is easy to get caught in the trap of ‘riffing’ on a call and demo. While you need flexibility in your structure (agility to read the room so to speak), you will lost out on sales if you are unprepared. Overpreparation is essential when you are working larger deals.
I’ll admit I allow this to fall through the cracks at times. I think I’m prepared for the call – I have great discovery or have looked over the notes from my initial call, but I continue to learn that taking even ten minutes to plan out your next meeting and prep for it is essential.
- We forgot details: I have a good memory, but if a week has passed since I last met with the client taking 10 minutes to deep dive into my notes – or even relistening to the call while you are doing admin tasks will provide the 20/20 hindsight to pick up details and key points you may have missed in the first call.
- Basketball players warm up before tip off; Musicians have a sound check to tune their instruments; Sales professionals need to ‘level up’ our preparation.
2. Preparation prevents wasted opportunity: Your time and your client’s time is extremely valuable. You want to make sure that each meeting and conversation is impactful. Why recapping the last call is important – you need to remember clients want to feel like they are being heard and not repeating their need over and over again needlessly.
With solution selling this can be difficult, but when you bring in different layers of team sellers (engineers, services, compliance, etc..) it can feel as though the sales cycle is a stationary bike – spinning wheels with no traction.
Preparation shows active listening and engagement. It demonstrates that you are focused on the customer needs, timeline and also able to drive the sales cycle.
How to Prepare:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for HELP: An extra set of eyes on a deal from a trusted teammate or manager can help you ensure your bases are covered before your next call.
- My manager holds his team accountable to being ‘overprepared’ because he wants to ensure we are staying on task with client expectations. I always prepare for calls, but his FOCUS on preparation has driven me to improve my processes.
- Look at their website, search for company news – this is extremely helpful prior to an initial discovery call, but also on follow-ups. If your client has been in the news (acquisitions, awards, etc…) this is a good engagement conversation to build value around your relationship as a business partner and solution expert.
- Research their industry -you are working as an expert and that means you need to understand challenges facing their industry as a whole. Even if it is a 360 understanding, speaking to pain (ex: ransomware in financial firms) builds trust and credibility. It shows you care about the client and want to solve business problems – not just sell a solution
- Listen to your call recordings. If you record sales calls, I recommend listening to them prior to your next meeting. I listen while I’m doing admin work (tasks that don’t require extreme focus). I even listen to calls while cleaning my house. This has helped me be able to fully actively listen to what was being said and take note of any questions that I should ask on the next call based of the prior discussion.
- Review your notes: This seems simple, but how often have you gotten on a ‘Next Steps’ call but didn’t review the Salesforce opportunity notes. Your rely on memory but are doing in cold. Even a one minute review of your notes can help jog your memory and improve the follow-up conversation
- Build out a deck: This depends on product and line size, but having a customer facing deck recapping ‘What You Heard’ on the last call and ‘Next Steps’ not only helps you prepare mentally, but shows your client that you spent time thinking about their business and strategizing for them. A deck also helps with intent to ensure you are on the same page.
Set an Agenda:
While you may tweak the agenda in call based on client need and questions – when you have an agenda in place before a call and explain that agenda to the client at the start of your meeting it validates that you value their time and want to earn their business. It keeps you on task during the meeting -respecting their time with actionable information and steps.
I always ask clients if they want to add anything else to the agenda -so we ensure that we cover any important focus items I may have missed.
Hope these tips help! I’d love to hear your feedback on ways you prepare for a client call?
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