Getting an appointment with a prospective customer is a necessary first step for sales success – but it’s only the first part of the challenge. Before conducting a call, successful sales reps spend time pre-call planning. And, part of that planning is about avoiding the following common traps:
Having the wrong conversation. Whether a given conversation works or doesn’t work depends upon the person with whom you are talking. The content can be “off” on several fronts – such as a technical conversation with a non-technical person or a granular conversation with a CEO. The trap is doing a good job talking about the wrong things in the wrong way.
Not talking about the solution in a compelling way. Depending on the person to whom you are talking, compelling could mean relating a story or it could be a quantitative analysis with lots of numbers. Compelling would also look different if the person on the other side of the table is an early adopter vs. someone who isn’t likely to buy a product until it’s been in the market for a while.
Failing to handle tricky situations. Most people think of tricky situations as objections. Many are – but there are others, like handling ethical issues or inappropriate times to talk (e.g., a physician in the lounge following a difficult procedure, or trying to close a deal when internal company politics are hot). These tricky situations are particularly tough for newer sales reps. Unfortunately, too often how they’re handled last long in memory.
Talking about the solution before developing a shared vision of the problem. Uncovering customer needs is “Consultative Selling 101.” Yet everyday, sales people fall into the trap of talking too soon and too much about their product.
Getting dragged into a price conversation before laying the groundwork for value. Out of concern for losing a sales opportunity – especially with a new customer – sales people sometimes try to please the prospect by providing an early price concession. In most situations it is better to look at a price concern as an issue about value rather than concern about money.
Talking at somebody versus with somebody. Pre-call planning is critical to the success of sales calls. But this doesn’t mean sales reps should follow a script or memorize a pitch. Sales reps must engage the customer in a business conversation – and this can best be accomplished by asking, listening, and then talking.