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5-Minute Sales Coach: Pros know to practice their lines before sales call

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Before your salespeople reach for the phone to call a prospect, have they done their pre-call preparation? In this case, I don’t mean preparation in the sense of extensively researching the company, scoping out the decision makers, and so on, although that kind of planning is important.

Bill McCraryI’m talking about your people taking a few minutes before they dial up a prospect to mentally rehearse the upcoming conversation. This is a habit that every salesperson should develop, so they can be prepared to deliver effective responses to a prospect’s statements or questions, maintain control of the call (while making the prospect feel like they’re in control), and, if appropriate, move the opportunity one step closer to a successful sale.

Here are a few areas your people should reflect on during their pre-call plans:

The prospect’s most likely objections. Let’s take a frequent prospect objection: They say they’re happy with their current vendor. Now, it could very well be that their current vendor is falling short in a few areas. But to the prospect, it often comes down to the devil they know (the incumbent) versus the devil they don’t (your company).

Pre-call planning includes thinking through some likely back-and-forth exchanges with the prospect, so that a rep can be ready with a response to such an objection and deliver it naturally within the flow of the conversation.

If a prospect says they’re happy with their current vendor, for example, a well-prepared salesperson will immediately ask them about that vendor.

Rep: “Ah, ABC Company. Good company. How long have you been working with them?”

Prospect: “Two years.”

Rep: “Just curious, what do they do that you appreciate most?”

Prospect: “They handle X, Y, and Z for us pretty well . . .”

Rep: “Sounds like they’re doing a nice job for you. You know, nobody’s perfect. We’re surely not! (Laugh.) But if there were one or two ways in which ABC Company could improve, what would those be?”

Prospect: “Well, we have had just a few delivery issues in the past . . .”

And now your rep is getting somewhere, exploring a business issue which, with additional questions, could uncover significant financial consequences and impacts. 

The above conversation looks so simple, doesn’t it? Your reps should practice it anyway—before every


Minimally acceptable outcome. Suppose your rep succeeds in drawing out a compelling business issue from this prospect, enough to where he feels like he has some leverage. What is his minimally acceptable outcome from this call? Is it a face-to-face meeting? Maybe a meeting including other decision makers? Whatever it is, your rep needs to prepare before the call to ask (in the form of a helpful suggestion) for what he wants to happen next.

Rep: “Can I make a suggestion? Why don’t we schedule a time when we can meet and see if we can help you with these issues? By the way, who would it make sense to include in that meeting? . . .”

Again, if your rep uncovers significant issues the prospect is having, a little pre-call preparation will ensure that he’s ready to take advantage of that discovery and accelerate the sales cycle by including other people early.

Mindset. Here’s one last, crucial component of pre-call planning—make sure your salespeople put themselves in the right frame of mind before dialing that phone. In fact, tell your people to go into every prospect call with this mindset: If I can uncover a significant business issue, you guys are crazy if you don’t make a change and hire me to fix it.

Your reps have to BELIEVE. They have to believe in your product or service, they have to believe it’s worth the price, and they have to believe in themselves.

Bill McCrary, a speaker, coach and trainer, founded Strategic Partner, an authorized Sandler Training Center, in 1997. You can reach McCrary at 803-771-0800,

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