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Sales Best Practices
11
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A detailed sales call planning guide for smarter outreach

Published on
May 23, 2024

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Mary walks out of her call, almost certain she has secured the deal. Meanwhile, across the office, Mark is still fumbling through his notes, the prospect sounding less and less interested by the minute. Same product, same target market, so what made the difference?

We have all had those calls where you scramble for answers, lose your train of thought, and come across as totally unprepared. It is frustrating, and worse, it costs you deals. The truth is, winging it just does not cut it in sales.

The secret to smooth, successful interactions with prospects is not magic; it is sales call planning. Yes, it takes a little effort, but the payoff is huge—more closed sales deals, happier clients, and a lot less post-call stress.

The basics of sales call planning

We can avoid obstacles during conversations with sales call planning. But how do you go about it? 

1. Define your primary and secondary objectives

Before picking up the phone or hopping on that video call, ask yourself: “What do I need to achieve out of this?” 

Think of sales goals this way:

  • Primary goal: This is the non-negotiable outcome of your call. It is the reason you are having the conversation in the first place. Example: Product demo, identifying decision maker.
  • Secondary goals: These additions support your main objective or provide helpful information for future calls. Example: Understanding pain points, competitive information, etc.

Having a few other things ypou would like to achieve as a part of your sales call planning is okay, but having one primary goal keeps you focused. This way, even if the conversation takes unexpected turns, you leave knowing you covered the most important thing.

2. Conduct thorough pre-call research 

Research is essential to successful sales call planning, but it might be hard to understand where to direct your efforts. In fact, 42% of sales reps believe they go into calls without enough information about the prospect. 

So, let us get to the bottom of this. 

Here is a checklist for an effective meeting preparation for sales:

Start with prospect research

Digging into your prospect’s online presence is the first step. Their company website and LinkedIn page can reveal their priorities, challenges, and even their overall communication style. Pay attention to recent updates or announcements—these could be the key to sparking a relevant and timely conversation.

Get updated with company developments

A thorough rundown of the company website will tell you about its recent announcements and important updates. Has the company made headlines lately? A quick search for news articles can help you find recent funding rounds, product launches, or leadership changes. Knowing these developments allows you to tailor your pitch and show that you are genuinely invested in their success.

Do not forget to check the CRM

Your CRM can be a treasure trove of information during sales call planning, but only if it is kept up-to-date. Before any call, take a moment to see if anyone else on your team has interacted with the prospect. Those past notes could have valuable insights about their preferences, past objections, or even potential roadblocks to be aware of.

To speed up your research, you can use a tool like Oliv. It prepares info on your prospect and their company. Plus, Oliv syncs with your CRM, ensuring all past interactions are readily available. 

3. Craft a personalized pitch that truly resonates

An invaluable part of sales call planning is creating an engaging pitch for your interactions with a prospect. It is tempting to have a polished, one-size-fits-all pitch ready to go. But the most effective pitches are responsive to the conversations you have just had. 

Here is how to get it right:

  • Weave in their insights: Reference the pain points and goals they have expressed. Show how your solution directly addresses those specific concerns.
  • Adapt on the fly: Be prepared for unexpected questions or directions the conversation takes. Know the fundamentals of your pitch well so you can adjust them confidently in the moment.
  • Focus on value, not price: While price matters, explain why your solution is right. Once they see the value, the price conversation becomes easier.
  • Keep it conversational: Maintain a natural tone and be responsive to the prospect’s reactions.

Remember, a generic pitch will not close the deal. Being responsive and focusing on their needs will leave a lasting impression and move closer to a “yes.” 

4. Anticipate prospect needs and pain points

Once you finish your research, it is time to prepare the right questions. Based on what you know about their company, industry, and role, try to predict their pain points and potential questions:

  • What challenges or bottlenecks are the specific industry grappling with?
  • If you were in their shoes, what would you want clarification on?

By anticipating their needs in the sales planning stage, you are prepared to solve real problems. Having some thoughtful responses ready earns trust and positions you as an expert, not just another salesperson. Have them prepared in the sales call planning stage to avoid last-minute fumbles.

5. Use value propositions to make it all about them

Everyone has heard those generic pitches that sound like a laundry list of features. To truly connect with them, you must show how your product or service solves their unique problems.

Translate features into benefits

Instead of saying, “Our software has real-time analytics,” explain what that means for them. You can go for something like, “Our software helps you identify sales bottlenecks immediately so you can take action before it is too late.”

Focus on how the outcome looks for them

Paint a picture of how your solution will improve their life or work. Will it save time? Increase revenue? Avoid using marketing jargon or keywords, and get as specific as possible about how the outcome looks for them.

6. Have a list of tailored questions to ask

A sales appointment call is not about you talking, it is about understanding your prospect. That is where tailored questions come in. Ditch that generic list during sales call planning and focus on the following:

Open-ended questions

These cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” They encourage the prospect to go into details, giving you valuable insights. 

For example, ask, “How are you currently addressing [pain point]?”

Probing questions

Based on their initial answers, be ready with follow-ups that dive deeper. This shows you are genuinely listening and helps find out their actual needs. 

Your probing question can be any of the following:

  • “Can you give me a specific example of how that impacts your day-to-day work?” 
  • “How much time would you estimate your team wastes each week due to this issue?” 
  • “Have you looked into other CRM solutions before? If so, what held you back?” 

Tailored questions show that you have researched and care about their specific challenges. This builds trust and helps you find objections or opportunities you would not have found otherwise.

But to execute this part of your sales call planning, you must always be highly alert and prompt. Naturally, that is not always possible. 

Tools like Oliv can take the pressure off by analyzing your sales calls in real time. As you continue talking to the prospect, it suggests relevant questions and prompts based on their current responses and past interactions with your company. This way, you are always one step ahead.

7. Be ready with a list of potential objections

No matter how great your pitch is, handling objections in sales is a natural part of the process. 

Here is how to go about it during sales call planning:

  • Know the common culprits: Think about the most frequent reasons prospects hesitate about your type of product or service (they can be price, competitor concerns, and more).
  • Jot down responses: Do not wing it. Craft thoughtful responses to those common objections. Practice them out loud so they feel natural.
  • Try to get to the bottom: When you sense doubt in their tone or face an outright objection, ask clarifying questions to find out the true reason behind their hesitation.
  • Turn it into an opportunity: A well-handled objection can strengthen your case. It is your chance to paint a realistic picture of how your solution addresses their specific concern.

A proven sales call planning template to follow

Prospect profile

  • Name: Representative’s name
  • Title: Position
  • Company: Company Name
  • Industry: Company’s industry
  • Company size: Approximate number of employees

Call objective

  • Primary goal: What do you want to achieve by the end of the call?
  • Secondary goal: What is a realistic alternative if the primary goal is not achievable?
  • Buyer’s journey stage: Awareness, consideration, decision, or so on.

Pain points and potential objections

  • Pain point 1: What problem is the prospect likely facing?
  • Objection to address 1: How can you counter this concern?
  • Pain point 2: Another challenge they might have
  • Objection to address 2: Your response to this concern

[Continue added pain points and objections to address in the same format as above]

Research and insights

  • Company news/updates: Recent developments, press releases, and more.
  • LinkedIn insights: Prospect’s recent posts or activity
  • Relevant competitor info: What other solutions might they consider?

Questions to ask

  • Open-ended discovery questions (3 to 5): Aim to find out their needs, instead of just confirming the features your solution provides.
  • Qualifying questions (2 to 3): Try to determine if they are a good fit for what you are offering.

Value proposition

  • 2 to 3 key benefits: How does your solution directly solve their pain points?
  • Supporting evidence: Case study, stat, or brief success story

Next steps

  • Ideal outcome: What action do you want them to take after the call?
  • Acceptable alternative: If the ideal outcome is not possible, what is the next step?
  • Notes: Additional thoughts, reminders, or questions to follow up on.

How to prepare for logistical disruptions during sales call planning?

We have all had those calls when the internet decides to take a vacation, the video freezes mid-sentence, or the presentation refuses to load. Tech hiccups are among the most frustrating sales meeting challenges. They can make you seem unprofessional and, at times, even cost you the deal. 

Here is how to stay prepared:

1. Do not forget the pre-call tech check

Before any important sales call, take a few minutes to test your mic, camera, and internet connection. Make sure your video conferencing software is up-to-date to avoid any last-minute glitches. 

Before sharing your screen, have any slides or visuals open and ready to go. Keep a quick list of key points handy in case your presentation fails to load. This way, you can smoothly keep the conversation going while you troubleshoot.

2. Always have a backup plan, just in case

Even the most prepared can fall victim to tech gremlins. Thinking ahead keeps those issues from derailing your call. 

Have your prospect’s phone number readily accessible. If your video or internet dies, quickly suggest switching to a phone call to keep the conversation going. If everything completely implodes, do not panic. Apologize sincerely, and offer to reschedule the call as soon as possible.

Tech issues happen to the best of us, even if we have all the sales call planning in the world ready to go. The way you handle them is a mark of your professionalism. By being prepared and having a backup plan, you can minimize disruptions and make a positive impression.

Tools for different sales call planning stages

Sales call planning can feel like juggling a million details. The right tools make it so much easier to stay organized, focused, and ready to close the deal. Let us discuss some tech options that will streamline your process and give you an edge on every call:

1. CRM systems

  • Tools to keep all data in one place: Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, Pipedrive, and Zoho CRM can centralize customer data, deal stages, past interactions, and streamline workflows. This provides a strong foundation for personalized sales conversations and efficient follow-up.

2. Prospect and company research

  • Get in-depth insights into prospects, their roles, and recent company activity. LinkedIn Sales Navigator helps with personalizing your call.
  • Set Google alerts for company names, keywords, or industry news, so you’re always up-to-date on developments that could open doors for your pitch.
  • Tools like Oliv, Clearbit, and Leadfeeder can integrate with your CRM, providing additional prospect and company information to improve your understanding. 

3. Scheduling tools

  • Options like Calendly, Doodle, or Acuity let prospects easily book time on your calendar based on your availability. This takes away back-and-forth emails and gets that important sales call scheduled faster.
  1. Anticipating questions and objections
  • Sales conversation intelligence tools: Platforms like Oliv, Gong, and Chorus.ai analyze past calls, highlighting common questions and objections. This gives you data-driven insights to better prepare your responses.
  • Competitor analysis tools: Solutions like Crayon or Klue help you track your competitors’ messaging and positioning. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses helps you counter objections effectively.
  1. Sales enablement platforms
  • Platforms like Seismic, Highspot, or Showpad organize sales playbooks, case studies, product demos, and training materials in one place. This ensures reps can easily access the support they need to answer tough questions and close deals.

Remember, tech supports your sales team, not replace their skills and relationships. These tools give you more time, better insights, and a smoother process, but your genuine connection with prospects ultimately closes the deal.

Make the most out of your next sales call planning

Sales calls do not have to be a gamble. By prioritizing preparation and understanding your prospect, you dramatically increase your chances of success. Sales call planning may seem like extra work upfront, but the payoff- more closed deals and stronger client relationships- makes it a worthwhile investment.

Let us recap what we learned about sales call planning:

  • Define your goals for every call.
  • Thorough research is your secret weapon.
  • Anticipate your prospect’s needs and tailor your approach.
  • Craft a value proposition that speaks directly to them.
  • Do not underestimate the power of thoughtful questions.
  • Be prepared for sales call objections and address them confidently.
  • Learn from your past calls to improve future ones.

No matter the preparation, sales call planning can still be more stressful than it seems. Oliv makes it easier to handle than manually reviewing the sales call planning checklist. Book a free demo today to see exactly how Oliv helps you close more deals on your sales calls.

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