Sales Call Planning 101

sales call planning

Sales call planning isn't always done. SalesFuel’s Voice of the Sales Rep survey reveals that only 31% of sellers prepare discovery questions based on pre-​call research. That number is abysmally low, especially when sales calls can do so much to boost your chances of closing. No matter what type of call you make, you set yourself up for success by creating a plan.

RAIN Group’s Mike Schultz shares a complete outline for sales call planning, no matter what type of call it is. His suggestions will get you familiar and comfortable with pre-​call best practices.

Sales Call Planning: What Type of Call?

First, identify what type of call you will be making. Then, consider these respective plans for two common types.

Cold Calls. These calls are definitely not dead. While not every seller’s favorite, they can be a great kickoff point for a potential sale. But they do require more than just picking up the phone; sales call planning is especially necessary for cold calls. Schultz suggests the following five-​step plan:

  • Introduce yourself and your company.
  • Immediately address the million-​dollar question, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Make a call to action for the next communication (another phone call or video chat)
  • Propose a meet-​up. If you both are comfortable, you can ask for an in-​person meeting.
  • Answer questions/​Respond to objections. Close out the call by responding to the other person.

Warm calls. These involve contacting someone with whom you’ve spoken before. “It could be a follow up to a cold call, a past buyer or opportunity, someone in your network, etc.,” Schultz explains. “Warm calls offer an opportunity to explore a buyer’s needs, build a relationship, and offer a solution.” Sales call planning for warm calls begins with identifying a goal for the call; what do you hope to have achieved by the time you hang up? Your plans should then revolve around achieving this goal.

Questions to ask when planning

All sales call planning can be made easy by asking yourself questions to establish a foundation for the call. You need to be sure you’re going into the call with the most knowledge about the prospect and their business as possible. Below are just a few of the six questions that Schultz urges reps to consider.

What is the buyer’s current situation? This question requires knowledge about how they are doing and what challenges or issues they may be facing. Once you know this, you have the foundation for so much more. “Often, your goals for the buyer, the value your products or services can offer the customer, and your action planning for the rest of the sales call come out of your detailed knowledge of the buyer's situation,” she explains. Not quite sure how to answer this question? It’s time to do more research to find out.

What are my goals for the buyer? Proper sales call planning should include your own vision of how you can serve the prospect and how you want to achieve it. To inspire your thinking, Alfred shares questions you should ask yourself to dig deep:

  • Is this a discovery call? If so, what do I want to learn?
  •  Is this a current customer to whom I am introducing something new?
  • Am I reviewing the results from the previous year with a current customer to showcase value and encourage loyalty?
  • Is this a call to cross-​sell or up-​sell currently available products and services to add further value to a current customer?
  • Am I trying to supplant a competitor or win back someone's business?

What is my desired outcome? When you hang up the phone, what do you hope to have accomplished? Sales call planning requires you to not only have a long-​term vision but also smaller goals, such as for the call itself. Do you hope to set a date for a demo? Review the latest proposal? It’s vital you know what you want to accomplish before you can proceed.

Sales call tips

Once you’ve established a solid plan, it’s important to keep basic best practices in mind. Don’t get so wrapped up in the plan that you forget simple necessary elements of the call, including:

  • Establishing competence and credibility. Make sure you position yourself as a knowledgeable expert who has the skills to truly help. “To establish your competence, you need to be able to provide deep insight into your products and services, suggest ideas that are on-​target, and ask incisive questions,” Alfred explains. “The ability to speak to a buyer’s needs in the context of your offerings helps demonstrate your competence and builds trust in your abilities.”
  • Building rapport. No matter what type of call you make, there’s always opportunity to nurture a relationship with the other person.
  • Understanding needs by listening and engaging. Practice active listening even if the other person can’t see you; it will help you retain information.

Planning leads to success

Regardless of call type, sales call planning is a must for all reps. An action plan ensures that each time you pick up the phone, you’re establishing the foundation for success. 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat​.com

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.