by John Monroe
As a sales manager, you have sales meetings scheduled with your sales rep for every Friday.
Before the meeting, you request they email you their weekly sales call report, showing who they visited the past week, and their plan for the coming week. As you review the call report, you see they copied and pasted the same objective from the first call on Monday all the way down the list to the last call on Friday.
What’s wrong with this?
Well, when the objective is “spark interest,” “find loyalty,” “speak with someone,” collect business card” or, my personal favorite, “drink tea,” you know you have a problem.
These are not acceptable objectives for a sales call and, honestly, the sales rep is not only wasting their time and your money, but also the clients’ valuable time.
The objective, or goal, of a sales call will be different for each client or prospect based on the information known about them. Defining a good objective should use George Doran’s SMART acronym: The objective should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound. For instance, if the sales rep is calling on a property manager, then the objective of the call would be to find out who their current supplier of cleaning and restoration services is, who makes the decision on which supplier to use, and when a change would be made, if they decide to make one. This objective meets the SMART criteria.
As you continue to read the call report, your focus shifts to their strategies for reaching the objective, and again, you notice they have the same statement from the first call to the last. The word selection seems misguided and consists of phrases like “office visit,” “hand out business card,” and “hand out pens and notepads.” Just like the SMART objective, the strategy needs to be thought out. Preparing a solid strategy to reach the objective takes pre-call planning. The strategy is to build a rapport as you talk about the services your company offers and to ask open-ended questions about the prospect’s business.
I like to tell a story that relates to their needs; one intended to build credibility while leaving a positive memory of me.
The objective used above, calling on the property manager, requires five to 10 open-ended questions, and the answer given for one question will determine the next question. For this to work, I take time in advance to think through the possible answers I might receive and rehearse how I would respond to each.
Planning your sales calls will increase self-confidence and gain you respect from the prospect, as it shows that you value their time. I hear some sales people say they like to “go with the flow” of a conversation rather than plan ahead. Great, go with the flow, but have a script of that flow so you can focus on the objective of the call. Writing down the objective and strategy also creates an act of commitment.
Objectives and strategies should be listed for the previous week’s calls and the upcoming week’s calls. Having this information allows you to have a meaningful sales meeting with your sales rep, simply by knowing and understanding their plan for the prospects they are calling on. If the objectives and strategies are vague and meaningless, then all the sales rep has done is create a checklist. And if we allow a sales rep to get into the habit of thinking successful sales calls are related to the law of averages, then they are destined for failure.
Making sales calls for the sake of meeting a set goal per day or looking at them as items on a to-do list will cost your company a lot of money with little to no return. It’s estimated the average sales call costs between $100 and $450. With that amount of money at stake, can you really afford to have your sales rep making sales calls with the objective of collecting a business card and leaving one in return? One of your company’s mantras should be to sell with a purpose, not on purpose.
Successful selling is crucial to a company’s income and profits. In today’s “information age,” it is unrealistic to think that one sales call will produce a sale or a referral, so every sales call must have a result and a follow-up plan. A quality sales call should result in a note on the report stating that a future meeting was scheduled to review how we can work together. If the result of the meeting was a win-win, then the sales rep did a good job of listening to the prospect, rather than talking at them or “throwing up” all the information about your company. It means they understood their prospect’s pain points and offered possible solutions.
The follow-up plan might include bringing along an expert from your company or support material to back up your company’s capabilities. This material could be a job case study, a “white paper” with helpful tips, or maybe a short PowerPoint presentation showing solutions to the prospect’s needs. The follow up plan listed on the call report will most likely become the objective of the next sales call.
Make sales meetings productive by holding your sales rep responsible for reporting quality information about their plan for sales calls on whatever tracking system you have provided them. Remember, the purpose of your company’s sales efforts is to make progress toward a strategic revenue objective.
The only way to get strong close rates or increased referrals is to have a solid plan for each sales call. This means your sales rep should create a sales plan, not a to-do list, and “drink tea” should never be the objective.
John Monroe is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Monroe is a leading expert in marketing, sales and sales management for the restoration and cleaning industries with over 30 years of experience in those fields. Through Violand, Monroe works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit Violand.com or call 800-360-3513.