Got an extra 15 minutes before a sales call? Here's how winning salespeople spend that time.
The best thing to do with the 15 minutes before sales call is to review the work you did in planning the sales call. You did plan the sales call, didn’t you?
You're going to want to review the outcomes that you need to obtain in order to either create or to advance an opportunity. Achieving those outcomes almost always means creating value for your clients at whatever stage of the buying cycle they happen to be in. What do you need to do for your client or prospective client to help them get the outcomes that they need from this call?
It's also helpful to review your notes from your prior calls. Review the names, titles, and needs of any and all of the stakeholders you are meeting with before your sales call. And make sure you're prepared to cover all of the commitments that you made and kept since your last meeting.
Finally, it's important to be in the right state. It's important to be in a confident, positive, resourceful state. The interactions you have with your clients and prospects are too valuable to take lightly. You want to be prepared to create value and you want to be in the best state possible to do so.
~ Anthony Iannarino, The Sales Blog
The most effective sales presentation is the one that is never given. What this means is the salesperson knows their material so well that they can conduct a sales call as a discussion anchored with questions. This is a better approach than a call that relies heavily on marketing materials, which ultimately can offer little flexibility.
~ Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter
Well I suppose it depends. If you’re prepared, you’ve done your homework and you’ve planned the call then, don’t do anything. Kick back, rest and visualize the call going the way you want it to. Visualization is a great success tool.
If you haven’t done the upfront work, then get your butt in gear and at least get the bare minimums out of the way:
- Check out your contacts and companies LinkedIn page,
- Check out their Twitter stream
- Preview their website
~ Jim Keenan, A Sales Guy
We should all have a simple check list of things we do every time before every meeting. There’s a book called Checklist Manifesto – How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande that talks about the importance of developing checklists and what an impact they have on reducing errors. Some of the things on my checklist include:
- Go to the “About Us” section of the client’s website to get a clear understanding of what they do.
- Research the news/events section of the client’s site to see if there has been any recent news I can reference during the conversation
- Look through the LinkedIn profiles of everyone on the call to understand roles, responsibilities, previous employment and any connections
- Write down my SMART goals for the meeting and know exactly what I want the next step to be.
- Have a shared agenda with the client
- Write down 2-3 open ended questions in addition to the basic qualifying questions with the goal of getting them to talk
That all takes me about 15 minutes and ensures I’m prepared.
Be crystal clear about your objective for the call. What do you want to accomplish when you leave the meeting?
Quickly re-check the prospect’s company website, LinkedIn updates, and Twitter feed. You just may find something new to talk about. (Do not check your e-mail or voicemail. This is your time to focus on the call without distractions.)
Prepare specific questions that are relevant to the prospect’s business, industry, and needs. Be ready to listen and comment on what the customer says. Do not throw a battery of questions at the customer. If he wants to go a different direction, follow his lead. He may have a different agenda than you. Top salespeople listen, ask good questions, and leave with action steps for both the customer and themselves.
~ Joanne Black, No More Cold Calling
Make certain that you have a firm understanding of the value you are going to provide the prospect during the call that will enable them to accelerate their buying process and move at least one step closer to making an informed purchase decision. It is important to remember that your prospect is extremely busy and has a limited amount of time and attention to invest in the buying process and it is essential that they receive a positive ROI on the time they invest with you. Your prospect gives you their time. What are you giving them in return?
The second step is to take a minute to consciously review your plan for the call and do a final mental walk-through of your upcoming interaction with the customer. What are your goals for the call? What are the critical questions you need to ask? What is the information you need to provide to ensure that the call has a positive outcome for the prospect?
~ Andy Paul, Zero Time Selling
Since you were not counting on this “found” 15 minutes, I will assume you likely already did your research, and are well-armed with relevant background info for this sales call. Believing that’s the case, I would use that extra time to mentally work through my plan and structure for meeting.
Most salespeople walk into the basic face-to-face sales call or initial prospect meeting with a good handle on their objective. When I ask a seller, “what’s a win for you coming out of this meeting?” I usually get a solid answer.
But, when I follow-up and ask about their plan for conducting the call, the response is typically unimpressive. Use this time to work through the stages of of the sales call in your mind, or even better, on paper. Practice how you’ll set up the meeting by sharing your agenda. Refine your early talking points to ensure you’ll engage the prospect by touching on issues likely already on the buyer’s mind. And sharpen your probing questions to more effectively expose pains/problems/opportunities you’re seeking and so you’ll gain information that you need later in the sales cycle (who else you may need to meet, how they’ll make this decision, available dollars, timelines, etc.).
~ Mike Weinberg, The New Sales Coach
I do five things 15 minutes before a sales call:
1) Check that my presentation looks the way I expect
2) Review my notes from previous conversations
3) Open up my customer’s LinkedIn Page so that I have an image of what they look like as I am speaking to them (makes them human and friendly)
4) Think about how I want them to feel during our conversation and my ideal outcome
5) Take a deep breath!
~ Dianna Smith, The Irreverent Sales Girl
Be focused, be relaxed, be yourself. I recommend the following: settle yourself down, clear your head of extraneous stuff, and have a conversation with yourself!
Visualize the meeting in your head, rehearse and have a walk-through. Then breathe, shake your arms and legs to get your circulation going, the same way you see Olympic track athletes do before they settle down into the starting blocks. They are visualizing the race and re-setting the pace into their muscle memory. Too much adrenaline and not enough oxygen blocks their thinking, performance and focus. The same thing goes on with you, prior to a sales call.
Talking out loud lets you know if you have a case of the nerves, ingested too much caffeine, or simply are running in slow gear that day. Talking out loud allows you to grasp a stronger sense of self, make adjustments, and be prepared to do your best. If you haven’t already done your homework, anticipated the questions your customer may ask you, and become conversant and comfortable discussing your customer’s business case, you aren’t going to pull it together in the 15 minutes before the sales call. My suggestions assume you already are well-prepared.
~ Babette Ten Haken, Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Start in the CRM. Check any historical notes or details from previous interactions. Keep the tab open. Next go to LinkedIn. Look at your prospect’s history. How are you mutually connected? (4 minutes)
Bonus: Check out their blog or Twitter account look for images. You can learn a lot about someone from the pictures they post. (2 minutes)
Do a company search. Go to their website. Find the blog. What is the company posting about? Who are the executives listed and what recent press have they released? Now go to Google News and type in the company name. Consume knowledge. (4 minutes)
With 5 minutes to go, take all this info and craft a hypothesis of needs. Review popular sales questions and jot down notes to consult during the call. Take a deep breather and call the prospect a minute early
~ Kyle Porter, Sales Loft
Not much. Get some water. Calm down. A few minutes out you don’t have time to do research, check your facts or hone your sales pitch. That’s why the extra effort and energy you put into staying prepared, learning new skills, and researching your ideal customers ahead of time is so important.
So do a little more research if it makes you feel better. Check your notes. Google your prospect one more time. More importantly, schedule time to hone your skills. Heck, put reading this blog on your list of things to do.