Are the lackluster results of your outside sales staff giving you heartburn?
Are you sick-to-death of the 1001 excuses you hear when your sales people can’t seem to generate enough new business to support their overhead and expenses?
Help is here – in the form of a simple, easy-to-follow plan designed to get those outside sales reps back on track, producing results that will boost your bottom line.
Before the Great Recession, many sales professionals developed some very bad habits. Business was relatively easy to get, and reaching solely for the “low-hanging fruit” made a lot of outside sales people quite successful.
That fruit’s all been picked, but many salespeople don’t want to recognize that fact. They keep doing (or not doing) the same things they did during easy years. The results, as you might anticipate, are often less than acceptable.
Ready to Kick Some Ass?
It’s time to turn your poor-performing outside sales people into a team of lean, mean business-generating machines. We’ll supply the action plan and a way to get it implemented. You need only supply the discipline to ensure its success.
Implement this program and you will help your outside sales personnel:
- Improve the quality of every sales call
- Decrease non-productive time in the field
- Increase the number of sales calls made
- Enhance their individual sales performance
- Uncover new business opportunities
And if you need more motivation, implementing this call planning system will cut your expense line and add to your profit line!
To make this idea as easy as possible for you to carry out, we’ve included:
- An action plan
- A step-by-step review of the sales call plan
- When to complete it
- How to complete it
- What should/should not be included
- Why this form is so critical
- A step-by-step review of the sales call plan
- An Implementation Plan
- How to get started
- Creating a culture that will keep call planning a necessary part of your operation
- A completed sample call planning worksheet
- A blank call planning worksheet
- A list of questioning techniques your sales people can use to accomplish their call planning goals
- A sample critique and role play form
The ultimate objective of call planning is to make your outside sales staff more effective – so they can increase the amount of business being generated with every account. It is rare that this will occur as the result of a single sales call or the completion of a single call planning worksheet.
Sales reps should file call sheets by date and by customer, either in hard copy or on-line. Managers can then review progress, problems and opportunities that will surface over time with each client or prospect. For example, one of the first entries on each call sheet (see the “Forms” section for a sample) requires listing the “Client Attendees” and “Company Attendees.” As the number of visits and call planning worksheets grow for an individual customer, you should see more contacts listed in this section. The more “Buying Influencers” listed, the deeper your rep has penetrated the account. It also shows you whether or not your sales person is involving other team members who support the client, in their sales activities. Let’s go through the sample “Sales Call Plan” step by step:
Each week your outside sales rep will need to complete a sales call plan for every client/prospect with whom they have an appointment.
Every sales call plan must list the rep’s name, the account name and the date and time of the call. This then becomes an easy way for a manager to check on the frequency of visits and determine the validity of that frequency on an account-by-account basis.
List the people attending and their titles. In addition to the purpose we stated earlier, this section will provide you (as management) with valuable, up-to-date contact data should you experience turnover among your sales staff.
This step, titled “Call Objectives,” holds one of the key components of every sales call plan. The first, or Minimum, call objective is a basic business purpose that your sales person must achieve for the call to be a success. The second, or Primary, goal is the chief reason for your visit. It is the main business purpose for the sales call. The third, or Visionary, objective is a “Wouldn’t it be nice if…..” business goal for the call. (See a completed sample “Sales Call Plan” in the “Forms” section for examples of valid M-P-V call objectives).
In this section, termed “Anticipated Advance Action,” your sales rep notes how he/she will move the sale forward. For example, let’s say your primary objective had been to uncover a buyer name and contact data in a certain department where they are currently using a competitor. An “Anticipated Advance Action” might be to get introduced by your contact to that person or to get your contact’s permission to use their name when calling that department head for an appointment.
The area titled “Describe the Customer’s Problem” generally relates to your primary call objective. In the space provided, your sales rep needs to note the critical factors that will help them further identify a potential problem. These are factors that will help your sales person build the importance of that problem so that it becomes easier to implement the solution your sales rep in suggesting.
Let’s use the primary objective example we suggested in Step 5. Your contact might be uncomfortable introducing your sales rep to a department head who is currently using a competitor. However, if your sales person believes he might be able to solve a business problem this department head is experiencing, your contact might see himself as instrumental in providing an alternative to this department’s problem.
Any facts or even strong suspicions based on information your sales rep has available should be noted here. These notations can add weight and direction for questioning as your sales person further explores the customer’s problem and moves toward accomplishing their primary objective.
“Being Effective for the Customer” is the section for your sales staff to note whatever unique strengths your company has to accomplish this sale. We added the phrase “Prove It” so that your sales people note information that has meaning to the customer.
“Positioning.” The purpose of this segment is to check and reinforce your position with this client. (It may be your minimum goal for this visit.) Your rep might wish to conduct a review of the products or services the client currently uses, to be sure he’s satisfied. Or, if you’ve recently solved a problem for the client your rep is visiting, he might request a testimonial you could then use with other customers.
The “Action Step” segment of each call planning worksheet needs to be completed as soon after the call as possible. If your sales reps carry their sales call planning worksheets with them or use laptops in the field, it’s recommended that this step be done right after leaving the client’s offices. Alternatively, completing this step at the end of each day with a sales manager can be a useful training activity for any outside sales person.
The Action Step may simply be a confirmation of the “Anticipated Advance Action” which was indicated in Step 5. However, if that step was not accomplished or the primary objective was not met, this Action Step may be very different from what your sales rep “anticipated.”
In fact, when action steps consistently differ from “Anticipated Advance Actions,” your sales rep is experiencing a problem. You may need to offer remedial training in listening or questioning techniques. Role playing can also be extremely beneficial if this problem persists.
This sales call planning worksheet is easy to use. What’s not so easy is getting your outside sales personnel to develop the habit of planning. Doing that is up to you and your ability to convince each person of the critical importance of planning. Sales people hate paperwork, but do you know what they hate even more? They hate not meeting their sales goals – especially if they had a hand in setting them!
It might be pride or loss of financial incentive or a need to please you, the boss; but every outside sales person on your staff wants to meet or exceed their sales goals. Planning will go a long way in helping them do that.
Uncover their “hot buttons.” Cajole them, challenge them, inspire them, but above all else, motivate your sales staff to recognize the critical importance of consistent planning and you’ve done most of your part in this implementation plan.
What’s left involves inspection. You know that old adage: You get what you inspect, not what you expect. Set the stage for success:
- Don’t expect these worksheets to be filled out correctly.
- You will need to have a meeting (probably more than one) on goal setting and what makes a minimal, primary and visionary objective.
- Don’t allow reps to set goals that are too lofty or too low.
- Teach your sales people to be realistic.
- Teach them how to ask questions to uncover problems.
- Role play with them so they will learn how to suggest staffing solutions that help your customers solve those problems.
If you want your outside sales staff to flourish in a time when the low-hanging fruit has shriveled up, you must invest the time in training them to be better. You must create and implement systems like call planning worksheets to keep ahead of the competition and in the forefront of your customer’s mind when there is a business problem to be solved.
Cultivate the importance of planning. Praise those whose well-executed sales call plans result in additional business. Reinforce how this activity separates your sales personnel from that of your competition, and helps make your people better prepared and more confident in their work. Give your people this edge and everyone will reap the rewards.
Make your sales team more successful – by filling their pipelines with high-quality leads and referrals.
The more qualified prospects your sales reps connect with, the more successful every sales call will be!
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