Every time you connect with a client, you have a chance to form or further a relationship. Your sales calls are the result of all of the time, money, and energy you spend on marketing and business development, and yet few of us have concrete plans for our sales calls.
With a little planning, you can maximize the impact of every sales call, meeting, or virtual selling opportunity you have.
By the end of this article, you’ll know what a sales call plan is, how to set your sales call agenda, the five types of sales calls (and how you should plan for each), and you’ll get a template for planning your next call agenda.
What Is Sales Call Planning?
A sales call plan is a detailed agenda for each type of sales call you have in your sales process. That way, every time you get on a call with a prospective client you have a clear purpose and set of actions.
No matter which type of sales call you’re running, your sales call plan should include: your goals for the call; the length and flow of the call; what specifically will be discussed (i.e. agenda items); and the next steps that will come after each sales call.
If you’d like to know more about how this all connects together, you may be interested in my detailed sales process for professional services firms.
Why You Need a Call Plan
There’s a big penalty for not having a sales call plan: you can’t run a consistent sales process without one.
Think about it purely in terms of cognitive load. If you show up to each call without a plan, you’re likely to 1) “go with the flow” of the conversation, which is what we say when have no plan, or 2) spend too much time thinking about how the conversation should go, instead of gently guiding the conversation so it’s useful for everyone.
In other words, there’s no escaping your sales call plan. If you make it ahead of time, you can focus on executing the plan. If you don’t have a plan to follow, you’ll often wonder why your conversations are so inconsistent – sometimes great, sometimes a waste of time, sometimes totally off the rails.
Having a plan is the fastest path to a predictable sales process. If you don’t make a plan ahead of time, you’ll scramble to figure one out on the spot, and forego predictably useful sales calls.
Let’s get you a plan, shall we?
Setting an Agenda For a Sales Call
No matter the type of sales call you run – and I’ll get into the types of calls in the next section – your agenda will remain about the same.
In fact, your agenda for your sales calls, your sales meetings, your marketings…it’ll always be the same. Here’s what I recommend you do:
- Build rapport: spend a few minutes connecting with the other meeting attendees
- Agenda: review your agenda with the other meeting attendees
- Meeting content: go through what you plan to cover in the meeting, and why
- Recap: review what you heard on the call, and confirm your understanding with the other meeting attendees
- Next steps: agree to what will happen next, who’s responsible, and when it will happen
Notice that only two of the steps in your agenda are variable: the meeting content, and the next steps. Those will be determined by the type of sales call you’re running. Let’s move onto that now.
The Five Types of Sales Calls
Every step in your sales process should have intention and a specific goal. If not, why do it? Why waste your time, or your prospect’s time?
The goal of your sales call is the cornerstone of your plan, and it’s dependent upon where you are in your sales process. For more on how I recommend you construct your sales process, with a deep dive into each of the following subsections, check out my SDS Method sales process.
Qualification Call Agendas
The purpose of your Fit (or qualification) stage is to determine if there’s a high-level fit between you and your prospective client. Depending on how leads come into your business, you may have a slightly different goal or expectation for this call.
Typically I recommend your meeting content cover four or five important questions that’ll give you insight into whether your prospect is generally qualified, then spend five minutes talking about how you work.
The goal of this call is to disqualify as many prospects as you can. That may seem counterintuitive, I know, but it’ll take the sales pressure off of you and prospects if you focus on eliminating deals rather than adding them. If you ask good qualifying questions you’ll be on track.
For cold leads, expect to spend at least half of the call describing you and your company, and showing your value. For inbound calls, you can get away with talking a lot less and probing more, since your clients are more educated about who you are and what you do.
Discovery Call Agendas
Your discovery call agenda should have the goal of uncovering your client’s motivation to change. Change includes spending money, doing business with you, giving up something they’re already doing, learning something new, taking a risk.
Change is hard. Clients need to be motivated to do it. That’s why pain is so much more powerful than gain in terms of motivation.
For your discovery call, focus on creating a call agenda that will uncover a good bit of their motivation. Questions like:
- Why is now the right time?
- What have you already done to fix this problem?
- When did you first notice this was a problem?
I recommend that you also use value-based selling techniques to uncover client motivation. With this approach, you should be able to determine your prospective client’s motivation, as well as the value of making a change (i.e. buying from you!).
From here, the next step is to move on to the Offer stage of your sales process.
Sales Presentation (Offer) Agendas
Your Offer stage is when you finally present, in-depth, what it is that you do and how it directly connects to your client’s Pain, Goals, and Value. There’s a very specific way I recommend you present your offer, and your Offer stage agenda should reflect it.
Make sure you cover:
- Grab their attention: start with the headline of why they’re there, and what you promise to deliver by the end of the presentation
- Your mission: what motivates you (and your company) to serve your clients
- Client motivation: the pain they’re experiencing, their goals (which are just the opposite of the pain), the value they’d get from changing
- Your solution: how you can deliver the value your client wants
- Proof: demonstrating credibility through case studies, statistics, or other forms of objective or empirical evidence
- Pricing: the tiers of pricing and service you can deliver
- Next steps: asking your client for their process and timeline for a decision (note: if you sell to single decision-makers, ask for a decision on the spot)
Make sure you run your sales presentations as a conversation you’re leading, rather than a lecture. Your prospective client will want to understand everything outlined above. But the purpose of the meeting isn’t for you to talk, it’s give the client what she needs in order to make an informed decision.
Negotiation (Agreement) Call Agenda
Ideally, your marketing and positioning strategy should put remove the need to negotiate with clients. The more custom your delivery and the more variable your pricing, the more likely the need to negotiate.
I recommend you use Todd Caponi’s Transparency Sale approach to negotiation, and your negotiation call agenda should reflect that. Following his approach, you’ll start by clearly stating what’s important to you, and asking the client what’s important to them. Having a negotiation plan will give you a clear minimum offer you’re willing to accept, so you can decide on the spot if there’s a deal to be made.
Your negotiation call agenda should include the following discussion points:
- A recap of your client’s Pain, Goals, Value, and the deal you proposed (and why)
- Check to verify that you got it right
- What’s important to you – “show your cards”
- What’s important to your client
- Mutually decide if a deal is possible
- Next steps
If, at this point, there’s no deal to be had then it’s time to move on. Your call plan succeeded in reaching an answer as fast as possible.
Service Call Agenda
I know, you might not think of sales as having anything to do with service, but I disagree. Your selling should be as good as any service you provide. It’s why the name of this movement is Serve Don’t Sell!
And like any good service, part of what you provide is support. Your support calls – or “check-in calls,” “business reviews,” or whatever you call them – should have a call plan so that you can maximize their effectiveness. Am I beginning to sound like a broken record?
For your service calls, I recommend a standard start/stop/continue orientation, but not in that order. Here are the meeting contents I recommend you cover:
- What are you working on now?
- What’s going well?
- What’s not going well, and needs to be corrected or stopped altogether?
- What’s coming up that we need to address?
That simple agenda helps you drive the quality of your service, the value your client is receiving, the operations of your own business, and future opportunities into your pipeline. Simple, but not easy.
Sales Call Agenda Template
Before we wrap up, here’s a quick sales call agenda template I recommend you use. It should include the following:
- Sales stage
- Goal for the call (i.e. “disqualify the prospect,” “reach an agreement or walk away,” etc.)
- Call length
- Call agenda
- Potential next steps
There it is – that’s your sales call plan!
Your sales process has a lot at stake, and a little planning goes a long way. If you haven’t already taken the time to map out your sales call process, feel free to use my SDS Method sales process as a starting place. Once you have that in hand, your sales call planning will be much easier.
If you already have a sales process in place, wonderful! Write out your sales call plan with the template I outlined here and you’ll notice a huge improvement in your next sales call. If you do take the time to write it out, send your love/hate mail to me directly.