Given the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year for sales professionals to make sales calls, I’m always perplexed by the lack of planning for this critical sales activity.
It seems to make no difference if it’s a daily “milk run” around town, out of town regional calls, or cross- country trips. This also includes the whole gamut of; Go- To- Meetings, Conference Calls, Video sessions, etc. Small, medium, and large companies are all guilty of sub-optimizing their ROI.
The point is, sales management and the average sales professional pretty much “wing it” as they collectively squander their precocious sales time! Time is the great equalizer; everyone has the same 24/7.
How it is used is the differentiator and a key indicator of winners and losers.
I spoke with a sales manager recently about three out of town sales calls he went on with one of his sales professional’s. They were gone for three days and spent about $3,500 for travel, lodging, meals, and entertainment.
The first call was to start with dinner with key decision makers (4) followed by a business meeting the next morning.
- Only one person showed up for, and he sheepishly said the am meeting needed to be canceled because of unexpected schedule changes.
The second call was in the same city scheduled with two middle-level buyers to discuss a price increase.
- Three other senior executives showed up unannounced and took over the meeting. They picked apart the company’s performance on quality, delivery, and responsiveness and flat refused to discuss the price increase and made threats of business reduction.
The third call was in driving distance at a neighboring city. This was to be a casual meeting pretty much a “fly by” before returning to the airport and flying home.
- The buyer stated that she was being promoted to another Division, and her replacement was an “up and comer” just out of grad school from a prestigious University.
The sales manager was livid, and the sales professional was embarrassed. The entire trip was deemed a disaster. The sales manager was dreading a debrief with his boss.
What could have prevented or at least minimized this all too common scenario?
Pre-Call Planning (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?)
- What is the purpose of each meeting?
- Do both parties agree?
- Has a specific agenda been set?
- Are all invitees committed?
- What are the critical issues that may arise aside from the agenda?
- Who might join the meeting unannounced?
- Are all the logistical issues covered?
- Are there contingency plans in place for last minutes changes/cancellations?
- Contacting the customer at least twice (1 week & 48 hrs.) before the meetings to ensure everything is still on track.
- An after-action trip report is critical.
- Follow up items with the customer.
- Internal debrief to improve ROI continuously.
- Next steps documented along with accountabilities.
Depending on the complexity of the call, the Pre-Call and Trip Report suggestions are minimum expectations of alignment for both the sales professional and sales manager, and most importantly, with the customer.
NEALABC can help you with customizing and formalizing this critical sales activity for a free assessment call 480-229-7800 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can also click here and contact us today.