Somehow, it seems that a post on preparing for sales calls/meetings would be totally unnecessary. One would hope all sales professionals would have a plan for every call, if only to manage their own time very well.

When I talk to sales people about the importance of sales call/meeting planning, the responses tend to fall into two categories.

The first category is “the voice of experience.” These sales people look at me, roll their eyes, saying, “You don’t understand, I’ve been selling for year, I’ve made 1000s of calls.. I know how to get it done!”

The second category responds, “I’ve got a call plan (usually a script), this is what I want to tell them about our products/services?”

The first category is problematic because it’s typically a random walk through the customer buying process/sales process. These sales people rely on their ability to react and respond, rather than guiding the customer through their buying journey. Typically, the sales cycle for these people, or number of calls to close (not necessarily win), is very long, and their win rates are very low.

The second category is problematic, as well. These people have a plan, they know what they want to accomplish, but their goals/objectives are all about them. It’s always about them, their company, their product. They have an urgency to tell, perhaps disguised by cleverly worded discovery questions that elicit jut the response they need to get into pitch mode.

Regardless of how we plan or don’t plan, we are never prepared to answere a single question: “What’s in it for the customer?” Stated differently, “What does the customer get as a result of investing their time in the call and does Uthat create value for them?”

Until we can answer that question in terms meaningful to the customer, we aren’t ready do make that call or have the meeting.

In answering this question, we are forced to change our perspective and our preparation. We have to understand the customer well enough to know what’s important to them—not what we think should be important to them. We have to understand what they value, what they are trying to achieve, what stands in their way of achieving it, and whether they even care.

If we don’t know these things, if we can’t articulate how our call will help them in achieving those things, we aren’t ready for the call. As a result, we waste the customer’s time and ours.

We have to think about this for each call or meeting we have. If we can’t answer the question in a meaningful way, we aren’t ready to make the call and should reschedule it.

Do you know, “What’s in it for the customer to invest their time, now,” for every call/meeting you have?