Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Call Planning Tools

Having call planning tools in place isn’t anything new, but using them effectively was a topic of interest in our recent 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study. Specifically, “We effectively use call planning tools to prepare for customer interactions” was highlighted as one of the Top 12 practices.

74% of the World-Class segment reported consistently and collectively applying this practice, compared to only 26% of all study participants.

Sales professionals are expected to prepare for calls or meetings with prospective buyers or existing customers. According to our 2018-2019 Sales Performance Study, they spend almost 20% of their time prospecting and preparing for calls. So having tools to support them in this activity is not new, but how effective they are at using the tools provided is worth a closer look – especially considering even the World-Class segment found room for improvement, with one-quarter indicating they are not effectively using their call planning tools.

Figuring out how to use call planning tools effectively requires deliberate and conscious effort. And World-Class Organizations do just that. (Click to tweet)

Once a call planning tool is made available to sales professionals, additional planning and thought is required to help them use it effectively. If you don’t put as much effort into this step as you did when selecting the tool, you are more likely to have poor adoption of the new tool you just rolled out.

Here are three checkpoints to help sales use call planning tools to produce the intended outcomes from customer calls and meetings. 

1.Are you clear on what you want to accomplish? (Click to tweet) Similar to choosing an exercise device, being clear on what you want to accomplish is the first step. This will help determine which tools you need to achieve the desired results. For example, if you want to increase flexibility and stretch, you need a yoga mat and stretch band; on the other hand, if you want to work on endurance, you might need a treadmill and a good pair of running shoes.

A call planning tool can be as simple as a checklist or as advanced as the latest sales technologies with AI capabilities. Don’t be afraid to be selective and choose what works for you and your team. If you haven’t yet defined standard steps for call preparation, start with a simple checklist. Introducing the latest sales technology without a clearly defined call preparation process that your sales team uses consistently will only result in poor adoption. On the other hand, if you have a well-defined process and are looking to automate and scale in support of your growing sales organization, it makes sense to look at the available sales technologies.

When selecting a call planning tool, don’t forget to look at the sales user experience holistically – how it will fit into their current workflow, whether it’s available on a mobile app and integrated with CRM, whether it provides anything new that is of value to your salespeople and whether it improves the customer experience when engaging with your team. Being clear on what you want to achieve will help you select the tool that fits your needs. (Click to tweet)

2.Have you decided when to use it? (Click to tweet) Buyers expect salespeople to be prepared for any interaction. And with an average sales cycle of more than five months, and an average of 6.4 decision-makers per opportunity, your sales teams could be engaging in dozens of calls to close one opportunity. So acknowledge up front that not all sales calls require the same level of planning. Some might be quick meetings with an existing internal champion, while others might involve multiple stakeholders, each with their own desired outcomes that your salespeople need to address.

Be thoughtful in determining which sales calls require documented planning, whether in a template or using sales tech that integrates with your CRM. If salespeople are spending 20% of their time on call planning, being selective on when to use the call planning tool will help ensure they are using their time wisely instead of completing a form for every single call. (Click to tweet)

3.How will you use it? (Click to tweet) What you get from using the call planning tool depends on how you use it. Are you being mindful of the results you want to get and purposeful in the steps you take to achieve those results with the help of the tool? Going back to the exercise scenario, how you use the stretch bands makes a difference in whether you achieve your goal of being more flexible. If you stretch the bands halfheartedly and not all the way, there is a limit to the level of flexibility you can achieve.

Let’s see how this might apply to a call planning tool. You have a complex deal with multiple stakeholders and, as an outcome of your next sales call, you want to drive alignment and agreement on the main business issues they are trying to resolve. To date, you have met with each of the stakeholders and are aware of the business issues each has identified – many of which are not the same. You already have notes on your key contacts in CRM and may even have an opportunity or account plan started.

You can decide to use the call planning tool to consolidate available information and identify additional gaps or you can grumble and complain as you cut and paste text from CRM or the plan you started elsewhere into the call planning template. If you choose the former approach, you can use the call planning tool to help aggregate and clarify what the real business issues are, understand stakeholder dynamics (to invite the right people to the meeting) and pull together content to drive the right discussions. If you choose the latter approach, you may miss the opportunity to identify gaps you didn’t see before and go into the meeting unprepared.

World-Class Organizations pay close attention to the what, when and howkey components to ensuring salespeople use the call planning tool to produce the desired outcomes from their sales calls! (Click to tweet)

They are clear on what they want to use it for, as they know what they want to achieve by using the tool and choose one that fits their needs. They are selective about when they use it and also make a conscious effort around how to use it so they can get the outcome both they and the customer want from the sales call.

 

Questions for you:

  • What will a call planning tool help you and your sales teams with?
  • Do you have a list of criteria for which calls or meetings require use of a call planning tool?
  • What other things might you need to consider to make a call planning tool part of the sales workflow?

 

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