Even with the growth of alternate sales channels, like email and social media, there’s no escaping the role of the phone call in your job as a sales representative. Whether you’ve been at it for years, or are just starting out as a phone salesman, the surest way to make an impact is to plan your calls ahead of time.

Even if you’re “cold calling” a prospect, it doesn’t mean you should go into it without any preparation. Do some research, practice your script, and know your product, and you’ll be far more likely to close a deal than if you go into it unprepared.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how to properly prepare for a sales call, as well as why you might choose to make a phone call over email in the first place.

Why Make A Phone Call?

There are several reasons why you might choose a phone call over an email or another form of outreach. The first is time: if you need to close a deal quickly and don’t have time to wait for an email response, then picking up the phone is the way to go.

Two, you want to build rapport. Whether you’re calling someone out of the blue, or you want to build on a pre-existing relationship, speaking with your customer on the phone can make your sales pitch come across as more personal and harder to dismiss.

Three, the deal is too complicated to arrange via email. If you’re calling up a B2B client and want to negotiate a specific offer, sometimes you need a bigger conversation than you can have by email or text. With a phone call, your client has the opportunity to ask questions and get into the finer details of the deal.

Making a phone call can seem like a riskier strategy, but by planning the call ahead of time and being able to think on your feet, you can adapt your conversation to meet the needs of your customer. You simply can’t do that with email.

That said, sometimes it’s best to try both. Start with an email and mention that you’ll be following up with a phone call, that way your call is less unexpected. Use a CRM tool like OnCourse to schedule your calls and avoid duplicate communications.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most effective pre-call planning techniques to take some of the stress and uncertainty out of your phone call.

What Is Pre-Call Planning?

Pre-call planning is anything that you do before a sales call to prepare for the interaction. This can range from checking your CRM to see if the contact has any kind of history with other sales reps in your company, to practicing and tailoring your sales pitch.

Depending on whether it’s a warm or cold call, your pre-call planning will vary. The more you know about your prospect, the more planning you can do.

By planning your phone call in advance, you’ll be better to steer the conversation in the direction of a sale, rather than just “seeing how it goes” and letting your prospect set the terms of the discussion. Don’t let their questions catch you by surprise.

How to Properly Prepare for a Sales Call

One of the first things to keep in mind when planning a sales call is to have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it. Not every phone call is intended to close a deal, and it’s perfectly fine to treat this call as a conversation starter.

But you should still make a plan for what you want to get out of it. Maybe it’s as simple as sending them a product sample, or signing them up for an in-person sales demo. Decide in advance if you’ll leave them a voicemail if they don’t answer the phone.

Your sales goal may be more ambitious if you’ve spoken to this prospect before, but set reasonable expectations for the call based on what you think is achievable. Once you know your own objective, you can turn your attention to the prospect.

Research the prospect, and what they want.

The first thing you should do when preparing for a sales call is to research the prospect. Whether you plan to sell to an individual or to a company, find out as much as you can ahead of time so you don’t have to waste valuable phone time getting up to speed.

This includes learning as much as you can about the size of the company, their specific location, and any publicly-available information about their financial situation. What are their pain points that you can help solve? What do they want that you can offer?

Start by looking them up in your company’s CRM. If they have a detailed history there, review it. Find out whether they’ve bought anything from your company, which sales strategies they were receptive to, and when your last contact with them took place.

If you go into a call and aren’t aware of an issue or concern they had previously, then you won’t just look foolish -- you’ve missed an opportunity to solve their problem and resolve any issues they had with your product or business.

If you can’t find enough information about them as an individual, learn what you can about their industry and any current trends they might be dealing with.

Research the point of contact, and how best to convince them.

In addition to researching the company as a whole, be sure to look up the person you’ll be speaking to directly. This is easier if you already know a bit about your prospect, but you can still learn valuable information even if you only know their name.

If they don’t have an entry in your CRM, search for their profiles on social media. Don’t be creepy and comment on their personal photo albums, but their professional profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are fair game. You might discover a favorite book, movie, or vacation spot you can mention in your phone call.

If they have a personal or professional website, take a look at that too. You never know what kind of information they’ll reveal in a blog post -- such as a struggle they’ve been having at their company that your product is perfectly suited to address.

You might also discover useful information about their work history, communication style, and willingness to take risks. A middle-aged executive who has been at the company for decades may want to play it safe and could be skeptical of new products.

But a young executive who spends the weekend going to innovative tech Meetups and retweeting Elon Musk quotes? He might be willing to try something new.

Knowing a company’s pain points will only get you so far if you aren’t able to build up a rapport with your point of contact there. Find out who the decision makers are and what you need to do to convince them to buy your product.

Finally, make sure you call at the most opportune time. The industry-standard advice is that calling in the afternoon in the middle of the week is best, but if you happen to know that your prospect works odd hours or travels frequently, take that into account.

Also, consider whether you’re likely to reach your prospect directly, or if you’ll need to speak with an assistant to schedule a callback at a later date.

Research their competitors.

Next, find out everything you can about your prospect’s competitors. While this may not seem relevant at first glance, it shows that you’ve done some research and have a solid understanding of what’s going on in their industry.

Consider perform an audit on their competitors and brainstorm ways you can help them  outrank the competition. Remember, publicly-traded companies will have annual reports and shareholder meetings that can be a treasure trove of useful information.

You should be prepared to bring up both positive and negative issues in their industry. If you’ve heard that a particular product has been giving their competitors trouble, let them know how they can get ahead of the game by buying yours instead.

Or, if they haven’t yet gotten on board with a new SaaS tool or social media channel, let them know that their competitors are on top of it and that they might get left behind. What marketing strategies are they missing out on that you could help them with?

If you don’t have time to do a full audit of their competitors, ask relevant questions so you can draw useful information out of them. Some ways to bring it up include:

  • “None of your competitors are advertising in [X region] yet. We think you’d be perfectly suited to fill that gap. What do you think?”
  • “Some companies are preparing for the closure of [X platform] by switching over to [Y]. We noticed you haven’t done that yet. Why are you holding off?”

The more you can engage in a dialogue with them about their industry, the more inclined your prospect will be to trust your assessment of the situation and take your advice.

While you’re at it, take some time to research your own competitors too, and anticipate what other proposals your prospect might have been offered or is considering.

Be clear about what you can offer them.

Finally, be as clear as possible about what you can offer them. Are you going to increase their annual revenue? Help them integrate new technology into their toolkit? Streamline their workflow by replacing outdated equipment?

Your prospect may not be aware of your product’s existence, or they may have already considered it and ruled it out. Be able to explain what it can add to their company that they won’t have if they don’t choose it. Be ready to answer any concerns or objections they may have -- but don’t keep on pushing if they say it’s not for them.

Some of the concerns they raise may be things you can overcome, such as renegotiating the contract if they don’t want to make a 12-month commitment. Other things might be too big to address right then and there, and you’ll need to rethink your plan.

The worst thing you can do on a sales call is over-prepare so much that you don’t listen to your prospect. Remember, your script is just a guideline, and you need to be ready to have a back-and-forth conversation.

Take your prospect’s objections seriously, and in the worst case scenario -- they don’t buy your product -- you’ll at least walk away with a thorough understanding why. You can use that information to prepare for a future phone call with other prospects.

Use a CRM to Organize Pre-Call Planning

There are two main ways you can use a CRM to organize pre-call planning. The first is for scheduling and coordinating your phone call with other sales reps and to make the most of multi-channel communications.

For example, your CRM will show you where in the sales cycle your prospect is at and whether they have a purchase history with your company.

You can make sure that another sales rep hasn’t already followed up with this lead, or if they have, that enough time has passed for a follow-up phone call. This avoids the risk of duplicate phone calls or two sales reps promising wildly different things.

The second is to log information about your calls so you can refer to them later on in the sales cycle. The more information that sales reps share with each other about a lead, the better the chances of closing on that deal in the future.

With OnCourse, all of these tools are built right into the CRM software. You can use it to schedule calls, set follow-up reminders, and record details about each call’s outcome.

You can also combine your calls with other communications, such as emails and SMS messaging, while tracking which ones your prospect is most receptive to.

Using an all-in-one CRM like OnCourse is a must for making efficient and successful phone calls. It can take some of the stress out of cold calling, and make your pre-call planning process as easy as possible, for warm and cold calls alike.

Reach out to OnCourse now to request a demo and find out how you can use a CRM tool to close sales and streamline the pre-call planning process.