Do you prepare for the sales call like a SCUBA diver?

SCUBA divers prepare more fully for the dive than most salespeople prepare for the sales call. SCUBA diving is a popular hobby and sport. It allows the diver to see a beautiful world under the water filled with fabulously decorated plants and animals. While the environment is beautiful, it can be dangerous if the SCUBA diver is not prepared.

Very few SCUBA divers have accidents, and that is because they are prepared. Before every dive, there is significant discussion and planning. The dive site is discussed in detail including:

  • What currents that are prevalent?
  • How deep is the dive?
  • What possible dangerous animals and plants might they encounter?
  • Which SCUBA diver is going to lead?
  • A review of various hand signals to communicate.

Not insignificantly, the divers also agree when the dive will be over and the safety of the ascent.

All of this makes sense. Diving is incredibly fun, but there can be disastrous repercussions.

Your sales call will probably not cause injury or death if you screw it up. You will be much more effective if you simply prepare for the conversation – especially if you are going on a sales call with a buddy.

In the worst case, a bad sales call could mean that you lose the order – and financially that can be devastating. It can also be a mortal problem for your career if you screw up too many sales calls.

Here are some suggested topics to prepare for your sales call. You should think of these topics even if you are making a solo sales call.

  • What is the major and minor goal of the sales call?
  • Who is going to lead the conversation?
  • When is the sales call finished?
  • Do you need to review some verbal signals to change course during the sales call?

Prepare for the major and minor goal of the sales call?

This conversation is probably the easiest and most important item to discuss during the preparation. You should have two goals for each sales conversation – a major goal and a minor goal. The major goal is your best outcome for the sales call. The major goal is the outcome that you are working towards and you will “high five” your sales partner as you walk out of the building.

The minor goal is the minimum you can settle for without being disappointed at the end of the call. If you don’t get this, you have failed. Failure is bad. You need to work hard to avoid this outcome.

Prepare for whom is going to lead the conversation?

With multiple people involved there needs to be some coordination on which person is leading different parts of the conversation. Your life will be much better if everyone agrees to this plan. Your chances of achieving your Major Goal are much better if this is structured.

A general problem happens here when you have your manager with you. Let’s face it, managers typically are not great coaches and wish they still had your job. In too many situations, they don’t want to sit there passively and let you lead. If your manager suffers from this problem, politely discuss it with him/her. If the problem continues, have him read my post on coaching, and then call him “Coach” repeatedly in your daily interactions with him. It is a sad reality of life that you may have to teach your manager how to be your manager.

Prepare for when is the sales call finished?

It is an old statement that you need to stop selling when you have won the order. The end of the call needs an advance agreement. Do you need to fill the entire time slot or is there some signal that everyone agrees it is time to leave? Figure that out in advance.

Prepare for verbal signals to change course during the sales call?

The main reason for your buddy to be on the call is probably because that person needs to say something important. You may have a technical partner, subject matter expert (SME), or your manager. However, when the customer says or questions something, who is going to take it and what is everyone else going to do?

It only takes a few minutes to plan a sales call, but it is very important. You will have more predictable results, if you prepare. Spend those couple minutes in the car before walking in, in the office earlier that day, or on a quick conference call. Being prepared for the call is not as important to your safety as in SCUBA diving but it can be just as rewarding when it all works out.

You may have other ideas of things to cover in the sales call. If you do, drop me a note at @soshaughnessey on Twitter or leave a comment below.

Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

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