Breakthrough Selling: Step 1: Plan to Be Successful

Most of the headaches, problems, and objections sales people encounter during the sales process can be traced back to poor planning. While everyone may have a slightly varied sales process, I believe having one that’s clearly defined is foundational to being an effective seller.

Winging it just doesn’t get the job done.

When it comes to pre-call sales planning, what’s your routine? What steps do you go through before a meeting with a new prospect? How about when an existing client is considering a large purchase?


How comfortable would you feel if you heard your surgeon say he was going to “wing” your next procedure? How much confidence would you have if your child’s high school teacher said she didn’t really have a syllabus outlined for the semester? She would just “see how it goes.”

I understand why pre-call planning is often overlooked. Many of the prescribed templates for planning are time-consuming and rigid. Spreadsheets, checkboxes, and 20 questions.

Here’s a simpler pre-call sales planning template that doesn’t require too much time or involve 20 questions. However, it will help you organize and execute meetings with clients and prospects more effectively. It only requires you to answer the following three questions.

1) What do you know?
List out what you know. Not what you think you know or what you heard from a third party — what you know to be fact.

  • What problem are they trying to solve?
  • What’s the financial impact of the problem or opportunity?
  • What other vendors are they talking to?
  • What’s their time frame? Budget? Decision-making criteria?
  • Who is the decision maker? Decision influencer?

2. What don’t you know?
Much like the previous question, simply list all things you don’t yet know that will be important to the sales process. What information will you need to learn or uncover to help the client?

The first two questions help you get clear on just how well you understand the client and his or her needs or wants before you start the process. For example, with an existing client, you may know a lot of the details, but with a prospect there may be a lot of unknowns. I think it’s helpful to see this on paper. And secondly, once it’s on paper, you effectively have a checklist to work through.

3. What has to happen at this meeting to move the process along?
Notice the italics on “this meeting.” No salesperson likes a stalled deal. Many sales require several meetings. Establishing realistic and clear goals for each meeting will help you stay focused and keep the process moving.

Before your next call, spend 15 minutes working through these questions. See if they make a difference in your approach, and more importantly, in the outcome.

Planning to be successful is the best way to achieve success.

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MENTOR November 2016;7(11):5.

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