Meticulous Pre-Call Planning!

by Paul Castain on February 24, 2010

Today we are drinking from the fire hose  gang . . . no time for pleasantries, strap in!

Pre-Call, actually, Meticulous Pre-Call Planning is an area where each of us could stand to get a bit better. For the sake of this discussion, we will refer to the “call” as a first time, face to face meeting with a prospect.

Part I: Be A Good Detective

1)    Google: The individual, the company and the key players. While you are at it, set up a Google Alert for all 3 groups. Why? Because business moves at the speed of light and should something change during the sales cycle, you my friend are in the know. When I Google the individual, I’m not just looking for the everyday, easy to find stuff. My competitors are good for that. I look for the stuff that my competitors miss because they think its irrelevant.

Example 1: I once met with a prospect who I discovered had taken a 2 year sabbatical to travel the world, took pictures of his adventure and published a book about it. Has nothing to do with business right? Well riddle me this girlfriend, what’s everyone’s favorite subject these days? Gold star if you said them self! I didn’t stop there. I checked out the reviews on amazon and some tool really dissed my prospect . . . not on my watch! I created a bs handle and dissed the disser (pretty brutally too) When the right moment arrived (when my prospect was questioning the methodology I would be teaching his reps) I explained my philosophy regarding Meticulous Pre Call Planning. The dude called me out on it and asked what I knew about him. I brought up the book and asked him questions about it. He went on for 30 mins about that damn book but it gets better. At the end, I told him, I suppose my competitors knew that about you too so I went the extra mile. My prospect looked confused and confessed that no one asked him about the book. I told him I couldn’t take a chance on that and teach all my faithful Jedis not to either. I told him about that jackass on amazon who dissed him. He told me he knew about it. I invited him to look at it again particularly the comment from Imfreakinyoda. When he read the slap I gave the dude, he laughed so hard that to this day I am convinced he pissed his pants.  Its amazing how productive a meeting will turn out once everyone lightens up and lets their guard down!

Example 2: We once met with this she bitch who was absolutely miserable about life until we asked her about a little known website she created for a college project a few years back. It was this site all about coffee. When we asked her about it, she almost became emotional (yes, I know that’s odd but let’s find out why) With a lowered voice she explained to us that the reason she loved coffee so much was that she grew up on a coffee plantation with her Grandparents and to this day, whenever she smells coffee, it takes her back. That has nothing to do with business, so that’s just stupid, right? Well, it should come as no shock to you all that Uncle Paul leveraged that and knowing that scent is the number one trigger of memory I used a coffee scented ink in my proposal (just kidding, but that would be cool, no?) but I did, meet her for all the meetings after that at the local Starbucks. She soon replaced the tall drink of bitch she was serving with something more palatable and our deal regained momentum.

Note: You may use these things, you may not, but its always better to come prepared with something in your back pocket!

2)    Their Website: I like to look at the “About Us”, “Employment” “News” sections. I look for “Triggering Events” that is events, news items, movement of some type that I can tie a solution to later in the sales process. For now, I will tie a good, solid question to it to learn more and get my prospect talking.

3)    Hoovers: I like Hoovers because it will usually tell me about their competitors. Knowing the competitive landscape is never a bad thing. Worst case scenario, you get a few fresh prospects to dig deeper within the vertical.

4)    Pull Their 10k and 10q (if it’s a public company) by visiting This is a step many of your competitors will miss and it could make or break the sale. There are annual reports which tell you some things about the company, but its purely a “let’s show ‘em our good side” The 10k and 10q let’s you see the real company “warts and all”. Once again I’m looking for triggers such as poor earnings, strong earnings, trends, financial health etc.

5)     Industry specific websites. This is always a good step because it keeps your finger on the pulse of their industry, keeps you up to date on trends, buzz words, news etc. What are some of the challenges their industry is facing?

6)    Social Media Footprints: I check Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and blogs with the understanding that like the other steps, one door will most likely open another and so on. It would absolutely blow your mind how careless some folks are about what they are Tweeting and posting. It can be a great source for info you won’t find in directories. It also allows you to get inside your prospect’s head.

Example: When I interviewed for my position at Dale Carnegie a few years back, I researched the interviewers like I was preparing for a trial. I found a powerpoint presentation one interviewer did for the Egyptian Chamber of Commerce. Probably a good idea to dismiss something like that, right? Wrong dude! That powerpoint gave me an opportunity to understand how the guy thought, terms he uses, philosophies and once again . . . an opportunity for him to talk about his favorite subject “himself”!

7)    Review All Notes from CRM: I don’t leave anything to chance. I want to know the history of the hunting of this account. Since I take copious freaking notes anyway, there might be a nugget in there I could have missed

8)    Identify Internal Resources That May Be Helpful: Perhaps its someone selling into that vertical, someone who has knowledge of the account, someone from the senior management team who can assist on the appt etc.

Part Dos:  Build Your Case!

Something Really Cool You Can Do: Print all the stuff you gather in step one. All the web pages, CRM notes, Industry specific websites etc and toss them all in a hard copy file. That file is important to have with you for showmanship purposes. That’s right. You need it on the table, front and center so your prospect can actually see something that is normally an intangible. After all, what does research look like anyway? Plus, I know most of my competitors won’t do it so I need every little difference I can create so eventually I will create one huge difference!

1)    Prepare Preliminary Questions Based On Your Research: This is one of my favorite things to do because 9 out of 10 times I won’t sound like my competitors. Many of them have a habit of using “canned/generic” questions that show no creativity and or due diligence. I spend so much time on this step, it actually becomes my obsession!

2)    Create Preliminary Discussion Points Based On Your Research: Once again, this is purely for the “back pocket” My first appointment needs to be 95% discovery, but its always good to have a few things of relevance to discuss.

3)    Prepare Appropriate Info and Samples: Again, Don’t really want to get into a presentation on the first appointment, but I want to be prepared. There is nothing worse than reaching for something to illustrate a point that isn’t as good as if you had thought it out ahead of time.

4)    Anticipate Questions & Possible Objections: Maybe this prospect was pressing me to give a price on the phone. Do you think they might press on the first appt? What’s the plan to handle that? Is it possible they might ask you who you’ve done business with in their industry? Perhaps you are a new rep and they ask how long you’ve been with the company. Are you prepared for them to push back if you only have a month in this industry?  These are all things that need to be thought out PRIOR to the appt!

5)    Run A “What If” Scenario: Admittedly, I’m a nut when it comes to this. Based on my research and/or history with the prospect I simply ask myself “What if ____________ were to happen?” You’d be surprised how often your instincts will serve you well!

Something Critical to The Process: I can’t emphasize this next point enough. I take the time to look at everything SUSPICIOUSLY! That is, what am I missing? I will actually ask myself that question repeatedly throughout the process! I have uncovered major pieces of information that were missing, all because I took the time to lose my ego and question my thoroughness!

If you recall, I mentioned that 95% of my first appointment is in fact finding mode. There’s still that other 5% where I need to wet their appetite a bit. Most of that should present itself through a thorough needs analysis, but I still need to come prepared to do something that most of my competitors suck at . . .

I’d tell you, but then you’d probably leave me, no cab fare on the night stand etc so lets tackle that one in Part 2 next week!

Until then . . . stay thirsty my friends!

Actually; hold on a sec . . .

This post represents just a handful of the more than 100+ sales tips I offer in my 8 week, online Sales School Program. If you found value in this post, please click here to see how this program can bring you to new levels of awesomeness!

Previous post:

Next post: