>You just completed one of the most important tasks in sales – getting the appointment. Congratulations – this means that you have successfully convinced someone – who is most likely very busy – to actually agree to take time out of their day to listen to you talk about your product or service. That is an accomplishment. I mean time these days is as precious as money, and this person has no guarantee your product or service is going to be of interest or benefit to them, yet you convinced them to give you something of value – their time. So, as a sales person you really need to respect that, and you need to understand a sales call is a privilege. If you remember and act on that, than you will truly ingratiate yourself to your prospect and you will differentiate yourself from your competition.

People are busy, and again time is as valuable as money these days. That is why treating a sales call as a privilege, something you plan and prepare for, is critical if you want to turn your prospects into customers. There are many different styles and designs of how to prepare for a sales call, and any style and structure that works for you is fine as long as you have one and you use one.

I use a very simple structure, one that does the job and is time efficient. It is easy to set up and efficient to use as there are just six simple steps. In the next few chapters we will look closely at each step, but lets first take a quick overview so you can experience how they work together.

Step 1 – Due Diligence: You need to do your homework. Before you ever show up to make a call on a potential customer you need to have done your research. Learn about the company and learn about specifically on whom you are calling. Sales people often overlook or choose not to do this step. Avoiding due diligence means you will have no foundation of which to build your call.

Step 2 – Determine your objectives. Every call you go on needs to have a purpose. You need to determine what your focus will be, what you want to happen, and how you will know if the call is successful. Your objectives need to be written down, time specific, actionable and measurable. Having an objective holds you accountable to move the call forward.

Step 3 – Ask Questions. Sales calls should be 20-percent you talking and 80-percent you listening. This is your opportunity to learn what your client wants and needs from their perspective. They will tell you what to sell them if you ask the right questions and you really listen. Good questions come from quality due diligence and strong objectives.

Step 4 – Support Statement – Once you have spent time listening, hearing and thinking about what your prospect has told you, it is time to offer a support statement. A way, based on what you have heard, that you feel your product or service could help them with the specific challenges or opportunities they just discussed with you. Strong support statements relate directly to the information the prospect just offered in the question phase of the sales call. To make an impact, your support statement needs to be timely and relevant.

Step 5 – Close – A strong close moves the call to the next step. Once you have delivered your support statement offer the client an opportunity or a suggestion on how they can take advantage of this benefit. A strong close ties back to your objectives and ensures that you keep the sales calling process moving forward and on track.

Step 6 – Round Two – A sale is nothing more than a series of small sales calls all linked together. Often a salesman expects to close a sale on the second or third try. The bigger the prospect the longer the cycle. You need to structure the sales call to be a series of small wins rather than one gigantic victory. Consistent small and steady wins add up to a portfolio of repeat customers.

That is a basic structure and or plan to follow to help you in your efforts to turn your prospects into customers. Let’s walk through an example and tie it all together. I was given a referral for a prospect that owns a large software company and was successful in setting up my first appointment. In doing my due diligence, among other things, I found out he is quite successful, built the company from scratch and now his goal is to take his company to another level. He is interested in growth but lacked systems and process’ to make that happen, and he was unsure of how to make that happen. Also, I learned he was the key decision maker, and he was very analytical and bottom line driven. I also learned, he had lived in this area for a quite a while, yet did not know many people as the majority of his clients were in other states. He was looking to expand both his personal and professional profile and that of his company locally. In addition, he loved music and enjoyed playing guitar and singing with fellow musicians.

My objective on this call was to get further acquainted with this man and his company. Learn specifically what he was looking for in terms of growth for his company. What marketing, strategic planning and systems/process’ he was looking for. Lastly, I wanted to make sure I secured a date for a follow-up meeting, so I could present my ideas on how my services specifically could benefit his company.

The questions I asked related directly to my objectives. What was going on in his industry right now? With the economy changing, how was he impacted and how was his company impacted? What did he see as his opportunities? What specific challenges kept him up at night? Where did he see the company in the next five years? What did growth – the process – look like to him? Did he feel is team was ready for change and growth? Why or why not? If he could only focus on two things over the next year what would those be and why? etc..

The conversation was fascinating. I learned so much just from asking questions and listening intently. When we finished this section of our initial meeting. I asked him what questions he had for me. I like this question, because it often opens up the perfect opportunity to offer a support statement. Prospects usually ask how you think you could help them which my prospect did. I suggested that my background in systems thinking strategic planning, sales and networking, and business coaching provided the skills and processes he was looking for to take his company to the next level. As well as encompass the flexibility he requires to both deal with challenges and opportunities. I could help him position his company for solid growth over the next five years. My process could help him focus his ideas and goals in the form of a strategic plan, and then develop the systems and process’ need to support it. I suggested that we set another date within the next week for me to sit down and go through step-by-step how this process would work and further answer questions and provide more information. Because I knew he was analytical and a slow decision maker, I offered to forward some information to him before our meeting, so he would have time to review it and gain some background around our discussion.

He accepted immediately. As we finished the meeting, I also recommended three people in the community he should talk with in regards to expanding his local business. I offered to make the introductions. Of the three I recommended, I let my prospect, know one was quite a musician, and I suggested the two would have a lot in common.

It took three formal meetings, and a lot of written correspondence to close the deal. It was a great job and a terrific experience lasting more than a year as each sales call lead to more ideas and opportunities. If you treat a sales call as a privilege, do your due diligence, set objectives, ask good questions, offer support statements and close by moving the process forward you too will succeed in your efforts to turn your prospects into customers!