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The Sales Call Planner: Knowledge Exchange and Questions

This post is the third in a series of calls on planning sales calls. The first post covered how to determine the purpose of your sales call, and the second post detailed how to think about identifying and inviting stakeholders. You can read those posts before diving in here or go back to them as needed.

One of the primary outcomes of any sales call is the exchange of information. This exchange travels in both directions. You share information with your dream client, and they share information with you. While there will always be surprises, being a high performing sales person requires that you plan for this exchange.

Known Unknowns

There is information that you know that you need to know in order to help your dream client but that you don’t yet possess. Your dream client can provide the information for the known unknowns. One of the outcomes of your sales call is to acquire this information.

Planning effective sales calls means planning to acquire this information. You should go into your sales call with a list of questions that you need answered. You can improve the list of questions by working with your team and brainstorming to come up with a list of questions.

Even if you have made countless sales calls effectively doesn’t mean that you are more effective winging it than you are by preparing a list of questions demonstrates that you are professional enough to prepare, that you know what you need to know, and that you have spent time thinking about how to be valuable to your dream client. You may need more answers later, but you should work to ensure you use your dream client’s time effectively and ask the questions that you need answeredwhile you have their time.

Your dream client needs to know about you, too. They will have questions that they need you to answer. This is their own list of known unknowns. Good sales call preparation includes making a list of questions that you can expected to be asked and ensuring that you are prepared to answer them.

A few minutes of pre-call planning can make a big difference in the outcome of your sales call, especially when it comes to deepening your understanding. Make a good list of questions to address the known unknowns.

Unknown Unknowns

I have loved the term since I first heard it uttered by Donald Rumsfeld. There are things that we don’t know that we don’t know. How do your prepare to address what you don’t even know you don’t know?

First, you have to go into sales calls knowing that there are things that you don’t know that you need to know. This is a mindset shift: We know what we want to know, but there is knowledge that we need that we don’t know exists.

Making the assumption that there is information that you don’t know you need allows you to plan to ask for that information.

Second, you can prepare questions to address the unknown unknowns: “What else should we know about your needs that we didn’t ask?” Or, “Are there areas that we should spend time discussing that we haven’t touched on yet?” Your dream clients will educate you, if you let them. They want you to be a good partner, and they want you to succeed for and with them.

It’s important to note that even after asking your questions and learning from your clients that there will still exist unknown unknowns that you and your dream client may need to confront together. The more information you exchange, the more prepared you are to tackle the unknown unknowns together.

Questions for Known Unknowns

What do you need to learn from your dream client?

What information will help you understand their business well enough to help them?

What questions will help you to elicit the information you need?

What questions should you expect from your dream client?

Question for Unknown Unknowns

What questions will allow you to elicit the information that you don’t know that you need?

How do you create a relationship that allows you and your dream client to tackle unknown unknowns with your dream client?

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