Sandler CEO, Dave Mattson once said at the Sandler Summit, “if I was told I could only do one activity with my salespeople for the rest of my career as a sales manager it would be pre-call planning.”
Pre-call planning is an activity that leaders wish their salespeople did more of and is a behavior that all-star salespeople do consistently, but pre-call planning can be derailed chasing the purple squirrels Possible and Plausible.
Prior to any interaction, professional or personal, there are three outcomes we could plan for – possible, plausible and probable.
- Possible, could it happen? – possible outcomes are a favorite fallback for bad sales managers who tell their reps, “well, back in ’07 we thought we had this deal sewn up then at the last minute we lost the deal because their IT team had been working on a secret project that did the same thing as our system.” Never happened again, but that manager will spend 20 more minutes talking about something that is unlikely to happen while making their salesperson anxious about the possibility.
- Plausible, might it happen? – yes, your salesperson might get a call the day before their presentation from their primary contact who says, “so I’ve been promoted and I’m handing this off to my replacement.” While “plausible” happens more often than “possible” it’s not worth getting our salesperson worked up and off focus.
- Probable, when will it happen? – our prospects tend to ask the same questions to every salesperson so we can focus our pre-call planning time with our salespeople on how to respond to probable statements or questions from our prospects, which will reduce friction in their presentation and smooth the path to closing.
Let’s not discount the value in a brief discussion about possible and plausible but spend the majority of our time in pre-call planning supporting our salesperson in being as prepared as they can be for a successful call. We might share fewer stories about our time in the field, but our salespeople will be better prepared.
Until next time… go lead.