“Skipping pre-call planning is like going to the grocery store without a list. You get more stuff than you need, and miss some of the things you went there to get.”

Is it really possible for two distinctly different tasks to have relevance to one another? It’s not as far-fetched as you might initially think when you consider these simple commonalities between selling and grocery shopping:

  1. Success requires a repeatable, disciplined process
  2. Quality of ingredients correlates with the quality of the outcome
  3. Risk of Failure – cost can add up in multiple ways
  4. It puts food on the table

How many times have you gone to the grocery store for a specific item, only to return home and realized you didn’t get what you originally wanted or needed? If you’re like me, you became distracted during the process – perhaps by the infamous sample station, or colorful packaging of an item, or the “sale” label on the shelf. As a result of these distractions not only do I omit items I need, but also I unintentionally lengthen the process, end up with more “stuff”, increase my cost and decrease the value of my time. Subsequently, I either revisit the store or alter the recipe to compensate for the missing ingredients. In my mind I had planned a grocery list, however, I wasn’t prepared to ensure I achieved my desired outcome. This simple analogy highlights the difference between planning and preparation.

Let’s shift the focus to selling with insights from our Being a Better Sales Planner white paper on the difference between planning and preparing. “Research on planning is pretty clear: there is not a significant amount of difference between average and successful performers when it comes to the time spent developing a strategy. Average performers and top performers tend to spend about the same amount of time. What is different is HOW they spend their time. Average performers tend to emphasize gathering information, while top performers tend to emphasize what to do with it. Put another way, average performers spend the majority of their time figuring out what they want, while top performers spend the majority of their time figuring how they are going to get what they want. In simplest terms, you might say this is the difference between preparation and planning. Identifying the key influencers (or ingredients) is preparation. Doing something with the information is planning (or strategy).”

Here are some tips to enable you to prepare more efficiently:

  • Process – Implement a repeatable process that not only identifies what information the customer will need or provide, rather it focuses on your strategy to use this information to enable your customer(s) to achieve their desired outcome.
  • Desired Outcome – Ask yourself this question: Is this for my customer(s) or me? If the information is only for you, then you are likely the only true beneficiary of asking or requesting the information. That is not creating value for your customer (it may not even be creating value for yourself)! I’ll share a family phrase about cooking, “You can certainly choose to cook with the ingredients you prefer, that doesn’t mean everyone will eat it.” In other words, why are you cooking, is it for your own enjoyment or for everyone? The best selling or cooking outcomes are those in which everyone enjoys the experience and comes back for more.
  • Create Value – Most sellers want to bring value to their clients. A key question to challenge sellers’ thinking is to ask – how will you add new perspective or insight that is valuable to your client’s needs or goals?  Many organizations have shared research on creating value for customers. This research includes introducing a concept or solution which has not been previously considered, help them solve a problem or avoid a consequence, identify an unknown need or leverage your resources in a way that benefits them most.

Planning is a good foundational step, however, it is not enough. In selling, the implications of only planning can be far more costly in the form of unwanted objections, unnecessarily lengthening your sales cycle, and introducing additional influencers. These factors can impact your goal of creating value and limit your ability to invest time in other key stages of the sales cycle. If you’re ready to elevate your game to planning rather than simply preparing, apply these tips:

  • Define Outcome: What is the goal? In the midst of a buying decision or sales process, the goals or objectives can unintentionally become lost in the process. There are many things happening simultaneously while your customer is navigating their way through the buying process. Establishing a balance between key influencers, the decision criteria and each vendor’s benefits is equivalent to the cliche of “too many chefs in the kitchen.” Leverage your customer’s statements of their needs/goals to help them refocus on their desired outcome and the value your solution brings to the table.
  • Identify Ingredients: Reality is there are many potential combinations of inputs, activities, and results that will lead to a positive outcome. The key is to identify which of these are requirements, realistic and relevant for the opportunity. Have you customer describe and define the buying process, decision criteria, and key influencers
  • Leverage Assets: Whether it’s your knowledge of their industry or expertise in creating solutions in similar scenarios, aligning your assets with their needs will create recognized value. Clearly articulate how your solution(s) explicitly resolves or addresses their needs/problem based on their statements. Align and leverage resources (internal or external) to maximize the benefits of your solutions.

The implication of exclusively planning can cause a ripple effect in the buying and selling process. Buyers and Sellers seek to achieve better outcomes as a result of their efforts. Efficiently preparing and effectively executing your plan enables you to achieve this.

I am passionate about enabling individuals and organizations to increase revenue and gain market share by leveraging people, processes, and resources. If you found these insights helpful, I invite you to like, share or comment.

– Be Inspired

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