Measure Twice, Cut Once – The Value of Planning Ahead in Sales

While I am not a “carpenter”, I have often thought this to be sage advice and applicable to most any task worth doing right.  I’d like to think that I typically do look first, and leap later.  I’ve found that one seems to get into trouble when moving too fast and not really thinking things through or planning ahead.

I suppose I should alter the title of this blog, as it relates to sales strategy and prospecting, to be:

“Planning Ahead = Success in Sales”

Let’s talk a little bit about how planning ahead benefits prospecting and sales.  When you are on the phone “dialing for dollars”, do you have a cheat sheet or a written plan of attack at your fingertips?

They say, “Cheaters never prosper”, but in this case – I think they do!

I have counseled many a sales person to develop a cheat sheet for themselves and post it in the vicinity of their phone or inside their sales portfolio, so that if they get distracted or lost in the sales process, that it is easily accessible and so that your prospect won’t suffer (or notice) you’ve stumbled.  This cheat sheet should include thumbnail selliing phrases about your hotel and yourself.  They should be organized in a natural progression on your cheat sheet and categorized by the steps in a sales call.  Most of all – it should be in your own voice!  Don’t write full sentences, write phrases so you can use them in natural sentences.  These snippets should just reminders to keep you focused on your mission.

For example:

Introduction

  • This would be the first few things you must talk about so the person on the other end of the phone knows who you are and what hotel you represent.  “Good morning Jake, this is Linda, the corporate director of sales from Great American Hotel Company in Dover – how are you today?”
  • Ever dialed a number, listened to the rings, and then when the person answered you froze?  You couldn’t remember who you called or why.  Talk about a poor way to represent yourself!  If you had your prospecting forms in front of you pre-populated with the information on who and what you want to talk about, this will never happen.

Pleasantries and General Conversation

  • You may think you will be able to “wing” this part of the conversation, but in case you stumble you’d better have a few items listed here as your “go to” topics so you don’t move too hard or too fast into the meat of your call.
  • Caution!  Don’t spend too much of your time in this area because you may not leave enough time for yourself to get to the heart of the matter.  Just a few pleasantries will suffice.
  • (Do not bring up politics, religion or controversial topics!  Keep it upbeat…. weather, vacations, holiday happenings, etc.)

Meat and Potatoes

  • This is where you state the purpose of your call.
  • If you are “prospecting” with a new client, then you need your 30-second sales pitch ready to go.  Refer to the news, Google Alerts, or company research:  “Mary, I read in the newspaper yesterday that ABC Company has been awarded a contract to produce widgets for the XYZ project that was approved by our governor.  Congratulations on this achievement.  You and your colleagues must be very excited about this project.  I am hoping that I might be able to assist you with travel planning and meeting logistics as you move into the first phase of the project.”
  • If you are trying to “share shift” a client currently using a competition hotel, again – adjust your sales pitch.  Refer to word-of-mouth tips, parking lot drives, reader board reports, or referrals from other clients, etc.  “John, I was over at the YYY hotel this past week and noticed that your colleagues were utilizing the facilities there.  We’d love to have you try our hotel facilities and wanted to explore the possibilities.”
  • If you are trying to “win back” a client who left you for the competition, then you will have to further refine your sales pitch.  “Becky, it’s been some time since we’ve spoke.  I’d like to update you on some of the changes within our hotel and explore whether we can re-establish a working relationship.”

Answers To Questions and Responses To Resistence

  • You probably have all this information at the top of your mind, but it doesn’t hurt to have it written down in a concise format for reference:  # of guest rooms, # of suites, # of kings, # of doubles, # of accessible rooms, list of hotel and in-room amenities, restaurant hours, etc.
  • Answers to resistance:  Make a list of all the things you DON’T have at your hotel, especially those things your competition does have!  It makes it easier to have something prepared in a diplomatic format, that doesn’t sound like you are making excuses or have heard this for the first time.

For example:

Prospect:  “Do you have shuttle transportation as most of our clients will not have transportation.”

Your Response:  “We do not have a hotel shuttle but have a great working relationship with both a local cab company, and van transportation company.  Both companies will work with our guests on an individual basis and we allow these charges to be posted to the hotel folio and paid at check-out.  It is as if we have our own transportation as they are very accessible and reliable.  We also have car rental agencies nearby.  In both scenarios, we have negotiated with each of these companies to provide services at a special rate for our valued customers.”  (Have the contact info at your fingertips!)

Logical Next Steps

  • OK, you’ve had a good conversation, now what?
  • Make a list of logical next steps:  Tour of the hotel, visit to client office, sending of materials, etc.  What are your choices to move to the next level with this customer?

Closing

  • Write down several proactive closing statements.  “Carol, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today and look forward to working with you and XYZ Company.  I’ll send over the information about our meeting facilities and the van service, and then follow up with you on the 28th.  I hope you have fun while you are in Ft. Meyers… I envy you being able to go down and watch Red Sox Spring Training.  If you need anything in the interim, I am easily accessible by phone or email.  Have a great day!”
  • Reiterate what you have agreed to do, the next step, and then an appropriate goodbye.

Preparation for any type of successful sales calls takes time.  Prep time might take longer, but I am sure you will find your results will be better.  Use your prospecting forms.  Use news services and Google Alerts.  Know who you are calling.  Preparation prevents the panic when silence or lapses in conversation happen.  It also helps keep you focused on the call (not distracted by what you want to present next) so you do not have to “think” of other things while your prospect is talking.  You just might be missing out on valuable information.

These cheat sheets also help you so you don’t get caught babbling like a child.  A 3-year old babbling is cute…. a 25 or 45-year old babbling is (well), not so cute.

Happy cheating!

Linda

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