A lot of salespeople are good at organizing. Some are even good at strategizing. But very few know how to use those skills to devise an effective, repeatable plan for gaining commitment from customers—a plan that begins to take shape before you make your first sales call.

If you can’t answer these questions before the call, uncover the answers during the call.

The more you know about your client’s business before the call, the better equipped you are to ask excellent questions that uncover needs your products can address and that tell you how to present them in the form of a solution. Before making a sales call, do some digging (on Web sites, for example) to answer the questions on the prep list below. If you can’t answer them all before the call, at least you’ll know what information you need to dig for during the call.

Questions to Organize for the Call

What does the company do?
What does it currently buy from vendors similar to you?
What are its key business issues (problems and opportunities)?
What does your individual customer do (the person upon whom you’re calling)?
What might be his or her personal stake in a solution you could provide?

Questions to Strategize for the Call

Who is my competition for this sale?
How is my company or my product better?
What needs are most likely to exist for my solutions?
Why will this customer buy? That is, what are the personal, emotional issues underlying the business needs?
What is the time frame for the customer’s buying decision?
Who makes the ultimate buying decision?
How will the decision be made (e.g., in consultation with a group of stakeholders)?

Questions to Shape a Game Plan for the Call

What commitment do I intend to gain as a result of this call? (A buying decision? A future meeting with all of the decision-makers? Preferred-vendor status?)
What are the key questions I need to ask?
What ultimately will cause this person or company to buy from me?
If you can answer all of those questions, you’re ready to make a professional sales call. If you don’t have all the answers yet, these are questions to ask during the call. Either way, you will be well organized, you will have a strategy, and you’ll have a solid game plan. When those pieces are in place, your chances of gaining commitment from the customer increase geometrically.

Action Selling ® In Action

“I’ve seen a definite improvement in the professionalism of my sales force since implementing Action Selling ®,” says Richard Grey, regional vice president of Rochester Midland Corp. The Rochester, N.Y., company sells specialty chemicals to a variety of markets through 33 branch offices in major U.S. cities.

“Preparing for sales calls is far easier with the logical, step-by-step process of Action Selling ®,” Grey says. “It’s easy for our salespeople to remember and use. And the pre-call process that the program teaches reinforces the Action Selling ® techniques with every sales call.”

Action Selling ® helps sales people prepare the strategies and tactics needed to win more consistently. “It has been very valuable to Rochester Midland,” Grey says.