How to Prepare for a Sales Trip

By Michael Chase. This page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution License

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It’s part of the job – flying halfway around the world to meet with that key customer to help move the sales process forward.

Maybe you’re a senior executive traveling to pledge your commitment to make good on your promises or a product expert filling in those final details that will convince the customer yours is the right product for them. The moment you agree to make the journey, you know that the trip will

  • Consume a lot of your time,
  • Leave critical tasks at the office undone, and
  • Take you away from your friends and family.

So, you had better make sure that your trip is efficient and productive.

But all too often, that’s not the case. How many of you have arrived at your hotel, then immediately checked your email only to realize that the agenda you prepared for isn’t the one that’s now sitting in your inbox?

You know what happens next. The balance of your trip becomes a frantic cycle of 911 calls back to the office, all-nighters re-assembling materials, and less than well-orchestrated customer meetings.

You can mitigate this chaos by taking the time to formally ask these questions of your local team before you agree to make the trip in the first place.

  • What is the objective of the sales call?
  • What questions will I need to answer?
  • What questions will we ask?
  • What is the meeting agenda?

Commit the answers to writing, and you have yourself a sales call plan. And if you want to have a productive trip, you won’t leave home without one. Let’s take a close look at each of these questions.

What is the Objective of the Sales Call?

The first step in planning a sales call is defining what you want to accomplish. This objective should be specific to the meeting you are planning. It might be to:

  • Confirm budget amount
  • Resolve a key term
  • Agree on configuration
  • Define acceptance criteria
  • Clarify the decision making process
  • Counter a competitor’s claim

This objective will be the measure by which you can determine whether or not you had a successful meeting.

What Questions Will We Need to Answer?

Here’s a tip. Answer this question before you even start to lay out an agenda. This simple question forces you to think of the meeting from the customer’s perspective. Think to yourself:

  • What do they want to know from us?
  • What questions are they likely to ask?

There’s nothing complicated here. Just ask the prospect before the meeting.

What Questions Will We Ask?

Discovery is the process of revealing facts and information about the prospect to ensure a successful sales outcome. A good discovery process is not accidental. It’s planned. Before every sales call, write down all the questions you should ask that will help move the sales process forward. You can include questions that will:

  • Clarify needs and requirements
  • Reveal buying motivation
  • Calibrate the competition
  • Confirm assumptions

A keen understanding of what your prospect thinks about your product or service is essential to winning the sale. So plan the questions you want to ask as carefully as you plan the ones you need to answer.

What Is the Meeting Agenda?

Now you’re ready to put it all together. The next step is to assemble an agenda that will allow you to:

  • Achieve your sales call objective.
  • Answer all the prospect’s questions.
  • Ask all of your questions.

Take your agenda planning beyond topics and timing. Also, decide what role each participant in the meeting will play and what preparation you require from each.

So next time the sales team asks you to race off to some far-flung city, invest a little time planning the sales call. Try an approach like the one above. It will go a long way towards making sure that you come home from a long trip with much more than just a fresh deposit in your frequent flyer account.