Sales Operations

How to Prepare for a Sales Call: 8 Secrets from High-Performing Reps

Michaela Mendes
Head of Content & Strategy
Table of contents:

Promising deals are harder to come by in 2023. Hitting quota is more difficult. 

This means every opportunity you have for face time with a prospect matters more. You can’t risk a single sales call. You definitely can’t go in unprepared. 

We interviewed high-performing sales reps and asked them one simple question – “what’s your secret to sales call preparation?” 

Here’s what they had to say: 

#1: Establish a repeatable process – and stick to it. 

Alex Brennen, Senior Account Executive at QuotaPath, says, “Establish a repeatable process. A repeatable process allows you to be efficient and thorough.”  

What is Alex’s process? It starts with the company website and Linkedin. Then she researches her contact’s LinkedIn. Then she checks Google for recent news. 

Her goal: find reference points so she can better connect to their business initiatives. 

#2: Don’t make assumptions about your prospects. 

Alex also says not to rely too heavily on the information you get from sales call prep to the point where it closes off your curiosity. 

“Call prep should empower you with the knowledge needed to hypothesize about the value you can bring to their team, prepare relevant use cases, and demonstrate that you care enough to understand your contact’s background and business.”

But don’t let it cloud your vision. 

“Keep yourself from making assumptions that might hinder your ability to conduct quality discovery. Always remain curious and use call prep as a starting point for thoughtful and consultative discovery,” says Alex.

#3: Come to every sales call with a perspective.

Zach Francisco is Head of Growth at Letterdrop, and has spent years as the founding Head of Sales for two early-stage startups. 

He builds on Alex’s advice and says, “Come to every sales call with a perspective. Have a hypothesis of a pain point that the buyer would have, or bring a pain point from a similar buyer. Ask them if they’re also experiencing this struggle.” 

But don’t worry if you’re off-base. 

Zach says, “You want to try to step into their world. I think a lot of salespeople beat themselves up if they can’t figure out exactly what the pain point is, but that’s not the goal. The point of this exercise is to show that you’ve done your research and you have a good reason for reaching out to them.” 

#4: Accept that not every prospect will be a great fit. 

Zach also says to get comfortable with the fact that even though you invest time in researching the prospect, and time on the call, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work out. 

“Not everyone is going to be a good fit. Come to the call with the acceptance that it might not be a good match at that time, but you’re still making a connection with a person.” 

#5: Stay focused on the “why” behind every call. 

Evan Gallagher, Account Executive at Accelo, says it’s important to stay focused on what you are trying to achieve with every prospect interaction. 

“Most reps strategize around what and how the call is going to go. They should really be focusing on the why. Without a strong why, your legs get cut out from under you before you even get to walk,” he says. 

And make sure you’re reassessing and refocusing with each type of sales call. “The goal outcome for a cold call is different from a discovery call, which is different from a demo.” 

#6: Don’t get too comfortable – even if you’re only getting positive signals. 

Evan has a great reminder for all sales reps: “Don’t get complacent.” 

He says, “As the deal progresses, you need to continue to challenge the prospect to have them sell themselves.” 

No matter what, it’s never a done deal until the contract is signed.

#7: Start with the end in mind – then work backwards. 

Will Andrus, Head of Sales at Prelay, says a vital element to keeping deals on the right track is always knowing what comes next. 

He breaks it down into four steps: 

Step 1: Know the next best action

“Before the call, know your ideal next step. Build your agenda and meeting content around it. No one likes the, ‘What do you think we should do next?’ question at the end,” he says.

Step 2: Build confidence with an agreed-upon plan

“Get aligned right off the bat with an up-front agreement. Let them know you have a plan and that they’re in good hands. This helps tackle any concerns early on.” 

Step 3: Get it on the calendar

“Lock in that next step at the end of the call. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s dead in the water and you’ll be wasting time chasing it down.” 

Step 4: Always follow up

“Afterward, send a personalized follow-up. Summarize the meeting, action items, and throw in some relevant content. Drive home the value and importance of the next meeting while reinforcing expectations.” 

#8: Closing a deal is a process – stay in control.

Will says trouble begins when reps lose control over the selling process. There are three ways this can happen: 

Mistake #1: Not making the next step crystal-clear 

Will says: “Don’t allow those undefined ‘circle back’ next steps. This can throw your whole deal into disarray and waste tons of time chasing emails. Instead, firmly steer the ship and change your position if the prospect suggests vague steps.”

Mistake #2: Blindly letting the buyer choose what happens next 

“Don’t ask the buyer what the next step should be or blindly agree to their terms, especially if it’s not aligned with your typical process. That’s a slippery slope. It not only adds risk but also gives your prospect the upper hand.” 

Mistake #3: Letting things get repetitive 

“Don’t fall into 'demo purgatory,' where you share redundant information and become too repetitive in your presentations. If your prospect doesn't leave a meeting with significant value or new insights, you're in trouble. You'll lose credibility and their patience very quickly.”

Bonus tip: use past sales activity to guide your next best action

Think about all of the deals you’ve closed. Consider everything you already know about your prospect. 

Peter Mollins, Chief Marketing Officer at SetSail, has spent decades leading high-performing GTM teams. He says that data about what’s worked, and the key tidbits you’re able to gather about your prospect, are the keys to keeping every deal on the right path as the buying process progresses.

“Sales reps should think about what’s worked before and how they can apply it to their current deals. And they need to connect the dots between post-meeting notes, call transcripts, prior emails, and meeting invites. All of this context is going to help you crush the next call, and the one after that.” 

How do you prepare for sales calls? 

Do you have a great tip to add? Send me a message and I’ll add your insight to this list! 

And if you’re looking for a fast way to quickly summarize deals from the data across your sales tech stack, check out SetSail AI. 

See how it works: