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November/December 2002

Customer Service
TOMPKINS tips for quality service

Structuring Sales Calls
by Carl Tompkins

Considering that the average selling professional only spends an average of 15 percent of his work schedule face-to-face with customers, nothing could be more important than making sure that such a limited time frame is used efficiently and effectively. 

Three Components
There are three components needed for properly conducted sales calls. These components are opening, advancing and concluding. All three take place on every call. 

Starting with the opening, this aspect requires salespeople to carefully think out a plan before showing up at the customer’s facility. Effective salespeople, greatly respected by customers, have a purpose to accomplish during a sales call. 

Homework, Homework
Retired PPG Glass Group vice president Bob Duncan was asked a few years ago, “What is the most important aspect within successful selling?” His response was, “You’ve heard it said in real estate that the three most important ingredients are location, location and location. In selling, the three most important ingredients are homework, homework and homework.” 

Nothing could be truer! You’ve got to know your market, the customers, what they buy, from whom and why. You must do research and dig for information. Proper record keeping must be completed and referenced. I’ve often referred to this as “knowing the heartbeat” of your customers and their industry. There is no substitute of this knowledge unless you are willing to be permanently condemned to the realm of being a professional scratch-pad provider. 

Scratch-pad providers are those salespeople who work on a route, showing up to the same customer during the same 5-minute timeslot each and every month with the very same approach: “Hi, I was in the area and wanted to stop by and leave you a new stack of scratch pads. How’s everything going? OK, thanks for everything and I’ll see you soon.” 

Avoid this horrific pitfall by being prepared properly for each sales call. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of making the call and how will the customer benefit?” 

All this said, you should arrive with either a written or memorized purpose and benefit statement. Such statements must be used during the phone call when appointments are set and repeated right up front during the next sales call.

Once in session with the customer and following the delivery of the opening (purpose-benefit-check), you move into the advancing stage of the call—that is, the pursuit of fulfilling the purpose. Care needs to be given to keep the customer involved. The sales call should not turn strictly into a sales presentation. Use high-gain questions right upfront that get the customer involved. As a tip, following the opening statement, ask, “How would you suggest we 

Ending the Call
Concluding the final of three steps within a sales call structure asks that you summarize everything accomplished during the sales call, then check for approval with the customer. A great way to conduct this check is to ask “Having provided my own summary on our call today, is there anything I’ve overlooked?” This type of question provides a cheap insurance policy to ensure that both you and the customer remain on the same page. If everything has been captured properly within your summary, then move into recommending a future action step that includes a benefit for the customer. All such future actions are aimed at advancing the business relationship leading to the order. 

Utilize these three stages of a sales call structure to earn progress with your customer. With this, incorporate the selling skills provided in my three preceding articles and you will have completed all the necessary steps to turn the fear of selling into fun! 


Carl Tompkins is western states area manager for the Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich.



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