Set Clear Objectives for Every Sales Call

Have you ever noticed that a good number of sales people don't have any idea of where they are going in a sales call? This can be frustrating for both the salesperson and the client. This has happened to me in situations in which I hadn't set a specific objective or objectives for the call.

I remember an appointment I had with four top marketing executives at Simmons Mattress. I had just started in sales and had no idea what objectives I had for the call. It was a disaster because I didn't know if I was going in the right direction because I hadn't picked a destination in advance.

There is frustration for the client because you can't figure out what the salesperson is trying to accomplish.

I remember a salesperson for a top national magazine who used to call on me at Marriott when I was responsible for advertising. He was a real gentleman and very likeable in many ways, but he drove me crazy because he would go on and on and never tell me why he was there. Within the first five minutes, I want to know the purpose of a salesperson's call, but that's impossible if the salesperson isn't sure why he or she is there or hasn't thought it out in advance.

Set objectives. When you as a salesperson know where you're going, it helps you bring clarity to the situation. When you know specifically what your objectives are, you feel more confident and in command of the situation.

There are times when you can't set your objectives until you get into the call. For example, on an incoming inquiry call for a small meeting, you need to know if the prospect is 20 minutes or 2,000 miles from the hotel.

As soon as you hear that the client is just 20 minutes away and has never used your hotel before, one of your objectives for the call would be to make an appointment for the prospect to come in for a site visit.

If the person is 2,000 miles away and has used your hotel in the past, your objective for this call might be to close on the business on a definite basis because a visit wouldn't be necessary for a small meeting.

Knowing the next step helps you set objectives that make sense. After gaining a little experience, you can usually figure out what the steps will be in booking every type of business. When you think of it, one step sets up the next step, which sets up the next step, until you book the business.

Typical objectives. Usually, you have more than one objective per call. Depending on varying circumstances, here are some typical objectives for calls:

  • make an appointment at the hotel to tour facilities;

  • make an appointment at the client's office if he or she can't make it at the hotel, which is usually preferable;

  • obtain all the information needed, including the customer's hot buttons, to prepare a strong proposal;

  • build interest in your hotel through a well-prepared presentation;

  • an appointment to discuss a proposal;

  • a critique of the hotel's services to the client over the last year;

  • to learn about future direction;

  • to close on the business.

Many salespeople use “just wanted to call to say hello” as an objective for the call. In my opinion this is weak, particularly during these times when clients are busier than ever. Let a birthday card take the place of these goodwill calls.

Let's set clear objectives for our sales calls and presentations as a means to improve communications with our clients.

Tom McCarthy, CHME, CHA, spent half his career with Hilton and Marriott in sales, advertising and public relations and half in his own training and consulting business, Hotel Professional Education and Consulting of Falls Church, VA. He is a past president of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and is a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. / 703-379-4488

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