How to Help Your Reps Stand Out on Sales Calls

sales calls

By Lisa Earle McLeod

Imagine two competing salespeople who are about to call on the same customer. Salesperson A is making his call at 10:00 a.m., and Salesperson B is making her call at 11:00 a.m.

Before they go into the call, they both do the exact same thing: they open their laptops to review the customer’s information. As they scroll past the customer’s contact information, the two salespeople see two different things.

Salesperson A sees the projected revenue for this customer and the anticipated close date that he promised his boss.

Salesperson B sees five boxes labeled

1) customer environment,
2) customer goals,
3) customer challenges,
4) what success looks like for this customer, and
5) what lack of success looks like for this customer.

Each box contains a succinct summary of the information Salesperson B has gathered on her previous sales calls.

Which salesperson is going to make the better sales call, Salesperson A, who goes into the call after being reminded about his quota, or Salesperson B, who was just reminded about the customer’s goals?

Who is better prepared to discuss the customer’s most pertinent business issues? Who is going to do a better job of aligning the solution with the customer’s key goals?

If you were the customer, which screen would you rather your salesperson look at before calling on you? Who would you rather do business with, Salesperson A, who shows up thinking about his quota, or Salesperson B, who is thinking about what matters to you, the customer?

Salesperson B is going to make a better call because she’s going to be more focused on the customer. Salesperson A might not be a bad rep, but his customer relationship management (CRM) system set him up for mediocrity.

Why Most CRM Systems Promote Sales Mediocrity

Sadly, Salesperson A, with his pipeline-oriented CRM system, isn’t the exception; he’s the norm. His system set him up to make a mediocre sales call because it focused him on information that’s important to his company (pipeline, revenue projections, close date, etc.), not what’s important to his customer. Without being prompted to focus on the customer’s goals and challenges, Salesperson A will do what most average-performing salespeople do: provide a generic description of his products and services and hope he closes the deal.

Salesperson B has a big advantage: her CRM system set her up to make a customer-focused sales call. By putting up front all the information about the customer’s environment, goals, challenges, and success factors, her system prepared her to connect the dots between the customer’s high-priority goals and her solution.

If the two salespeople’s products and pricing are about the same, the person with the customer-focused CRM system will win. Additionally, even if Salesperson B is selling a higher-priced product, she’ll still win the business, because while Salesperson A’s company has focused him on his quota, Salesperson B has a more noble purpose: to help the customer.

The Huge Mistake People Notice Only When They Start Losing Business

As a sales-leadership consultant, I’ve seen firsthand just how much CRM affects sales behavior. Several years ago, I was working with a major manufacturing firm that had recently implemented a new CRM system with all the bells and whistles. There was just one problem: the expensive new system hadn’t improved the close rate one bit. Company execs brought me in to figure out why. The answer was obvious to me after I spent a few hours in the field with the reps.

The CRM system captured the information that mattered to the company, but nowhere was there a space to record the information that mattered to the customer. There wasn’t a single screen or even a box to record the critical customer information that should be the centerpiece of every sales call. No wonder the reps were getting a reputation as product pushers. We fixed the problem, and not surprisingly, the close rate went up dramatically.

Here’s the big mistake most companies make: they tell salespeople to focus on the customer, but the CRM system is more focused on internal metrics and pipeline management. The result is mediocre sales behavior.

Look at your own CRM system and ask, where is the information about the customers’ goals? Is it buried, or is it right up front? What do your salespeople see when they open their screens? If the information is more company focused than customer focused, you have a big problem.

A good CRM tool delivers useful analytics and reports, but don’t make the mistake of letting the tail wag the dog. The ultimate purpose of capturing customer information is to drive more sales. The information you require your salespeople to gather about their customers influences their sales behavior. Capturing the right information about your customers and pulling it to the front and center of your CRM gives you a huge competitive advantage.

You can be a me-too sales force that says you want to make a difference to customers, or you can be the rare company that actually does. If you want to be mediocre, keep focusing on your pipeline. If you want to be outstanding, choose a more noble purpose; focus on your customer.

Lisa Earle McLeodLisa Earle McLeod is a sales-leadership consultant and the best-selling author of Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You ProudCompanies like Google, Hootsuite, and Roche hire her to help them create passionate, purpose-driven sales organizations. View her free sales-leadership tips and videos at

selling power magazine[Image via Flickr / Liam Quinn]


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