Do you have a plan in place before you make a sales call? Do you know enough about your clients before you dial? Do you have responses at the ready, and can adapt to unexpected changes in the conversation?

In this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Darryl speaks with the globally renowned Steve Knapp, Founder of The Sales Mindset Coach. Darryl and Steve chat about the importance of putting a pre-call plan in place well before you ever dial the phone. Using Steve’s 5 step “WOPPA” Program, they delve into visualizing outcomes, keeping your objective in focus, and how to stay in control of the conversation. Learn how to better move your opportunities forward on this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales!

Not in the mood to listen? No problem, you can read the transcriptions below.

Host:  Darryl PraillVanillaSoft

Guest: Steve Knapp, The Sales Mindset Coach


Darryl Praill: We are back for another episode of INSIDE Inside Sales. How are you doing everybody? I’m having a good day. You know, it’s the middle of the summer. The weather’s fantastic. Okay, admittedly, it’s hotter than I would like it, but I’m not complaining because I am not a fan of the snow. Yet I live in Canada and therefore our short, short summers are divine contrasted to our rather long winters.

Darryl Praill: So as a result, I’m a happy camper and because of that as well, you guys ever noticed when it’s summertime, around this time of year, the traffic is less in all the expressways, so you just get into the office sooner in the morning, get home better at night. How much better can that be in your day starts off that way? It’s funny, you know, every day I start my day, I have this plan of what I’m going to do. I look at my calendar, I get up, right away I check out my Linkedin messages. I mean is anything urgent there, anything I need to respond to, I look at my calendar, my calendar dictates silly things.

Darryl Praill: Do I need to shave today? Will I be on a video? Will I be entertaining somebody? Do I need to dress perhaps with vanilla soft branded apparel because I might be seen on stage or elsewhere where I need to wave the corporate flag? Do I need, will I be indoors? Will I be outdoors? How do I dress? And that’s how every day starts. I look at that and it’s amazing how that sets my agenda. And then from there I think, okay, so when do I need to leave? And you know, and do I have time for coffee and have soda? Am I going to make a coffee or I have time to buy the really good coffee and do I have budget to spend the money on that coffee?

Darryl Praill: And if I don’t arrive on time because there’s an unexpected traffic delay, how do I get ahold of that first appointment and tell them I’m running late and will that have backup consequences? And the list just goes on and on. And this is how I start my day. Now, are you as anal and as retentive and as uptight as I am? I got to know. Because sometimes I’m feeling awfully alone, but I will tell you when I start my day that way because I’m planning my day because I’m anticipating how things could go down, hopefully, will go down, and if they don’t go the way I think, what is my alternative? My plan B, my plan C? What outcomes do I hope and to achieve out of this day?

Darryl Praill: When I do that, my days go well, but on the days that perhaps I oversleep and I jump out of my bed in a panic, blankets askew, jumping, dressing as I’m running down the hallway, I’m sure none of you can relate to this analogy and then I jump in my vehicle and off I go.

Darryl Praill: Without fail, I screw up, I forget something, I don’t wear the right shirt. I don’t have the right prep notes, I don’t have the right route, I don’t get my coffee, I spilled coffee on myself if I do that. It goes all awry and it makes me not a happy camper. So what’s your lesson in all this? Why do you care that Darryl is sharing with you his morning routine? It’s way too much information, more than you ever wanted. Because what I want you to take from this beyond sharing way too much information is that every single day I begin with a plan. I plan my day. It starts well in advance with my calendar appointments, I’m scheduling them to fit in and have time in between so I can do whatever I need to do, prep, work, research, you know, logistics, paperwork, et Cetera.

Darryl Praill: But it starts with a plan and as I build that plan, sometimes I can anticipate it may go off track and I plan an alternative plan and I plan to achieve certain goals. How many people here, you know, either at the end of your day or the start of your day, write down your to-do list for that day. You’re planning your activities that you want to do. I need to do this in this priority. A good tactic in life is not unlike a good tactic in sales. You plan in sales how your engagement with the prospect is going to go. Many of you know this as your pre-call plan. Before I pick up the phone… So let’s kind of set the stage. You have an appointment, perhaps you previously set it up, perhaps you co-called this individual to qualify them. And then you said, “Okay, let’s meet on this date when I have your time, your undivided attention, and we shall explore your circumstances and my potential ability to address your circumstances.”

Darryl Praill: Or a wonderful sales development rep, did this work for you? Or they came to you through a form on your site and said, “I want to talk to somebody,” or “I want a demo.” No matter what, you’ve got no one scheduled appointment with the prospect. So before you engage with that prospect, what are you doing?

Darryl Praill: My guest today is Steve Knapp. He is the sales mindset coach. You can find him at the sales mindset Steve and I have crossed paths many times. I love tormenting him on social media because he’s one of those guys who’s just a really nice guy and he’s charming and he’s sweet and he’s personable and you just can’t not like Steve, but beneath that charming in a lovable, you know, exterior `is a rather shrewd individual that is Steve.

Darryl Praill: So Steve is going to talk to us today about the importance of the pre-call plan. What you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, what you should be doing. Steve, how are you doing my friend?

Steve Knapp: Oh, I’m good. I’ve learned lots about your morning habits.

Darryl Praill: Yes. Way Too much, right?

Steve Knapp: Well, I’m glad you stopped it when you did.

Darryl Praill: It could of got a little awkward and uncomfortable. This is true.

Steve Knapp: You can’t lose those thoughts out of your mind sense, I’m telling you, but we’ll do our best right now.

Darryl Praill: I didn’t want to leave you with visuals that you could no longer get rid of, so there you go. I appreciate that. Now I’ve got to ask you something here, Steve. You, when we talked, and everybody who listens to the podcast knows that I like to talk to my guests in advance and like to ask them, you know, what is it that’s really something you’re passionate about?

Darryl Praill: Something that you see over and over again, something that you can help my audience, you know, improve upon because that’s what we’re all about in this show. And you, one of the things, you gave me kind of a couple different options, but the one that really jumped off the page was the whole pre-call plan. Why is that so passionate to you? What is it you’re seeing that makes that the thing you would jump to of all the things you could have talked about today?

Steve Knapp: Yeah, it is. It’s one of those things that I’m very fortunate that I train sales teams, I go out on the company visits with sellers. I sit side by side of the desk or in the car. And one of the things that I’ve seen over my 30 years in sales is more the fact that the outcome that the sellers visualize in their head, in their mind, don’t always happen because they’ve not gone through the process of working out some of the basics in pre call planning. So why I’m passionate about this is because I don’t think there are many things in sales that we can guarantee will change the game. But actually if you are a seller, a sales rep, a sales executive, and one of the things that you know that you are, you know, you could be better at, let’s put it that way, is the planning side of things.

Steve Knapp: I’ve worked with companies that just to try and help them become better because I believe that’s one of the key things that the seller can improve to deliver greater results. And ultimately that’s what we want, right? We want our sales people out there delivering value to our clients, creating value and making their quotas, making their bonuses and continuing on that whole cycle. So it’s an activity in sales that is I guess less sexy. It’s probably one that doesn’t get the attention that it should. And I think it’s something that every seller can adapt and improve upon to increase their sales.

Darryl Praill: So are you seeing people not do this? I mean… Or is it you see them do it but kind of doing it wrong? Because part of me says, well of course I’m going to have a plan when I call somebody. I mean, how could I not have a plan? So is this something that you in your training and coaching experience are seeing is an issue? Or perhaps that it’s given perhaps less focus, less attention than would be ideal?

Steve Knapp: Yeah, so in probably two ways to think about that is if you, if you’re about to join a sales call being on the phone or physically, and you have an opportunity in front of you. I’ve often asked the question when I’m playing that role of an observer and actually when I was selling as well. Yeah, it was like, show me, show me that you’ve worked this through because a good pre-call plan is a good framework, right? It’s a good structure. It’s a good, it’s a good reference document to help you keep control, to send us an agenda even, prior to the call. So I see it as a space that sellers often don’t do, and they say that they’ve got it, they say that they’ve done it, it’s up there, pointing to their head.

Steve Knapp: I’ve got the plan. Okay, tell me what it is. They tell me and we go into the call and as soon as that client throws that question, that curve ball, takes them down another path, we’re kind of happy that we’ve got an outcome. But actually when we reflect back on, that’s not the outcome we went in to achieve.

Steve Knapp: Now, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it means we’ve left something out there that we did anticipate covering and we could have taken the low hanging fruit versus probing to that better outcome creating more value. So I see it as a place where people don’t use the structure for valuable reasons. I also see, and I asked you guys on the call here, have you ever put the phone down, jumped in your car, you know, 20 minutes later gone darn it, I meant to ask that question. I wish I had.

Darryl Praill: All the time.

Steve Knapp: Yeah, I’ll just-

Darryl Praill: Shoot, I forgot to ask this.

Steve Knapp: Yeah. And that’s a little bit down to the fact that you didn’t get it out of your head and write it down. So, there are many, many stories about how it’s helped. And many, many stories of where I’ve seen it not executed well. And there’s a couple there, yeah.

Darryl Praill: I still got to ask. How many people listening right now, now the good news is you’re listening and no, you can’t see anybody else. Maybe you’re on the bus, maybe you’re in your car. And maybe you’re walking the dog, who knows, but you’re listening. Put your hand up, secretly put your hand up if you kind of ad hocking it.

Darryl Praill: You kind of know what you want. You kind of know the drill, you kind of go into it with a plan, but it’s not written down, you know, and there have been times when it’s taken a right turn you did not anticipate for which you did not have a plan. And by the way, if your hand isn’t up, you’re lying to yourself because I think every single one of us have done it, myself especially.

Darryl Praill: Okay, let’s do this. Let’s take a break. I know you’ve got a five step approach and how you do it. A structure that has proven successful for you and your clients. Take a break. We’ll come back and then we’ll hit you up on what that is. So don’t go anywhere folks. We shall return…

Darryl Praill: All right, we’re back. Let’s learn those five steps. Steve. Step number one, what might it be?

Steve Knapp: Out of the five steps, the first step is the why. And, I start here, just writing down the reason I’m talking in the first place as I’ve been very, very clear about why I am having this conversation. How does it fit in the business plan? How does it fit in the overarching account activities? Why am I having this conversation in the first place? Am I arranged selling? Am I upselling? Is this a new acquisition? Why am I having this conversation?

Steve Knapp: That’s not to be mixed up with the really important second step, which is the objective. The WO, the W, then to the O. This is what you plan to achieve within that conversation, right? So we know why we’re going, we know why we’re making the phone call, the physical visit, but what actually is it that I plan to achieve, not hope to achieve, but plan to achieve.

Steve Knapp: And this is where you get into some of the very specifics around the measurables, the numbers and that outcome that you plan to achieve. So what is the objective? And that could be objectives or objective. Depends on the complexity of the call, depends on how much you want to get through. But being very clear on what the objectives are and how that feeds into the why you’re having the conversation, is I find a really important thing, right? So if you think that you’re talking to a prospective client, you’re speaking to an existing value in relationship, just valuing the time and being absolutely clear about why we’re talking today, creates value and creates the right perception in your professional needs. Right? So I think this is a big first step. The first two, why, and the objectives.

Darryl Praill: So, let’s focus on that for a second. So the why. There’s a cheeky cynical side of me says the why is going to be the same every single time. I know the product or the service I’m selling. And so therefore my why is to A, get another meeting, but you know, lead them down the garden path that they need my solution so that I can make a little bit of coin and you know, they can have a cool product. Would that change? Help me understand why I would even bother writing that?

Steve Knapp: Well, so I talked about the self mindset coach, right? So I think there are some times you have, in your day, there might be a number of different reasons you have sales calls. It could be you’re making an appointment, it could be that you’re selling a product, it could be your following up, it could be that you’re setting up some kind of meeting with your service departments. It could be handling a customer complaint. It could be you know, a number of things.

Steve Knapp: The value of writing down why is if you are jumping in your day from one to the other, it gives you that point where you just sit down, you read your document and you just get yourself connected to why you’re making this goal. It also gives you the ability at the end of the call just to make sure that you have achieved what you set out to achieve, right?

Steve Knapp: And I think this is sometimes what we miss. It’s that re-centering. It’s making sure that when we join the call, we’re fresh, we’re ready to go, and everybody is getting the best you that they can possibly get. And you’re not just trekking on, one to the next, moving to the next one, and not putting that care and attention around that relationship or that opportunity. So if it is the same all the time, every time, I make no excuse that I asked you to come and center to your prequel planning document and just reconnect to the overall document and make sure that you’re delivering on the value you’re trying to create.

[bctt tweet=”It’s that re-centering. It’s making sure that when we join the call, we’re fresh, we’re ready to go, and everybody is getting the best you that they can possibly get. ~ @MindsetForSales #SalesTips” username=”VanillaSoft”]

Darryl Praill: And I love that part. Write it down so that you can make sure that you’re going to reconnect. Other words when that call is done. This is why I made the call. Did I achieve that goal? Which is kind of your second point, you know, I’m doing this because, and what is the outcome I hope to achieve? Now let me ask the next question. What mistakes do people make on that outcome stage?

Steve Knapp: In the why stage, I think they tend to treat it as a bit benign, a little bit irrelevant. They don’t do the thinking behind it. So we can be very, very broad, right? And I think in sales, one of the things that I’ve learned is the more specific I am with any plan, any activity, the more relevant and the more achievable my outcomes are.

Steve Knapp: So I think the broadest sense of your question is if I’m answering it, so if I’m writing down something that is not specific, that isn’t, you know, sort of really specific to that opportunity then I am just treating it in that broader sense and I’m missing that value. So that’s the mistake that folks make, right? Is that they just treat it as one after the other, a bit to your point, you know, it’s always going to be the same. Well, if it’s always going to be the same, why do we need you?

Darryl Praill: That’s true. That’s true. So the why could be, you know, depending on where you are on a cycle, I’m assuming it’s early on, you know, I’m making this call to collect information to better understand their situation, their pains, their challenges, and the second step, the outcome I want to achieve is to determine if we have a possible solution, you know, that may help them out.

Darryl Praill: And that will lead to a follow on meeting scheduled where we can, you know, discuss the proposed solution and see if we’ve missed anything. So that would be step one, step two. So then step three, what’s step three?

Steve Knapp: So I’m into a double bank piece here. You’ve done the W and the O and now the third step is the premise. And, this is like, what do you know about your prospects or your client’s situation? But that’s relevant to your objective, right? So this isn’t now asking you to write some thesis about what you know about your prospect, but it’s what you know about the prospect that’s relevant to the objective that you’re looking to achieve. So it’s all incremental steps to help you move this opportunity to the next phase in your sales process. So an example here, what do you know about your prospect’s situation? I know they’ve got some budgetary challenges. I know the decision-making unit is one of three. I’ve got two of them covered. So I know that I still got one that I need to get on board.

Steve Knapp: I know that the manager is really keen on the value. I’ve got to find in this call a way that I can take that to the board to have that conversation. But this just gives you the opportunity to put out there the things that you know that are going to help you move this opportunity forward. And the premise is the place where it’s never been easier to research. Right?

Steve Knapp: You mentioned in the intro about, you know, your daily routine is on Linkedin, so there’s so much information out there now, but what you know about your client and what you know about the opportunity has never been more accessible. The key is that you keep this with some sort of brevity and you link it back to your objective. The risk here is that you end up over-investing for the value you’re going to get out of the interaction or the sales call or meeting.

Darryl Praill: So what I like about the premise thing is because it’s actually almost like a litmus test, you know, what do you know about the client or prospect that’s relevant to your objective? So you’re right, I know information that I could have perhaps been passed to me if the SDR does some initial qualification, budget, et cetera. Many of the things you talked about. I may know some of the issues that are, or challenges, that they are researching or discussing on LinkedIn, that may or may not be related to what I think the call’s all about.

Darryl Praill: I know much about the their industry. I can glean that. The challenges they face and this individual persona, maybe it’s head of marketing and maybe he’s the head of manufacturing operations, whatever, you know, the challenges they’re facing, whether that be what’s stated on a shareholder report, or by a company newsletter or what have you. So, you know, press releases, et cetera. So I know a lot of information that is the premise of, you know, why I’m making this call and influencing the outcomes I want to achieve. And if I don’t know the premise, then I’m guessing I need to do a little bit of research. Is that a fair statement?

Steve Knapp: Absolutely. Absolutely. And of course, this is where your sales manager might help you here by checking and testing this, right? Do we know enough? Have we got enough? Are we good to go? And all of this is a really valuable two way tool to help the seller and the sales manager create that great sales-

Darryl Praill: I’m reminded of the classic blue sheet. Now boys and girls, once upon a time there were multi-part forms and there were carbons involved and they were different and began the, each form was a different color. And anyway, the blue sheet was one area where, you know, you actually had to track specific information, what you knew about the prospect and that would lead into, you know, the whole premise, what you know about them, you know, strengths, weaknesses, et cetera.

Darryl Praill: All right, so if the first… We’ve got W, O, P, you know, why, outcome, and premise. But you alluded to a second P, that’d be O, P, P.

Steve Knapp: Oh yeah. There’s is a second P.

Darryl Praill: What is the second P?

Steve Knapp: I tell you, there are people screening this now, they know it already. It’s the plan. It’s a plan within a plan and this is how do you plan to reach the objective, right? So, we’re tying back to the same goal. So I now know what I need to know about this opportunity to make it successful. How do I plan the structure, the conversation? Now is this going to via presentation? Is this going to be via telephone call? Is this going to be via face to face?

Steve Knapp: Am I going to bring this in through a set of questions? Am I going to bring it in through a demonstration? Am I going to be talking here around value of product is performance? Am I going to be talking here about price? What is my plan to achieve my objective? And this granular level of thinking is sometimes the piece that gives you the confidence and the correction if the client is taking you down another route. Because you’ve done your research, you’ve got your plan, and you’ve at least got control of that sales conversation and at least you’ll appear to have control of the conversation. And while you’re gracefully paddling like the swan in the lake.

[bctt tweet=”What is my plan to achieve my objective? And this granular level of thinking is sometimes the piece that gives you the confidence and the correction if the client is taking you down another route. ~ @MindsetForSales #SalesStrategy ” username=”VanillaSoft”]

Darryl Praill: [crosstalk 00:24:44] is you’re actually putting down, you know, that plan could be the structure. I’m going to talk about this, then talk about this. I’m going to ask these questions. You know, if they answer yes, I’m going to go this way, they answer no, I’m going to go that way. It is a very intentional approach to what you want to achieve. And it’s also an intentional approach to, you know, what if they give me an answer I’m not prepared for? Or I hadn’t considered? And, so do you find that’s a big challenge with people? That they don’t plan deep enough or extensively enough or they wing it?

Steve Knapp: Well, actually I find it such a problem that I’ve separated that piece out as the last step in the pre-call plan. So I like the plan to remain very focused on action. So the planning phase is very much about what am I going to do in this call to achieve this outcome. The piece that you were just moving into there, Darryl, is that the last step in the five stages, it’s the A. So, W, O, P, P, A. WOPPA. And the A is anticipate.

Steve Knapp: And the reason that that is a standalone box in the pre-call plan is for exactly as you described, thinking about what if. What if the prospect or client comes with this outcome? What happens if they don’t respond in a positive way? What happens if they say, “Yes, I need it tomorrow?” What if? What happens? What might be my plan A, Plan B, Plan C? And if you’ve got the anticipation right, linked to the objective and the purpose, the why you are there, this is incredibly helpful because you’re…

Steve Knapp: The person that you’re selling to gets the best you in front of somebody that has really thought through why we’re having this conversation, what you want to achieve from it, little bit about my external environment, what you’re going to do to get me there. And you’ve even thought about alternatives and different solutions. It’s a very powerful way-

Darryl Praill: So to me, the A is probably the most compelling aspect of WOPPA, W, O, P, P, A. Because that is when you’re preparing yourself to go off script, and how you’re going to respond, and the impression you will leave upon the prospect from, that’s a good question, I don’t know, to that’s a great question, let me explain, and funny you should ask that and away we go.

Darryl Praill: It dramatically different and that’s the A done properly will lead you to the O, the outcome you want to achieve. So it’s almost a circular process. All right, lad, we’re out of time here. If they want to learn more about Steve Knapp at the sales mindset coach, where’s the best way to reach you? And candidly, tell them something awesome about you that I haven’t already mentioned.

Steve Knapp: Awesome about me is that I’m a dad of three girls. That’s awesome, right? That is awesome. But I love sales. I absolutely love sales and I help as many people as I can in their sales career. But yeah, you can find me on Linkedin Steve Knapp, and you can find me on Facebook, the sales mindset coach. And as you’ve already said website. So loads of places. There’s other stuff out there-

Darryl Praill: We truly are. So, I’m seeing a theme here, Steve Knapp, K, N, A, P, P. I’ll bet your pre-call plan W, O, P, P, A. This is Mr. PP, right here. We are out of time folks. I’ve had fun today. Steve, thank you so much. If you’ve enjoyed another episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, do me a favor. Share it with your colleagues. Share it with your peers. Put it online, do a review. Do a like, spread the love, spread the news.

Darryl Praill: I’d be grateful, but until then, I shall leave you, but don’t worry. I’ll be back soon. My name is Darryl Praill. I’m with Vanilla soft. I’ll talk to you soon. Take care. Bye. Bye. My name is Darryl Praill. I’m with Vanilla soft. I’ll talk to you soon. Take care. Bye Bye.