Perfect sales calls don't happen by accident. And while you can't execute one without thinking on your feet, you can't just jump on a call blindly, banking on your improv skills and natural charm to get the job done.

You need some direction — a general plan that keeps you on track. The process of creating that plan is most commonly referred to as call mapping. And if you want to get the most out of your cold calls and other sales outreach, you need to know how to do it effectively.

Here, we'll get a more thorough look at the practice and review a six-step plan to nail yours every time.

Free Resource: 10 Sales Call Templates for Outreach

Though a well-executed cold call takes improvisation and quick thinking, it's never strictly off-the-cuff. There has to be some degree of structure to it — a solid backbone that reps can reference, follow, and ultimately track back to if a call is getting out of hand.

Call mapping provides that kind of structure, but there's a line between "structure" and "scripting." The practice doesn't entail setting a rigid, definitive document you can't deviate from on the phone — prospects are perceptive enough to see through that.

The best sales calls take every potential buyer's unique circumstances into account, but they also have a preferred trajectory guiding them. That's the crux of effective call mapping — let's take a more in-depth look at how that should happen.

1. Do your research.

Every prospect you communicate with is unique, and your call mapping should reflect that — to a certain extent. You don't want to just jump onto a call without knowing anything about who you're talking to.

Do some research and gather some insight about both the person you'll be speaking with and their company as a whole. Take a look at their social media profiles to gauge their interests. Check out the company's website. Dig into some materials about their industry. If their company has a blog, take a look at some of its posts.

One way or another, set yourself up to make a personalized, thoughtful pitch that will register with your prospect. The information you gather in this stage will play into the next one. You need to capture your prospect's attention — pitching to them as an individual can make that process a whole lot easier.

2. Make an introduction and qualify your prospect.

Start your call off with a quick introduction that ensures you're talking to the right person and sets you up to build rapport. That can be as simple as saying something like, "Hello, this is [name] from [company]. To my knowledge, you've been using [other company] to support your systems development life cycle — is that correct?"

Here's where you start priming your prospect for your elevator pitch, but before you can really dig into that process, you need to know if this call is worth both your and their time. Ask the right questions to establish whether they have the need, authority, and capacity to buy your product or service.

All of those factors need to line up if you're going to successfully qualify your lead. Generally, you can pin down the "need" side of things in your preliminary research. Then, through some initial conversation, you should be able to identify whether you're talking to the right person.

If you find out your prospect doesn't have the decision-making authority to act on your call, try to see if they can put you in touch with someone who does. You also have to check with them about whether they actually can buy your product or service.

Do they have the appropriate budget? Can they get out from any other prior commitments to your competitors? Can they agree to a certain contract length? And do they want to purchase right now? Have the questions in place to cover these bases.

3. Tease out their issues and pain points.

Once you've qualified your prospect. Try to ask questions that can give you a feel as to whether they're happy with their current solution and what they might be looking for in a new one. You should have a solid idea of their pain points, but it can't hurt to see if you can tease out a few more.

You might ask questions like, "You haven't implemented a CI/CD pipeline, correct? How long is your systems development lifecycle?" or, "What marketing automation software are you using? Does that integrate with Salesforce? Don't get too caught up here, but if you have some questions prepared to give you that much more context, you can guide the rest of the call a bit more thoughtfully.

4. Deliver a compelling elevator pitch.

This is the crescendo of your whole call. You've lined everything up, now knock it all down. Offer an incisive, tight explanation of how your product or service will address your prospect's pain points. Touch on certain perks they might not already be getting with their current solution.

The key here isn't to walk them through every last one of your product or service's features. You want to speak to the concrete benefits they'll see as opposed to all the bells and whistles you can tout.

Say things like, "You can expect to cut your continuous integration feedback time in half without sacrificing test reliability with our product," or "Our CMS of the same quality but more user friendly than [competitor] at 75% of the cost."

Speak to their challenges and understand that you're not trying to close on this call. In virtually every case, call mapping doesn't end with a deal. At this point in the sales process, you're selling your prospect on the next step — bear that in mind when giving your pitch.

5. Address objections.

In most cases, your prospect won't immediately say, "Gee whiz, that was a wonderful pitch! I literally have nothing else to say. Sign me up! How do we proceed?" They're probably going to raise some concerns and bring up some apparent issues.

Most prospects are skeptical of anyone on the other side of a sales call. And if your solution sounds too good to be true, they're going to find ways to poke holes in it. Eventually, you might start to notice multiple prospects are raising the same objections.

Once you have those common concerns pinned down, determine effective ways to address them. You should also apply some of the research you did in advance of this call to figure out issues the specific prospect might bring up — whether they be related to their industry, business size, structure, or any other factor that shapes how their company functions.

6. Set next steps.

As I mentioned, the object of your call probably isn't to seal the deal — it's to set things in motion. Be prepared to end your call with a definitive call to action to set firm next steps. Ideally, you'll be able to get a concrete commitment from your prospect.

That CTA might be another call, an email covering your conversation and offering more detail about your product or service, a demo, filling out a proposal form, or any other significant step that puts you or a higher-up in your sales organization closer to closing.

Sales call mapping isn't the be-all end-all of a successful sales call. You still need to know how to go off book a bit to address the unique concerns your prospect raises. That said, having a solid feel for how the conversation should go will keep you on the right track and help you see more consistent results.

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Originally published Mar 22, 2021 7:30:00 AM, updated June 11 2021

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