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SMARTE Sales Stuff — an intelligent and sometimes funny look at the world of sales!

The 4 P’s – Sales Call Prep

When baseball season is in high gear the recognition and riches awaiting the really “big hitters” depends on their Preparation, Practice, Professionalism and Perseverance. 


So it goes for today’s Sales Representatives. Today’s buyers are smart, ID-10036429sophisticated, educated and well-equipped with electronic tools. They can be formidable and effective negotiators when dealing with salespeople and Company principals.

If salespeople are going to be “Big Hitters” today and in the future, they must practice the FOUR P’s of Selling to be effective too.


You need to know your Buyer’s needs. You need to understand their stores, facilities, or operations. Always visit a store or stores whenever possible and become as knowledgeable as you can; don’t make any assumptions. Learn about the industry and study a broad overview and the Buyer’s niche in that industry. Study the account and if the account is a public company, review their annual report to learn more about them.

Don’t forget about the competition and the reasons why the Buyer should replace their current vendor and select you. Know where your product or service fits into the Buyer’s store, facility, or operations, and what it will replace.

Create a checklist of all needs for a successful sales call and create a time table and action plan with enough lead time so you are totally ready when the call date arrives.

Use the theory two heads are better than one in gathering input and planning call strategy by consulting with other associates and manufacturer personnel for input and direction.

Solid preparation builds knowledge and confidence which controls fear and leads to successful sales calls.


Do you know your product? What if the Buyer asks you to activate it, assemble it, or demonstrate it? Can you do it?

Role play the sales call. What are the questions? What are the objections? What are your answers to both? If you have other people on the call, be sure you practice each person’s role.

Be sure you time your presentation. If you get 40 minutes, have it sequenced from initial comments through the close. What if the Buyer unexpectedly tells you that they can only give you 20 minutes? Have a 20-minute “fall back” plan to present your points and close!


Be early. Look presentable, with appropriate and tasteful dress.

Be organized and ready to present. Remember–don’t waste the Buyer’s time. Have all the sales call materials such as sales books, charts, samples, and videos professionally prepared, organized, and ready to go. Don’t fumble around during the call. If you have manufacturer personnel with you, be sure they are properly introduced.

Tell the Buyer the goals of the meeting so they have a framework to follow. Have a checklist of key points you can give them so they can quickly see the logic and timing of the call–then stick to it and check off the points as you go along. A well-done and unique handout left behind is always a good idea.

Ask lots of questions–listen to the Buyer–you will learn their needs and wants so you can adjust your programs for them.

Take good notes and recap immediately after the meeting. It lets the Buyer see you respect their input and you won’t forget what has been said for follow-up.

Don’t be afraid to use a laptop or other electronic device to correct or finalize programs during the sales call. If there are questions or issues involving the factory or headquarters, make the calls necessary to answer the questions during the meeting in order to help the Buyer.

This demonstrates your ability to save time and be effective, which today’s Buyer expects.

Ask the Buyer for the sale 2 to 3 times during your presentation. Recent sales surveys have shown that eight out of ten sales calls end with the salesperson “never asking for the sale or order”. Thank the Buyer at the completion of the sales call and follow-up with the appropriate correspondence shortly after the call.


Lastly, Perseverance will be necessary to close the sale. Today’s busy Buyers do not, as a rule, have time to return many calls. Use e-mail when possible. Be sure all additional literature, samples, and other quotation issues are followed-up ASAP.

Establish a personal follow-up system so you can track your calls to conclusion. Use handwritten notes, “notes” on your smart phone, or use your laptop to keep track of action needed and follow up commitments. Check your email frequently.

Don’t give up easily. Sometimes it takes three or four calls to close the sale. It could take one month or six months or twelve! Consider presenting your product to multiple buyers within a company. Your product may have potential in several departments.

Good Luck and Good Selling!!

**This article was first published in 1994 and revised in 2014.

Know Your Potatoes

The S.M.A.R.T.E. Group likes to tell this story that reinforces our way of thinking and doing business!



The two farm wagons stood in a public market. Both were loaded with potatoes in bags. A customer stopped before the first wagon.

“How much are your potatoes today?” she asked the farmer’s wife.

“Two-fifty a bag” the wife replied.

“Oh my!” protested the woman, “that is pretty high. I only paid two dollars for the last bag I bought.”

“Tators have gone up” was the only comment the farmer’s wife had to add.

So the customer went to the next wagon and asked the same question. But Ma Brown “knew her potatoes”. Instead of treating her customer with indifference, she replied “These are California white potatoes, they are the best potatoes grown. We only raise the kind with the small eyes so that there will be no waste when peeling. Then we sort them by size. In each bag you will find large and medium size potatoes. The large size is for cooking and the medium size for baking. The baking size cooks up quick which means a big savings in energy. Then we wash all the potatoes clean before we sack them up to help you conserve water. I’m asking three dollars a bag for them, Madam. Shall I put a bag in your car or deliver them?”

Ma Brown sold two bags of potatoes to that customer at a higher price than her competitor had asked, in spite of the fact that the customer had refused to buy at the first wagon because she thought the price was too high.

We like to tell this story to demonstrate that a customer’s perception of price depends entirely on their individual frame of reference. When you can impact or change that perception, the sale is a reality.

You already know how to open doors and close the sale, so it makes sense that the more you know about what you are selling—regardless of what it is—the better able you will be to overcome price objections.

Customers will think you are reasonably priced if you know the fine points of what you are selling as well as Ma Brown knew the good points about her potatoes!

We get results…

In fact, we’ve been so successful some of our clients have said:

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This never happens!


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