What is the difference between an average salesperson and a stellar salesperson? Hands down it is preparation. Clients tell us, those salespeople who have excelled after we’ve trained and coached them, were able to shorten their sales cycles because they changed the way they prepared for their sales calls. This feedback comes from a wide range of salespeople – from those with limited experience to those with 20 years in their field. It also crosses all industries. Though other changes were made after training, it all links back to good preparation!
This is music to our ears because one of our most important teaching points during sales training is “Winging it is not a strategy!” Or, as a recent participant said during a break in a training class, “Winging it is a strategy, just not a good one!”
So, to ensure that you don’t waste your time and your prospect’s time by going to a sales call unprepared, we suggest a multi-tiered approach to preparation that is strategic and prospect focused.
Research the Business – Plan to Use the Research
To be competitive and successful in today’s selling environment, research is critical. Learn as much as possible about the prospect’s business, industry, competition, current challenges and decision makers before your first meeting. Use the time during your sales call to learn what you can’t learn from public sources. This is a better use of the prospect’s time and will help you establish trust, credibility and an open dialogue.
Use the information you learn and show the prospect you are focused on them. If the company’s history is on their web site, develop rapport building questions to help you open your call. “I saw that you started the business in 1982. How did you get started?” If the company lists two distinct product lines, ask “Those two product lines are very different, can you tell me more about this business strategy?” Use your industry knowledge to show that you care about the business more than you care about selling your products. “Your industry has been challenged by the recent change in legislation, how have you responded to this change?”
View the Call from the Prospect’s Perspective – Become a Value Add Business Partner
Since your prospect is the one making the decision about whether or not to use your products and services, align your call agenda with the prospect’s agenda. What do you think they want to focus on during the meeting? What would be a good use of their time? How can you structure the meeting so the prospect can share and you can learn? Take the word “pitch” out of your sales vocabulary – prospects don’t want to be sold to – they want to be offered solutions and they want to make educated decisions about their business that help their business.
Plan Questions – Identify Value and Urgency from the Prospect’s Perspective
Prospects make a change when there is value to the change and make decisions quickly when they see the upside to moving forward. Before your sales call, plan the questions that will help you and the prospect identify the value of working with you. Plan to learn how the prospect will specifically benefit from your product or service. Approach the call as a problem solving meeting not a sales pitch. And, most importantly – plan to listen to the responses the prospect gives!
Plan Your Sales Call from Open to Close – Run an Effective Meeting
What do most professionals say is the biggest time waster they experience? Meetings! Why? – Because most meetings are run poorly. An effective sales call is a well run meeting and well run meetings start with a strong agenda. Plan how you want to begin the call and add structure to your opening so the prospect knows you are organized and professional. Write the questions you need to ask during the call and analyze them to ensure that they are focused on finding solutions, identifying value and creating urgency. Anticipate concerns the prospect may have and ways that you can prevent or respond to these concerns. Plan to talk about your products and services as customized solutions to their specific business challenges or as ways to help them achieve their specific goals. Plan the question you want to ask at the end of the meeting to gain the highest level of commitment.
So, “don’t wing it, plan it” and both you and your prospect will reap the benefits!
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