Why are preparations in sales important? And how can you ensure that you are a hundred per cent prepared for your meeting? Read on to know.
I remember the initial days of my sales career. Until the time I started reading and becoming a student of this profession, I was caught up by a disease that most Salespeople do. ‘Show up and Throw up’.
I had my inside sales team fix up appointments for me. And then I used to just show up and throw up for most of my customer meetings. And as you can predict from that statement, I was not very successful at the start.
There was a research conducted by the Jenkin Group in the US. It stated that on average 42 per cent of college graduates never read another book after college.
But, research has shown that on an average Olympic level athletes plan out their training schedules annually for up to four years in advance to make sure they reach their performance goals.
Two distinctly opposite statistics for two distinct categories of people.
When it comes to preparation and making oneself skilled, I remember the story of Sachin Tendulkar.
In his Biography, Sachin mentioned that Shane Warne was the only bowler whom he dreaded the most in his entire career. Shane Warne had this unique ability to drift the ball in the air and bounce it outside the leg stump. The ball then takes a sharp spin and blows away the stumps. He was able to produce that delivery whenever he needed it with great precision.
In the 1998 series, when Australia toured India for Test and One day Series, Shane Warne was at his peak. Warne, in his last series against South Africa, had taken twenty wickets in just three Tests.
The media loved pitting Sachin and Shane against each other. And each time India played against Australia it always used to be a Sachin versus Shane battle.
Until that time Sachin always prepared himself for different conditions. He never trained himself for any specific bowler but during this series, he realized that he had his work cut out for him. If he didn’t find a way to tackle Shane Warne, Australians would just blow away the Indian side.
So a month before the series, Sachin started preparing himself to face Shane Warne. He took help from spin bowlers like Nilesh Kulkarni, Sairaj Bahutale, L Shivarakrishna who bowled against him. He worked with groundsmen to make the practice pitch equal to the real pitch. He studied various deliveries of Warne and asked all his practise bowlers to replicate those deliveries as much as possible. He dug up the pitch so bowlers could get the maximum spin, and tried to make the pitch as similar as the real match.
Sachin tried various shots against Warne’s deliveries; on drive, inside out shots, loft shots, etc. He struggled a lot at first, but he went on trying and did whatever he can to get a feel of what he will get from Warne.
In the first test innings of the first test match, Sachin got out at 4 runs by Warne. But after that first inning, he just decimated and dominated Warne completely. In 1998 Australia’s tour of India, Sachin was invincible. And if you ask any Sachin fans which was Sachin’s best one-day inning they will tell you that it was his knock against Australia in Sharjah.
This made me think. Here’s a professional Cricketer, the best batsman in the world at that time. He had achieved everything which many Indians only dream of in their entire lifetime. But, he still prepared himself a month before the series. He dug up pitches and reached out to expert bowlers. He ensured that he had sharpened his axe before facing his biggest challenge.
Do we as professional Sales People take similar efforts when we meet our own customers? Forget about preparing for a month, at times, we don’t even go through their website.
Your customers are the ones who eventually pay your Salaries. They deserve your attention. They deserve more caring, they deserve a partner who takes their time seriously. So, no matter how many years you spend in your sales profession your professionalism is only justified based on how well you prepare for your next client meeting.
In this blog, I am going to talk about 4 simple ways to prepare for your next customer meeting.
1. Preparations in sales by RESEARCHING about your client.
Think of a job interview scenario. When hiring managers interview prospective candidates they are precisely looking for those candidates who best fit their organization; who can provide exactly what the organization is looking for. Hiring managers have to go through many options before deciding on that one suitable candidate.
Client meetings are somewhat similar.
In this scenario, however, they are the hiring managers and you are the candidate. They too must have gone through many options looking for the perfect match.
So how do you let them know that you are the perfect match that they have been looking for? By understanding what they exactly need and then convincing them that you are the right candidate for the job.
But wait… easier said than done. How do YOU know what they exactly need?
In the current day and age where most of the information is available at the click of a button, not researching your client beforehand and expecting your customer to give you all the information is nothing less than a crime. It shows a lack of professionalism!
Getting into the habit of researching your client before every client meeting is a trait of a seasoned salesperson. If you want to be one, focus on researching.
How to start researching for a client meeting?
You always start with the basics. So your client’s website is the perfect starting point for any customer research. A website of a well-established organization covers 70 % of the information you need to know about the client.
Here are some important sections you should never miss while going through a client’s website.
The about us page is the first impression of any organization. And any well-established organization will try their best to hook the visitors to their website through this page. They sometimes might do so using slogans that immediately capture your attention while also telling what they offer to their customers in a single statement.
For eg; This is the opening statement in the About Us page of Yellow Leaf Hammocks
“We cut out the middleman and get money directly into the hands of our weavers”
This statement alone is enough to give you a rough idea about what Yellow Leaf Hammocks is and what it does.
A well written ‘About us’ is short, easy to read,` and easy to navigate. It consists of all the basic, yet important information about the organization, its founders, and its purpose. The about us page also talks about the company’s values and how they are better than any other competing company. It consists of photos through different timelines to show the company’s involvement in different events, their accomplishments and connection with other important people/organizations.
Going through the about us section is great for your pre-meet preparation. It has all the key points that your client’s company wants you to know. It is short and easy to read. So, even by skimming through it, you can understand what your client’s organization stands for.
This is your pot of gold. A one-stop destination to everything you need to know about what your client’s company is selling. Product title, what does the product do, the prices, customizations, value, and also sometimes reviews dropped by satisfied customers, this page tells you everything.
This page is essential in your preparation as it gives you in-depth information about the services and products provided by your customer. It also helps you understand what role your services would play in the manufacturing/selling/promoting of their products and if your organization could help them solve their business problem.
In the latest news section, companies usually add their achievements, product release, financial performance, awards and other tidbits of news that favour the company.
By reading this section you are putting yourself up to speed with the ongoing news of your client’s company. Is it faring well? Is it at its peak?
Information in the Latest news section can be used as a good conversation starter with your clients. This also indicates you are following them and genuinely interested in knowing them.
The management info has a list of the Board of Directors and Management Heads of the Organization. As a professional salesperson in B2B sales, you should always aspire to meet and build strong relationships with people in the management team of your customer. Researching about the management team also gives you an opportunity to find out if you know any strong references who can connect you with the Management team.
2. Annual Report / Quarterly report /Investor Presentation
An annual report is the summarization of the company’s performance and activities in the previous year.
A quarterly report is the summarization of the company’s performance and activities prepared every three months.
An investor presentation is a PowerPoint deck usually consisting of 15 to 20 slides that talk about the company’s story, its products, and its team of investors and decision heads. An extensive investor presentation may further also consist of the business models, investment strategies, the technology employed by the company and a short competitor analysis.
By going through these three documents you get in-depth information about the company’s financial performances, Business objectives, growth plans and challenges that the organizations need to overcome.
3. Sales Navigator
Linkedin Sales Navigator is one of the best sales research tools available for salespeople in the market. It gives you a one-stop destination to everything you want to know about your clients and client organizations. Sales Navigator gives you a snapshot of all necessary details about a client’s organization without you having to research about them for hours together. It gives you details like the number of employees working in the company, a graph of its employee growth, in-trend information published about the company on the internet, and a list of notable people working in it.
You can upload a list of accounts that you are managing in Sales navigator and it will crawl the internet and give you information about the latest happenings of these accounts in real-time
I think of Sales Navigator as a Customized Business E New paper for salespeople
Sales navigator also has a feature called the lead list. It shows a list of people working for the companies displayed on your accounts list. This feature helps you to track the activities of those individuals at your customer end.
Moreover, you also get to know who are your friends on LinkedIn who have connections with the people and the company you are researching about through LinkedIn mutual connections.
I would highly recommend using this tool if you can.
Researching your customer is an active sport so always, make notes while researching. This is a great way of remembering your research and gives you content to discuss with your clients.
2. Be prepared with a killer PITCH before your meeting.
Having a sales conversation is like dancing with your client, however in this case you don’t know what steps he will take so you need to match your steps with him.
So every time you go to a customer meeting, be ready with your pitch. You never know when you need to use it. I have written a detailed blog on how to create an elevator pitch. You can use that to create your own sales pitch for your next sales meeting.
3. Curate the right questions during preparations in sales
In a successful sales call who should do most of the talking? The buyer? Or The seller? It’s the buyer who should do most of the talking.
But, how do you get a buyer to talk? By asking questions.
So it was no surprise to know that the most successful salespeople were those who asked the most questions. But not just any questions.
It soon became clear that successful salespeople asked intelligent questions and they asked it in a certain sequence.
Questions are the most effective form of verbal behaviour that you can use to persuade and not just in selling. Many research studies have shown that more questions are asked in successful negotiations, management interactions, performance interviews, group discussions, and other interactions than in unsuccessful ones.
Good questions speed up the qualification of sales opportunities and reduce sales objections.
Potential buyers don’t always have complete clarity on what they need. So the process of answering your questions helps them organize and define their thoughts, problems, needs, and feelings too.
I have written a detailed blog on Questioning skills. You can go through it to learn how to ask intelligent questions during a sales meeting.
4. Call to Action
Steven Covey in his book ‘7 Habits of highly effective people’ has mentioned in Habit number 2:
‘Always begin with the end in mind’
As a sales professional, we have one most precious and irreplaceable commodity; our TIME. The best part about time is that we all have the same amount of it. You could be the world’s richest person or the poorest, we will still have the same amount of time which we can spend.
So if we are investing time in a customer meeting we need to ensure there is a clear call to action identified for that meeting. Broadly there are 2 Calls to action for every sales meeting
- You are progressing the sales opportunity to the next stage
- You are qualifying sales opportunity
If either of these is not achieved it is not a fair use of your time. So always prepare your sales meeting in a way that helps you achieve your call to action.
Confucius, a Chinese philosopher once said …
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be a failure.”
This stands true in all aspects of life. Having experience in the sales field for the past fifteen years, I believe this stands true for all of my sales wins.
Our clients are the ones who pay our salaries. It’s not only us who invest our time in the meeting, but our clients also invest their time meeting with us so the least that we could do is prepare ourselves for the customer meeting. Do justice to their time and get their business.
I have seen people with amazing conversational and sales skills flounder during a meeting because they weren’t prepared. And lack of preparation in salespeople during a client meeting is very visible. It is a big put off for prospective clients.
People at senior management are often pressed for time. They are always on the lookout for short, succinct meetings where everything important is discussed in a short amount of time. They would just not have the patience to tell a sales representative everything right from the scratch or watch them stumbling over their lack of information.
Preparing for anything, be it an exam, a meeting, an interview is a basic need. Good preparation is a sign of how much you want to succeed.
So to conclude it all, I would like to sign off on this note …
“When preparation in sales becomes your priority, failure in sales becomes a minority.
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