No matter how well you know a prospect personally, top-performing sales professionals know that it is important to separate personal relationships from professional relationships – needless to say, you aren’t guaranteed to make that sale simply because you play on the same Tuesday night baseball team; you also need to do the research to lay the proper groundwork.
All too often, sales professionals hop on the phone or show up to a meeting without proper preparation – and the potential client knows it. Forgetting to double-check names or failing to properly research the prospect organization’s background are bound to trip up even the most experienced of sales professionals and could cause a sales professional to lose credibility – as ever, the devil is in the details.
Proper planning and preparation are more than simply part of your selling process – they are also a way of showing interest and respect to your potential client. Though the prospect will undoubtedly have specifics and company details to share with you, coming into your meeting with a solid foundational understanding and well-planned strategy prove your professionalism while helping to build a professional trust.
Defining Preparation and Planning
Planning and preparation can mean different things, but in the world of sales, it more or less means doing anything and everything possible to ensure that you understand who the potential client is, what they do, what is going on in their market and where they are looking to head. Some of the tools you might leverage include:
- Account analysis – For existing customer, take the time to look into their account before you have your first meeting or call. Consider things like company financials (if publically held), history of growth and new product or service offerings, and base knowledge of the key players. For an added bonus, take the time to package your research into something client presentable so that you can include your preparation packet in your tabletop materials at the meeting – it will make a positive nonverbal impression.
- Social media – Take advantage of all resources available to you – social media can be telling as to personalities, current industry trends, prospect interests, and more. This isn’t to say that you should ‘cyber stalk’ so much as it can serve as a way to get into the same circles and find common grounds. Join relevant shared LinkedIn groups, tweet about relevant topics, and get truly involved in the conversation. Not only will doing so put you in the same circles as your prospect, but you will also bolster your presence on the topic and that industry.
- Industry reports – Beyond learning about your specific prospect, take the time to glean insights on the industry as a whole. Get to know recent research and rankings and find trends and points of particular interest. It will give you a smooth conversation with your prospect while also helping you to devise a proper selling strategy – which will, in turn, increase your chances of converting the sale.
Walking into a sales meeting or making a sales call without proper preparation is like walking into a final exam without studying; you’re bound to fail. Taking the time to prepare upfront will pay off in dividends at the end, helping you to close that initial sale and build a relationship that will benefit both you and your prospective client for years to come.