Spend enough time in sales, and you’ll notice something striking about the top performers. The very best sales people always take the time to prepare for each and every call they make. It doesn’t matter if they’re making a cold call from a lead list or following up with a qualified prospect, they’ve done their homework. Because they know everything they can about the person on the other end of the line, they consistently generate the best results.
Preparation isn’t easy. It takes time to do your research, and effort to track down the details of a prospect’s company. As a result, far too many sales people believe that preparation simply isn’t worth the hassle. You’ll often hear them say things like:
To an expert sales manager, excuses like these should be a red flag. It’s a sign that the sales rep is only interested in the low-hanging fruit, and isn’t interested in landing each and every new client they can. A lazy sales rep can do more than fail to catch the attention of a prospect, they can cost you sales you might have gotten if that same rep had spent five minutes preparing for the call.
All of these excuses fall apart under even mild scrutiny. If a sales rep is “too busy” to do their homework on a prospect or lead, what exactly are they doing with their time? Making as many calls as possible while being completely unprepared for each one? What good is “knowing the industry” if they don’t know the specifics of a prospect’s company? If it is “just a discovery call,” isn’t it important to make the strongest possible first impression?
Here’s a secret for you: Sales preparation isn’t hard to do, nor is it time consuming. It’s a simple, repeatable and scalable process that consistently yields great results over time. Every sales call or sales meeting can be prepared for in exactly the same way. To see great results, these same rules apply just as much for a long-term sales process getting to a final deal as they do for an initial cold call.
Let’s take a look at each of these steps in detail.
Your prospect isn’t really interested in how well you know the product you are selling. What they desperately want to know is what, if anything, your product or service can do for them. They have a problem — low sales, high costs, inefficient distribution — and your insight and expertise is only interesting to them if what you are selling can help them solve it. The more you know about their company, the more interested they will be in what you have to say.
This kind of research can almost always be done with freely available content. Their products and pricing will almost certainly be available on their website, for instance. In many cases, the company’s annual reports will also be available. If the company is public, these reports can provide you with a treasure trove of details about their market dynamics, competitive pressures, upcoming initiatives and much, much more. The more you know about these topics, the more seriously your pitch will be taken by the company’s decision makers.
Now that you know the fundamentals of the company’s operations, it is much easier to create a solution with your service or product at the center. During the call, you aren’t just offering a thing for them to buy, you’re offering a complete plan for eliminating one of their ongoing pain points. This puts you miles ahead of your less thoughtful competitors.
These plans don’t need to be highly complex or detailed — it’s important to keep them flexible — but they do need to have a structure. Here’s a useful outline:
The last thing you want to do on a sales call is stumble over the details. This is why every sales person should rehearse with a “dry run” of the call. This can be as simple as spending a few moments reading over the details to yourself, practicing any tricky names or explaining any complex products.
For more complex calls with higher-stakes prospects, everyone who has a speaking part on the call should be involved in the dry run, with the salesperson playing the role of Master of Ceremonies. Ideally, a sales manager or other executive will also be on hand to provide feedback or play the role of the customer.
When it comes time for the call, it’s important that you put everything you’ve learned from the dry run into practice. This is the step where all of your sales skills come into play, and where all the benefits of your research will pay off.
Immediately after the call, you should spend a few moments dissecting how it went. Were there any unexpected questions? Did your answers satisfy them? Did you deviate from your selling points, or overlook any major topics?
This step is absolutely vital for group calls. A simple fifteen-minute discussion can provide valuable observations from the team, helping to make sure follow-up emails and calls speak to every possible concern from the prospect. This can also be a great opportunity for peer mentoring.
It’s important to make sales preparation a fundamental part of your sales process. Not just for your initial sales calls or big-ticket sales opportunities, but for each and every call and follow-up. Some calls may require less preparation than others, of course, but a sales person should never go into a call with a prospect — or even an existing customer — without spending a few moments thinking about the client’s needs, how their company can provide a solution, and warming up to make sure the call goes as perfectly as possible.
Preparation isn’t just about making sure your calls go smoothly. It’s about delivering real value to the customer, and communicating your interest in their success. Even in sales jobs where a large number of calls happen every day — telesales, for instance — preparation pays off. It may take a little more work, but the benefits speak for themselves.
As Ben Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” Don’t prepare to fail; prepare to succeed.
Are you looking to best equip your sales team? Learn how SugarCRM can help you. Contact us today or call (+1) 800.391.4055.