Possibly the biggest mistake when selling anything to anyone

Think about your first job interview, which may have rewarded you with just above the minimum wage.

Winning the job was important to you, and you did everything possible to guarantee your success. You probably researched the company, planned some questions and understood the job specification, so that you would sound knowledgeable and passionate about how you could help them and this preparation dramatically increased your chances of standing out from the crowd, being identified as a winner, going on to secure the job.

Now you are experienced in the business world much of that early wisdom has departed and when sales opportunities arise, it becomes all too familiar to respond with your canned process or rely upon your experience in the moment to convert the opportunity you often worked so hard to create.

It’s common knowledge that people buy people, and if you agree with that, it also means that people buy ‘from’ people. Put simply, one of the key and often missing ingredients to sales success is being properly prepared for each conversation ahead of time by doing some research on the people you are speaking with.

Here is my basic wishlist of preparation research I look to conduct before entering a scheduled conversation.

  • Research the company website – Look to understand their portfolio of products and services, information about the key people in the company and also their key vision, mission and goals.
  • Check social media – Social media delivers you current and important updates to them that your awareness of allows you to comment on. Imagine saying in your conversation “I was browsing your twitter and saw X – how did that work out for you?” Your knowledge of what’s important to them delivers you a fair advantage.
  • Find the legacy of the company – Knowing their founder story and how they got to where they are today has you feeling like part of the team before you have even started.
  • Organisational framework – I love to know the roles of who does what and who is in charge of who. Linked in can help me create a hierarchy of personnel and deliver me some insight into their decision making process.
  • Awards and recognitions – Knowing when they have been recognised for excellence means that I can pass on my congratulations for the same. Celebrating their successes with them again gives you a step up in your chances of being chosen.
  • Known competitors – Understanding whom they are working against in their industry gives you a valuable tool in later conversation. Imagine dropping in your desire to help them outperform their biggest competitor (by name) in your early conversation and the impact that would have on their desire to work with you.
  • History of buying in the past – Do they have a proven track record in buying what you are selling? As a professional speaker, my conversation with someone who has booked dozens of experienced speakers in the past is very different to someone running their first event.
  • Length of time person in role – If they are brand new I would like to support their goal of a positive early impression, If they are established with a longer tenure I would like to know more about their experience in the past and how they would like to see things differently.
  • Known acquaintances – When I know someone they know, I have a brilliant talking point to help grow mutual trust.
  • Hobbies and interests  – Insight into their personal life allows me to shape my questions towards some of their favourite subjects and avoid any social faux pas.
  • What they look like – It sounds so simple, but seeing their face ahead of time teaches me so much. At least it allows me to introduce myself directly to them at first meeting as I knew it was them as they look like their picture!

That might sound like a huge amount of time, effort and energy before you’ve established if they want to spend money with you, but if you do this right, it can take you around 15 minutes. If 15 minutes sounds too long to research a prospect before your first conversation, then look at the lifetime value of your best customer. Once you acquired them, how much have they spent over a lifetime with you as a customer?

Ask yourself again; does 15 minutes of research to increase the success of another high spending lifetime customer seem a worthwhile investment?

It’s simple to get into the habit of never seeing a prospect or potential business opportunity without at first Googling their name to see what you can find out.

If you don’t look, you’re guaranteed to find nothing that’s going to help you.  But if you do take the time look, you’ll be surprised at how much more confident you feel and by being better prepared you find it much easier to lead the conversation and secure the success you were looking for.

Think of every sales opportunity as a job interview and do the work before the work to ensure that it’s you that wins the job!

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