I thought we’d benefit from looking at ‘preparation’. It’s easy to forget some of the basics that allowed us to be successful in our early days. Taking the time to be properly prepared for opportunities not only helps us realise what we’ve got on the table, but also helps us focus and be in the right frame of mind.
It certainly affects confidence and goes on to help the level of success you achieve from every opportunity. Think about your first job interview, which may have rewarded you with just above the minimum wage, but 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 what you would achieve, which dramatically helped your chances of standing out from the crowd, being identified as a winner, going on to secure the job.
Now you are experienced in sales, when opportunities arise, often you can just turn up. It’s fair to say that people buy people, and if we agree with that, it also means that people buy ‘from’ people. One of the key ingredients to being properly prepared has to be by doing some research on the person that we’re going to meet. If we’re going to research them:
- What do we want to know?
- What would we love to find out?
If you’ve got a good idea about these, I’m sure you do this already, but let’s look at key things to look for in a prospect that you should find out before turning up:
- Look at the company’s history, values, mission statement and outward company profile.
- Consider if you could be doing business with them.
- How long has the company been operating?
- Remember also it’s the person, the people that we do business with. The position of the person in the company is important to me, as you need to know where they sit in the pecking order. Are they the decision maker?
It’s interesting that people have job titles not necessarily fitting with their role, such as a Managing Director, who neither manages nor directs the business. So think about your contact’s ability to make decisions – if they’ve been there a long time they’re likely able to make a decisions. Similarly, if somebody is new in a senior position, they’re often given poetic license to make significant changes in the early stages of their new role. If somebody has set up a new business, they will consider actions to reach the next step. Knowing how long somebody has been in a business helps you better prepare for what might be thrown at you.
Understanding that people buy people, knowing a bit about the person’s interests and what’s important to them i.e. sports, travel and family, gives you an understanding about who they are and what’s important to them. Similarly, they could be incredibly focused on career or the success of their business. Know what’s important to them and know what their hobbies and interests are, then steer conversation around their favourite subject – themselves!
Consider carefully who their existing customers are. Who are the ‘people’ they do business with? Because knowing who their existing customers are gives you a really good understanding about their level of service and the proposition they provide. We understand a lot about our friends by looking at the car they drive, the supermarket they use and where they go on holiday. Learning where potential customers choose to spend their money, can help you understand what’s important to them in terms of price pitching. Amongst their existing customers and suppliers might be someone they know who you know, which creates a common interest to build a rapport.
Finding out if your potential customers are already proven buyers of your product or service is extremely helpful, because then all I need to do is to convince them to choose to buy from you in preference to somebody else. If they have never bought my product or service before, you have to get them to choose the product or service you offer and then choose to buy from you.
It’s also important to know if the company has the ability to pay for the product or service we can provide for them. Because, regardless of everything else, we’re all in business to make money, and if they can’t afford your services your best work can go to waste. Make quite sure you’re fishing in the right pond with people who can afford your product and service, and that if people want to take the next step, they have the ability to be able to do so.
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 should take you around 15 minutes. If 15 minutes sounds too long to research a prospect before visiting, 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 guarantee the success of another high spending lifetime customer seem worth it? Remember, it is so much easier in today’s digital age than it was years ago. All we need to do now is reach for our computers and the place I would start is Google. You can 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.
Find their website profile, find a social media presence, such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, that will lead you to information that they’ve put out into the marketplace for you to be able to find, should you choose to look.
The LinkedIn profile is a gem if you’re in a business to business environment, because if you’re on LinkedIn and they’re on LinkedIn, the one thing it does is cut through the information without searching too hard as it will tell you exactly who they know that know you too. Could you pick up a phone or drop that person an email and gain some valuable information about your prospect?
Before you turn up, can you speak to somebody else who can give you the background information that will serve you so well? Receptionists, PAs, fellow members of staff will give useful information about people, providing you ask in the right way. Imagine you’re trying to find out who the decision maker is, rather than guessing by job title or position. You can find out by asking simple questions to people already within that organisation. How much better does that equip you?
If you don’t look, you’re guaranteed to find nothing that’s going to help you. But if you look, you’ll be surprised at how much more confident and better prepared you are, and how many more opportunities you create. If you don’t have a smart phone – the ability to be able to find this information on the move is of great benefit. If you’re serious about sales and winning more from appointments and opportunities that you’re creating, it’s a valuable investment that can allow you to do this research on the move and use pockets of time that otherwise could get wasted.