Salespeople who are prepared for meetings outperform others who just show up and throw up; it’s as simple as that. We all know this right? Not being prepared for buyer meetings is one of the top reasons over 50% of salespeople will fail to achieve sales quota each year. Our markets and how buyers buy has changed significantly with as much as 70% of the buying journey being over before a salesperson meets with a buyer. In this post I will share how I coach salespeople to prepare for sales meetings to drive the maximum sales results in an authentic way.
I have led sales and marketing teams for over 30 years and I am a practitioner of what Pragmatic Marketing refers to as “NIHITO”. This stands for: Nothing Important Happens In The Office. Therefore I travel, check that, …I travel a great deal in the market doing four legged sales calls with my sales teams.
One area that is a common sales coachable skill is pre-sales call planning.
Traveling often I have taken a number of flights. As sales leaders we can learn a lot about being prepared for our mission of increasing sales profitably by watching airplane pilots. Before each and every flight pilots conduct a pre-flight checklist.
They have a standard checklist that starts at the left wing tip and they walk around the plane, checking each wing, each tire, the tail section, the nose of the plane, the cockpit instrumentation panel. They check the fuel manifest to insure they have enough fuel to fly safely to their destination.
Ben Franklin said:“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Why do salespeople fail?
There are 3 major reasons that salespeople fail.
- Lack of mental preparation
- Lack of physical preparation
- Poor quality of conversations
… all of them involve being prepared.
What are the top five things sales super stars do to prepare for each sales meeting?
- They’re prepared for anything – especially the negative circumstances
- They’re genuinely interested in their prospects
- They check their ego at the door
- They master the art of managing expectations
- They have done their research
The below checklist must be completed before trying to start a journey with a buyer today.
- Who will you be meeting with?
- What is their role, and title?
- How long have they held this position?
- How long have they been with their current organization?
- Where did they go to school?
- Where did they work prior to this company?
- Do you share any mutual contacts, if so call them and ask them about this buyer
- When was the last order?
- Do you have a buyer persona for this type of buyer? If so read it.
- Is there a current order in the system?
- If so when will it ship and arrive?
- What is the status of the accounts payments, do they have any money past due that may interrupt service if not paid?
- Has the buyer and or their teams experienced any quality issues with products and or services in the last 6 months and were they resolved?
- How is the buyer measured?
- What are your buyers’ key performance indicators?
- How long has your company sold this account?
- What are your current sales with this account, and how does this compare to last year?
- Does this customer buy predominantly one or two products or do they support your full line of products and services?
- When was the last buyer call or phone discussion on the CRM?
- What was the topic of the last conversation and action items?
- Were the action items completed?
- Visit their web site, click on “press” and or “news’ …what is the most recent news event they posted?
- What are your customers value proposition to their customers? You can gather this by cutting and pasting their landing page copy into an I cloud service and see prominent words.
- Who are their competitors? Do you sell them?
- Who else is involved in buying decisions?
The Industry / Market
- Google this industry read top three articles.
- What is news worthy in their industry in the last three months?
- Visit industry trade association web pages and read last three news articles. What is news worthy in trade groups?
- Is the customers’ market up, down, or flat?
- What are the future projections for this market?
- How is this customers market segment performing for your company?
- Is this customer’s sales performing at the industry average, below, or above and why?
- Have competitors introduced any new products or programs in the last six months?
- Prepare two to three questions that illustrate you know the buyers’ industry, what is happening and can be used to build trust.
- Is their industry consolidating or highly fragmented?
- What other companies like yours also sell this account?
- What are their strengths?
- What are their weaknesses?
- What are your competitors’ value propositions?
- Do any of your other customers also use these competitors and if so what have they shared with you?
- Visit competitor(s) web sites, what is new?
- How do your competitors market their products and sell their products?
- Know your competitor price strategy.
- Does the competitor provide products you do not?
- Do you have unique and or patented products your competitors do not offer?
- What is your competitor’s service history compared to yours?
- What are your competitors shipping and delivery policies?
- Why are you meeting with this account?
- Why did the buyer agree to meet you?
- What is the buyer’s expectation for this meeting?
- Is meeting with the account in person the best form of communication based on your objectives?
- What sales tools will you need to be successful?
- Will you require any video or computer presentations?
- Will you require access to the Internet? If so bring a device to give you access in the event the company cannot allow you to access their connection.
- What is your value proposition? Answer the question: Why your company?…and or your product?
- Who are your competitors at this customer and what are the strengths of your competitors and their products?
- What are the perceived weaknesses of your competitors’ products?
- What case studies should you bring to support this sale?
- What STAR stories will you share in your presentation to build trust?
- What will you leave with the buyer?
- How many copies will they need for other influencers in their company?
- What is your buyers buying process?
- What criteria must your buyer have from you to make a buying decision?
- What does this account, this buyer’s journey look like?
- What are your 2-5 challenger questions for this meeting?
- How will you judge if this meeting was a success?
- What are typically next steps in the follow up process you can offer proactively in this meeting?
I hear some of you saying…
“but mark that’s a lot of information to have before we meet with someone! On a normal trip I can meet with up to 8-10 customers…do you expect me to have all of the above for each meeting?”
My answer is YES!!!
The markets we serve are dynamic and competitive pressure is only growing. In your buyer’s world they too are experiencing pressure and demands on their time. Buyers want to meet with salespeople who do their homework and understand their account, and their markets and any challenges they may be facing. Buyers are hungry for authentic salespeople who want to understand and help buyers and their companies solve urgent market problems.
The days of …Hi how are ya meetings …are over!
The days of just dropping buy, or my personal favorite…. buying two dozen donuts are over!
…“But Mark I want to build my relationship with this buyer….”
Then do your research prior to your buyer meeting and demonstrate the following:
You know the buyer and have an interest in helping them
You know the industry and share how you help buyers like them
You understand your competitors
You know the buying journey
You know the criteria your buyers must have today to make a buying decision
You understand your products and services and the problems they solve
You build trust with buyers by being prepared
Doing your pre-flight checklist before each buyer meeting will insure a safe buying journey and help you land are your desired goals.
Are your salespeople prepared to meet with your buyers?
What is your cost of sale today?
Do you believe having a pre-call checklist can improve your sales cost as a percent of sales?
Does your team have a pre=call checklist?
How often are your salespeople prepared for each buyer meeting?
Have you experienced a buyer meeting that took a nosedive because your salesperson was not prepared?
Below are some great articles on preparing for a sales call.
Pre-call planning the forgotten step https://www.customercentric.com/news-and-resources/articles/pre-call-planning
4 tips for effective pre-call sales planning https://www.jillkonrath.com/sales-blog/bid/130501/4-Tips-for-Effective-Pre-Call-Sales-Planning
7 steps to ace pre-call sales planning https://www.jillkonrath.com/sales-blog/bid/130501/4-Tips-for-Effective-Pre-Call-Sales-Planning
Pre-call planning: It’s more than just research http://www.sellingpower.com/content/article/?a=2847/pre-call-planning-it-s-more-than-just-research
Finally–a Sales Pre-call Checklist That Will Help Your Opportunities Soar! http://customerthink.com/finally_a_sales_pre_call_checklist_that_will_help_your_opportunities_soar/
Three Steps to better Pre-call Planning http://www.sellingpower.com/content/article/?a=1458/three-steps-to-better-pre-call-planning
How to prepare for a winning sales negotiation https://www.salesreadinessgroup.com/blog/how-to-prepare-for-a-winning-sales-negotiation
Preparation and Sales Success http://blog.anthonycoletraining.com/Sales-Training-Sales-Brew/bid/30683/Preparation-and-Sales-Success
Pre-call planning strategy checklist http://www.mentoru.com/sanfilippo/pre-callplanningstrategy.pdf
8 Steps to successful sales call https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/207016
Develop your companies’ pre-sales call checklist and watch your sales and profits soar!