One of the consistent failures I observe in my practice is an account rep’s unwillingness to spend quality time preparing for a sales call. Deep dive preparation for any sales encounter is the one thing within a sales professional’s role that will increase self-confidence, significantly decrease the chances for failure and demonstrate to your prospects that you’re serious about your commitment to them and their business. Deep dive preparation may seem daunting to many, and it may seem like a waste of time to others, but I’ve developed a relatively concise and easy-to-follow format that has become a valuable tool to just about every client I encounter.
Sound like a lot more work than you’re used to? Not sure how to proceed? I’ve created a worksheet for this process that can be found at: challengercoaching.com/sales-call-prep-sheet/. Download the template and gain access to a document I’ve used for years to prepare sales managers and sales representatives for meetings. I’m confident that if you complete the template, you will be more prepared than you’ve ever been for any sales meeting.
It starts with setting the appointment and how you position yourself, your company and your understanding of your prospect’s business and strategic objectives. Start with developing a keen understanding of the person, and the specific values that he or she embodies. The deeper your understanding of what makes your prospect tick, the easier it will be to tailor your message to strike his or her ”decision making chords’’ more profoundly. Dig as deep as you can into a prospective client’s history through LinkedIn, industry journals and other available sources to uncover what’s important to him or her.
Then shape your message to appeal to his or her values. If information is scarce on the prospect, learn as much as you can about the strategic objectives of the position itself. For instance, what’s important to an operations manager is different than what is significant to an office manager. Next tailor your value proposition to ensure that it focuses on how it will promote your prospect’s success and what specific results your product or service will deliver.
Once you’ve obtained the appointment is when the meeting preparation begins. Get the names and titles of every person attending the meeting. Understand their role and research them just like you did for the original targeted prospect. Dig deep into the company, what challenges are they currently facing? Imagine the instant credibility you’ll enjoy when you demonstrate a deep understanding of the critical issues currently facing the prospect and his or her organization.
Now create and distribute your PAL, which is your agenda for the meeting. Your PAL consists of the meeting’s Purpose, Agenda, and Length or Location of the meeting. Always include the PAL in your meeting maker so that every attendee receives a copy at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
As the meeting approaches, draft your introductory statement. Most reps start a meeting by introducing everyone. However, a well-crafted introductory statement that outlines the reason for the meeting, your understanding of the challenges facing the prospect’s organization, the purpose for the meeting and the projected outcomes is the most effective way to begin. The introductory statement should not be more than three to four sentences and it should precede the introductions.
Next consider the questions your prospects will ask with particular focus on the toughest ones. Take the time to draft and practice your answers. What are some surprises that might arise? How will you address and handle them? It’s worth thinking about this prior to the meeting; I can say this from personal experience.
What are some “ask backs?” These are the questions you can ask your prospect if he or she is asking for something from you. Some things you can ask for include access to other areas or executives within the organization, testimonials about your service or product and prospect referrals. The beauty of the ask back is that you may already be prepared to say yes to his or her request, but why not ask for something that you want? There is no better time than at that moment. Essentially, it allows you to get something when the client asks for something and it also sets the tone and a clear message that you’re a solid negotiator.
As you follow your agenda and run the meeting, ensure that you capture all of the next steps and who is responsible for completing them. End the meeting by recounting each task; stating who is accountable for its completion and by when they agree it will be completed. Check for understanding and gain acceptance from all concerned.
Prior to the appointment, list your team’s assigned roles. Do they have a tangible role and are all parties clear on what their roles and assignments are for this meeting? If there is no tangible role or assigned reason for their attendance, leave them home.
Preparing for meetings takes time but it is the one element that is 100% within your control to dive as deeply and strategically into the planning and directing of where the sales call should go. If you take control of the meeting from the start, if you’re ready for any surprises in the middle and ensure that you conclude the meeting with specific, timebound, and assigned tasks and hold people accountable to them, your results will skyrocket. It’s a promise.