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Tennessean Column- Sunday, November 16th

Posted on: November 19

Author: Tom Black
Tennessean Column- Sunday, November 16th

Do Your Homework Before the Sales Call

Tom Peters, while at McKinsey and Company, said, “we prepared one hour for each one minute of anticipated meeting time with a prospect” (30-minute meeting, 30 hours of preparation).

Today, sales people have more opportunity than ever to prepare for their sales calls. Yet over and over, I see sales people arrive on the call without as much preparation as possible. Technology, social media and the glut of general information available allows us to be very prepared for every call.

When we are calling on a new prospect, we should know everything we possibly can. You never know when some bit of information will help you communicate more effectively.

Many companies I have been associated with lately have had a great deal of success with LinkedIn. This source gives you information about your prospect, their co-workers, their supervisors, their circle of influence and even details of your prospect’s performance. If you are not using LinkedIn, you are still living in the 20th century.

Of course, it goes without saying you should use Facebook and Google. We make it a policy to Google search every prospect before we go on the call. Recently, I was shocked when a sales person called on me and knew nothing about me and very little about my company.

Facebook and Google can give you details of a prospect’s personal life and professional information. You also can get business information by Googling the company. Every bit of information is helpful.

It is hard to believe sales people go on calls without even looking at the prospect’s website? The website should be the first stop in your information-gathering journey. It is not a bad idea to print a few pages from the website and also look at your prospect’s competitors’ websites. Knowing these things will set you apart from most other sales people.

Some other ideas are to look at industry websites, association websites and general information sites like Hoovers. Hoovers gives you proprietary company profiles and industry information. Another source is Dunn & Bradstreet, which offers credit and vendor information that can be helpful. Finally, try Standard & Poor’s if the company you are calling on is public.

Now, you have all this information, how do you use it?

I may be old-fashioned, but I still keep a paper file on each prospect as I begin the sales process. I am informed and it is easy to start a conversation about their business. I dare say, if you do your homework, you will know more than some of your prospect’s employees do about their company.

Furthermore, if you believe (as I do) that a salesperson’s primary job is to find or create a need then this goes a long way toward helping you find or create a need. It also allows you to separate yourself from other sales people that do not do their homework. We are all looking for ways to look better than our competition. This preparation allows us to show our prospect we are serious about their business.

Remember, the common denominator of success. “Successful people form the habit of doing the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do or know how to do.”

Now, you know how. 

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