After you have made hundreds or thousands of sales calls, you can become so comfortable that you stop preparing for a sales meeting. Not preparing is a mistake, no matter how long you have been in sales or how many calls you’ve made.
Meetings are too valuable not to prepare for, whether they are first meetings or later sales calls.
By preparing for a sales call and doing the reading and research, you can better create value for your contacts and their stakeholders. Reading helps you acquire information and transmit it to your contacts. You’ll also have better questions that allow you to lead the conversation and help your prospects to learn something important. This differentiates you from your competitors.
What follows here is a list of actions that will help you prepare for a sales call.
Research the Client’s Company
I once watched a salesperson open a first meeting by asking the question, “What does your company do?” It was a short meeting. You never want to ask a question that you could easily find by reading the company’s website.
You want to know more than what the company does. You can read the “about” page to learn about what the company does. This might also help you discern how they believe they are different and better than their competitors. Once you know what the company does, you can look at the companies in the same industry to research the problems those companies had before they became your company’s client.
Research the Client’s Industry
Every company has a set of trends or factors that create headwinds, the problems and challenges that make things difficult. They also have tailwinds, the opportunities available to them.
If you practice a legacy approach to sales, you might be required to ask your client about their problems and their pain points. This can make it seem like you know too little about their company and industry to consider you as a potential supplier.
Those who practice a modern sales approach will have looked at their existing clients and prepared a set of insights that proves they know about their clients’ problems and pain points without having to ask directly for that information.
Most salespeople are not interested in doing this work, even if it would improve the value they create in the sales conversation.
Research the Contacts and Stakeholders
Start by going to LinkedIn and downloading your contact’s PDF profile. Most of the time, the person wrote the profile themselves. This is what they want people to know about them. You want to do this for every person attending the meeting.
This can help you with rapport, but that isn’t the reason to research. You do this so you can look at their background, the prior roles they held, and what experience they have had. Because you get so little time with contacts and stakeholders, you must make the most of it. Few contacts want to spend time on rapport building instead of the meeting agenda.
By getting a sense of the people you are meeting with, you can better gauge what they might know and where they might need more education. If you care about creating value, this can help.
Building a List of Questions
By doing the work to prepare for a meeting, build a list of questions. You can improve your ability to ask powerful questions by designing them after your research. Otherwise, your questions will likely sound like your competitors’.
By doing the work here, you can ask your contacts better questions about their problems. You can also ask questions that cause them to learn something about the root cause of their problems and the impacts on their business.
I always list the questions I want to be sure to ask. In one pursuit, the list of questions was more than a full page. I didn’t expect to ask every question, but I like the confidence that comes from having the questions as a guide. When a contact answers a question, I can ask the next best one on my list or one I recognize will be helpful.
What I Want to Share
When I meet with contacts, I never mention my company’s name. I never talk about our solutions. I never try to be credible by talking about my clients. Instead, I use this research to build a list of things I believe will create value for the client.
Those of you who know about the executive briefing will know that it is the first set of insights I share in a meeting. By using an executive briefing, you can better position yourself as an authority and an expert. The insights you include allow you to pivot to other conversations that create value for your contacts.
You can improve your performance and your client’s sales experience by making a list of what you want to share.
How to Prepare for a Sales Call
The average salesperson won’t take the time to do this work. The professional person practicing their craft won’t even consider meeting with a prospective client without having done this work.
Even if you miss something in preparing for a meeting with a contact and their stakeholders, you will be better prepared for the meeting and ready to create value in the sales conversation. You will also feel more confident when you know who you are meeting with, what their company does, and what’s going on in their industry.
Even if you don’t ask every question or share the things you believe are helpful for your client, you will improve the value of the meeting for your client, something that will make the meeting for you. It’s easier to buy from someone who is a detail-oriented professional with the ability to enable a decision to change and improve the client’s business.
This is one way you can do good work.