Friday, August 8, 2014

Selling: It’s More Than Showing Up!
Published: October 3, 2013
Woody Allen said, “80 per cent of success is just showing up.” With tools like the Internet, search engines such as Google, and social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, prospects expect sales people to show up PREPARED! In Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Little Red Book of Sales Answers” he says, “Everything you need to know about a customer has been written by them or about them. And it lives on the Internet. All you have to do is uncover it and use it.”
While it sounds easy, there are practical steps that every sales rep should be taking to do what I categorize as “pre-engaging” the customer. It means that you have to personally take the time to understand a prospect’s business before you try to meet with them. The insight you gather will help you understand how to connect with them efficiently and effectively. Assuming that you have identified a prospect, there are five fundamental steps every sales person needs to take by using the resources available in the “Internet Information Age”.
1. It starts with business acumen. Business acumen means that you have taken the time to understand the customer’s business, their challenges, and how their company makes money. It includes a thorough understanding of what drives a prospect’s profitability and an overall big picture understanding of their business, market, and key interrelationships. You need to take the time to “research” the industry. If you are calling on an educational institute start with Google and search for “Education industry trends 2013”. It will point you to critical trends as well as familiarize you with vocabulary, case studies, and subject matter experts. Sales people can also leverage active LinkedIn discussion groups to understand the issues confronting the market segment. As an example, there are active groups in the education market ranging from Higher Education Management to Technology in Education (Figure1).
Figure 1: Example of LinkedIn Search for Groups Focused on Education
2. Visit the prospective customer’s website. Review the “About” section of a prospective customer’s website to learn what the company or institution says about itself. Take the time to review the site for management biographies (this insures you are calling on the right decision maker), press releases, products and services, and sales distribution models. A thorough review of a prospect’s website should provide you with information about what they sell, who they sell to, how they sell, their value proposition, target markets, and how they communicate to their prospects.
3. Understand the company’s financials. Before making a sales call on a firm, you want to understand the prospect’s financial health. There are a number of resources available including Dun and Bradstreet Reports, Hoovers (, government financial filings (, and Yahoo Finance ( Understanding their financial health may point you to areas where you can help them. Your research will uncover if:
  • Sales are up, flat, or down
  • Sales are good, but not increasing
  • There are sales lost to lower priced competitors
  • Profit margins are down while revenues are up
4. Research the target executive. There has never been a better tool to understand your prospect base than LinkedIn. With more than 200 million members, there will be someone in your prospect account on LinkedIn. Reviewing a prospect’s LinkedIn profile will identify work history and experience, potential events that the executive participates in, business affiliations, and personal interests. You also have the ability to explore the prospect’s connections and see if there is a mutual colleague that could make an introduction. You should also “Google” the name of the person you are meeting with. Scan search results for articles that highlight areas of expertise, key programs, charities, and causes.
5. Prepare, prioritize, and plan. Armed with a thorough understanding of a prospective customer’s business, you should be able to align your solutions and services with the prospect’s pain points. Prepared sellers have a better chance of getting the information and commitments they need to create, qualify, and advance opportunities. Lay out clear objectives for the initial contact so that you can move the sales process forward.
The Bottom Line

That first sales call is a make-or-break moment that only happens once, so you need to give it your best. Showing up isn’t enough. If you take the “showing up” approach without preparation in most business development situations, you'll lose more than your share of sales that you should have won. Sales success today requires diving more deeply into company history and industry trends, so you can carry on a conversation that builds trust — and ultimately, new business.

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