“Every battle is won before it is fought.” – Sun Tzu
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu
There are many lessons to be gained from Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese war general, which we can apply to many scenarios today. The above quote perfectly summarises the ideal mindset of a modern salesperson.
It is almost unthinkable for, any experienced salesperson, to go into a sales meeting or pitch, without preparing to some extent. What I want to explore today is how to prepare yourself for success every time, by improving the preparation you do and showing why it is so important to do so.
This is the kind of preparation that you do just before meeting prospects. It is what you may call, your “game plan”. It can be broken down into the following steps:
Your Meeting Objectives
Before your meeting, your salespeople will need to prepare a set of objectives. These will be much easier to put together if you have a clearly outlined sales process strategy, so you will be able to run through this and create objectives based on each step of the process.
- Prospect commits to conducting a survey
- Prospect commits to attending a demonstration
- Prospect commits to getting you an appointment with another key person
- Prospect grants you access to important information
- Prospect agrees to a trial of your product/ service
The idea should be to gain a level of commitment from the prospect so that there is progress forward in the sales process.
Follow a specific sales process
Below is a very basic sales process outline:
Without a process like this, you will end up simply presenting to the prospect. Then if the solution isn’t to their taste, or not exactly targeted to their needs, you will end up having to come back and present again.
You need to stop presenting in your meetings. When you change your meeting objectives, you will end up progressing through your process, instead of hitting your head against a brick wall every time.
We wrote about taking the customer on a journey in a previous article here.
Messages to emphasise relevance
Relevance is a crucial aspect because if they don’t see your solution as relevant to them, or you cannot appropriately portray this, it will be very difficult to progress things. Here are some example questions, that you can work into your process, which can help to emphasise relevance to your prospect.
- How do you usually win with this segment/ customer type?
- What is your competitive edge in this segment?
- What would be your key messages? Why?
- What are you going to emphasise during the meeting?
- What are the smart questions that you are planning to ask?
- What are the common objections and concerns? How can you pre-empt those?
- What are the current challenges/ trends facing this segment? How can you show that you are “an expert”? What success stories can you use?
Their Decision-Making Process
Often, especially when dealing with B2B, there are going to be multiple stakeholders in any deal or decision-making process.
You need to understand where they are in this process and who those people are, as this makes things more complex. If you don’t have full clarity on this, it will be near impossible to influence the decision-making process.
You need to work through the following points and make sure to find an answer to each before your sales meeting:
- Where are they in the decision? How can you find out?
- What questions will help you find out their decision-making process? Where does the prospect sit in the Decision-Making Unit (DMU)?
- How are you going to personalise the message to the prospect’s level & role in the DMU?
- Who else is involved? Do I have access to the right people? How can I gain access?
- Who are your supporters? Who are not? How can you handle that?
Fit Assessment vs. Their Needs
Next, you need to assess how your solution meets their needs and understand the different types of needs in play:
Take advantage of opportunities:
- Increase sales
- Improve quality
- Gain a competitive advantage
- Increase efficiency of operations
Solve problem/ challenge facing the company:
- Material or component shortages
- Old problematic equipment
- Poorly performing suppliers
- Higher maintenance cost
- Cheaper alternative/ competitor
- Achievement, success
- More authority
- More income
- More job security, less risk
- More responsibility, higher position
- Build relationships
- Showing leadership
- Having more influence
- Relaxed, more leisure time
These needs are not always at the same level, it could be that you meet some of their business needs but don’t address their professional needs, so you need to find a way to address each equally.
Personalised Approach & Levers
The last step is to leverage certain opportunities and personalise your approach to each meeting.
The following questions will help you in seeking the best way to do this:
- How can you leverage their immediate challenges, opportunities or strategies or plans?
- How can you connect with them on a personal level?
- How are you going to evaluate their experience?
- What objections or concerns are they expected to have? How can you handle those?
- How are you going to tailor your approach to their DISC Profile? What are the Dos and Don’ts? What communication style? How detailed?
- What should you take to the meeting (supporting material, drawing, samples, brochure, note pad …. etc)? Any other logistics?
You can also recap our article on building rapport in sales here. As well as the perfect technique for closing your sale every time.
The second type of preparation that needs to be done is the ongoing type of preparation, that you build up as part of your “knowledge bank”. You should be able to pull from this to add value to any meeting going forward but it is not something that happens overnight, it will be added over time, as you learn your product, your avatar and your process.
Re-cap everything you need to know about building and understanding your target avatar here.
Keeping your knowledge up-to-date
Over time, it is natural that, as we become more experienced and successful as a business, we become less externally focused and switch to a more internal focus.
In the beginning, you needed to have perfect awareness of how your solution applies to your target avatar and how you can successfully sell it to them. Once this has been set, you might find that people get fixed on the way that worked initially and don’t actively try to keep themselves up-to-date with the market.
A prominent part of this is to understand the shifting buying motives.
The following points will help you to understand how externally based your knowledge is, or vice-versa. You should try rating yourself out of 5 on each of these.
- Their PRODUCTS & SERVICES: What they do for LIFE (professionally or personally) in the case of B2C?
- Their CUSTOMERS: Who is important to them (professionally or personally) in the case of B2C?
- Current TRENDS & DRIVERS: Current challenges, changes and pressures in their industry for B2B. In their speciality/ profession/community /life in the case of B2C.
- How they OPERATE: The main FLOW OF ACTIVITIES that make them produce what they produce as a business or a person (B2B vs. B2C) – including people involved and decision making.
- Current DBMs: Dominant Buying Motives are what actually make them take a buying action for your products/ services.
- Current perception of VALUE: This can be against any alternative, in their consideration. It keeps changing due to new competitors or alternatives.
- Channels, sources and people for INFORMATION that matters: That influence them and shape their views or attitude.
The following are best practice recommendations to help address the above:
Join their community and attend their major events: Business, professional and personal; subscriptions, professional bodies, exhibitions, social clubs or community activity.
Encourage feedback and engage in two-way communication: Blogs, newsletters, social media, annual conferences etc. Get feedback & insights from your team
Read what they read – be interested in their news.
Talk to previous and angry customers: They usually give a different perspective and overcome your confirmation bias.
Initiate secondary or primary research: Desk research or survey.
Use experts: Find a source of up-to-date knowledge and help you recognise areas for improvement.
Read more about how we can help you here in our article on what you can expect from a business growth consultant.
We have covered a vast amount of ground this week, so it is understandable if you have some questions. Should you wish to reach out to us at all, please feel free to get in touch below and we would be more than happy to discuss this or any other area of concern for you or your business.