Hi-def Preparation: Change #1 for 2012
There has been an explosion of knowledge. In the new era of selling, knowledge may not be absolutely everything, but it is not far off. The internet, as you know, has radically changed the rules of selling — and the expectations of your customers who are educating themselves, self-diagnosing their problems, and deciding on their alternatives. The product communication role that customers counted on you to fill has been diminished, but that does not turn you into an order taker. On the contrary, their need for help from you to sort through their global alternatives and identify ways to save or make money has never been greater — or more challenging.
The changes in selling are profound and require that sales organizations and salespeople adapt quickly. A major area for adaption is preparation, and, fortunately, the tools to prepare at a hi-def level are at your fingertips.
Hi-def preparation is the equivalent of hi-def TV. It gives you a sharper focus, a clearer picture, and it is pretty much available with a click. And this new level of preparation is the responsibility of your company, most likely your marketing team, and you. Ideally, your marketing organization has stepped up to the plate and is providing support to you with industry knowledge, customer knowledge, success stories by industry and business need, analysis of research, and messaging that will help you differentiate (if not ask for it and continue asking).
But preparation cannot stop there. No matter how much information marketing provides to you, it cannot be at the nuisance or granular level — you need to solve your specific customer’s business problems. Just as marketing is becoming blurred with sales, you must don a marketing cap when you prepare.
Here are some tips to help you conduct high-def preparation to set yourself apart:
Level 1 Preparation — High-def Preparation
With high-def preparation, you will not only strengthen your ability to engage in meaningful conversations with your customers but you will also build your business acumen. You will get smarter and smarter and learn information that will help you enter your customer’s buying cycle earlier — a task that has become harder and harder to achieve.
The key is to learn from your customers and leverage social media. Create a presence in and learn from the communities that your industries and customers inhabit. Learn about their issues and challenges and the solutions they are seeking or should be seeking.
Make the search engine your best friend. Look into groups such as Google Groups and LinkedIn Groups. Go to Facebook to get personal insights. Keep abreast of and participate, as your sales organization permits, in community or industry discussions. Read relevant articles. Look up SIC codes. Understand where the companies you are pursuing stand and figure out if the industries are in a growth mode, etc.
Scrub your customers’ and competitors’ websites to understand their visions, products, and their goals for being in the marketplace.
Hi-def preparation is one of the essentials of the new selling. Without it, you will be behind your customers and best-in-class competitors. Use your knowledge to develop insights and a point of view and maximize the knowledge your marketing team provides to you.Level 2 Preparation — Call Preparation
Use the information from your research to elevate your level of call preparation. Add to your traditional preparation by developing a perspective and point of view. Prepare how you will position your insights. Develop pointed questions to probe the insights and understand where your customer is in the buying cycle and which competitors are in the picture. Your knowledge will help you ask very smart and focused questions rather than relying on a longer, less focused list of questions you may have prepared/asked in the past.
The level of risk aversion among your clients is high, and this means you must also don a financial cap. Meet with your finance people to discuss the impact of your recommendation on the customer’s bottom line to avoid disappointment at the end of the deal. Up to 50% of deals predicted to close in 2011 failed to close, often because seniors nixed the deal at the twelfth hour because they didn’t see compelling bottom-line impact and therefore decided the change was not worth it.
That knowledge is power is an old saying. The knowledge tools available to all of us today to build our knowledge are equally powerful. Grab hold of the power and start using them today.
Please share with me know how you are preparing differently for your client conversations — and how prepared your customers are compared to the past. Thank you, Linda Linda@lindarichardson.com