Preparation can make all the difference between “No, thanks,” and “Let’s talk next Tuesday.” Not only do you differentiate yourself when you prepare for prospecting, but preparation can increase your confidence level, hone your message, and provide a roadmap for the conversation.
At Richardson, we consider preparation so important that we’ve created a Preparation Model that can be applied from prospecting through sales calls and customer meetings. The model is based on three components of preparation: strategic, customer, and technical.
Strategic Prospecting Preparation
Consider the prospect’s sales cycle and where it currently stands. Identify your strategic objective for the call or meeting, and visualize how the call will proceed. Think about how you will open and what questions you will ask. Anticipate responses and objections. Have what I like to call a concrete hypothesis — an idea or solution — to engage the prospect and continue the conversation.
Customer Prospecting Preparation
What is the prospect organization trying to achieve? Has it communicated details of its strategic plan in its annual reports or on its website? What is the decision-making process within the company? The goal in answering these questions is to get a better understanding of the prospect and its plans for the future so you can develop a sales strategy and solution. Extend your research to include key leaders — What are their backgrounds? Where have they worked before? Has your organization ever done business with their previous companies? Use social networking sites to find out about the people you will be contacting, and look to see if there might be a connection to or an awareness of your organization.
Technical Prospecting Preparation
Prioritize and tailor the features and benefits you will present to address specific needs you have identified in your research. Gather relevant industry and market information. Identify internal resources you can leverage in preparing for calls; note any implementation issues that are likely to arise; and plan how you will respond to objections and competitive pressures.
Preparation takes discipline. The more attention you pay to researching each of these components, the better equipped you will be once you initiate contact. What you’re trying to do with preparation is identify and align the prospect’s perceived needs with a differentiated solution from your organization.
Remember, your prospects are also being prospected by your competitors. The person you want to connect with could be contacted many times a day by sellers offering one thing or another. For you to stand out, you really need to understand what the prospect is going through and how your product or service can make an impact. You need to grab the person’s attention and, essentially, earn the right to have a meeting or a conversation with him/her.
But before you take that next step and actually contact the prospect you have identified in your research, there’s one more thing you have to do — you have to develop a prospecting plan. I will share a framework for this plan in my next blog post.