There is an old saying, “If you fail to plan then you plan to fail.” In the world of complex sales (the stakes are high), preparation is foundational to every phase of your sales process. I would argue it is most critical during the initial phase or what we call Discovery. A trend that emphasizes this point comes from the growing expectations across all industries. Customers all less willing to take their valuable time to educate you on their industry and the basics about their company. You need to come prepared.

So, what can you do to prepare for an initial call on a suspect, prospect or when positioning something new to an existing customer?

  1. We believe the starting point is comparing or aligning this account to the characteristics of an ideal customer. Is there actually a fit? Good to have some idea before a bunch of time is invested. Size, geography, industry vertical and other factors may come from marketing to help segment and target. Go to another level. What are the more industry specific characteristics that you use to predict fit? Vulnerable competitor is the incumbent? Contract expiring in the next 12 months? Proven success with similar companies? These factors are potential predictors of success.

  2. What do we know about the suspect? If they are public, there will be plenty of available information from varied sources, but start with the MD&A from the annual report. You will get their Goals and Strategy with a lead in to the results trends in the financial statements. How does this translate into their priorities, critical projects and potential changes in their structure? This will require conversation and some espionage to understand what is driving their behaviors and where they feel pressure.

  3. What do you know about the external factors and trends that could impact the suspect? Industry knowledge is an imperative, along with understanding how macro economic shifts impact the sector and the suspect. What about their competitive environment, their suppliers or things like M&A or new market entrants that could impact their world?

  4. Who is your target within the suspect account based on where you believe you create value? We encourage you to think broader. If you only sell to IT because you think you sell an IT solution, then you will get stuck in IT and will be commoditized. You solve problems with your solutions. Where does the problem show up in the organization and who does it really impact? It may not be where you are traditionally making calls. If you can identify roles and ultimately people, then the next question is who knows the people. Between LinkedIn and other social tools, you can figure out who on your team or in network may be able to make a warm introduction for you.

  5. Preparing the Pitch. Our next Blog is on this topic. Stay tuned…….



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