If you have been in sales any amount of time, you undoubtedly have suffered through more sales training than you can remember. You have been trained on products, sales methodology, do’s and don’ts, presentation skills, and objection handling ad nauseum. You leave, brain saturated, excited to take on the world and put your new skills to work. Unfortunately, you will be lucky, even with your best note taking skills and an amazing memory, to retain 15% of what you heard.
Every now and then a real golden nugget falls in your lap and gets imprinted on your brain causing a shift. Not a seismic shift, if you have been doing this successfully for a while, but enough to make a direct impact on success. For me, one of those moments came after my startup was acquired by BMC Software and I was at my first training. The trainer was discussing fatigue that executives experience sitting through sales calls with vendor after vendor telling them all about how wonderful their product is, while failing to grasp the executive’s world.
We sales people love to show up and show off all our knowledge about our cool technology. Then we grow up and learn to do some proper discovery, learning what is important to our customers before we spout off all our great knowledge. For me, 14 words changed this dynamic, and shifted how I prepared for meetings. The best part was, this added at most, 15 minutes to my prep time.
These 14 words were the biggest complaint executives had about sales people:
“You don’t know me. You don’t know my company. You don’t know my industry.”
That’s it! The keys to the kingdom! So, what do we do with them?...
You don’t know me. It can be a simple quick LinkedIn search to see how they described their role, where else they worked, how long they have been there, where they went to school, any connections you have in common and if they published on any topics. You can take it further and add twitter to the mix, see what they tweet about and who they follow and retweet. You can take it a step deeper and check Instagram and FB to see if you have any personal connections, or hobbies in common. Remember that walk from the lobby to the meeting room, if escorted by your prospect, is a key opportunity to loosen things up with conversation on a personal topic, “Hey I see you went to USC! Did you see the game this weekend?”
You don’t know my business. First and foremost, always, always, google the company and look under the news tab. I got caught once when I was put on a call by inside sales and had no idea the company was just purchased. Shame on me for not doing the minimum and googling the company first! If they are a public company you should be automatically downloading their 10K. In time, you learn to scroll through it in less than 5 minutes, learning about their goals and challenges to help fine tune your message. These documents are detailed and usually indexed to make it fast and easy to get to the sections that are most relevant.
You don’t know my industry. Again, Google is your friend. Google: trends in the industry, industry leaders and challenges, top experts, predictions for the industry. Google to find their competitors. Now you can be a knowledgeable advisor and partner, not just a sales rep.
3 steps, 14 words, 15 minutes are all you need to set yourself apart. Somebody, maybe you, probably worked pretty hard to get that meeting, 15 more minutes and you will stand out from the pack and more importantly add real value to your customer!
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