Life as a sales professional is not easy and it gets tougher every day. That’s why every customer meeting is so precious and the opportunity cost of mismanaging a meeting is so high. Believe me, I know because I’ve mismanaged my fair share. But all is not lost. Here are a few thoughts about how to be better prepared; how to set yourself apart from your competition (and leave those mouth breathers in the dust). A quick (I promise) history lesson first.
Sales used to hold all of the cards when it came to information about a company, products, and competitors. That gave us all the leverage we needed when it came to getting a meeting. How else could customers make informed decisions if they didn’t sit down with vendors? But times have changed. Your buyer is now driving the bus. Everything is online and customers know it. Research shows 57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier— before they even consider a meeting with me, a sales professional.
As a result, the bar has been raised for sales professionals everywhere. A wise man once told me, we can’t just show up and regurgitate what we know. We need to have a plan. Anyone who has carried a bag (and many who haven’t) know what this means. Study your customers, contacts, history, products, competition, and industry news. If you’re really sharp, you’ll even study your customers’ customers (another piece of advice from a different wise man). But who has the time for all that? We’re busy!
As much as we might not want to admit it — anything less is now uncivilized. Anything less is now a recipe for failure. It could mean a lost deal, pushed deal, or a meeting that never becomes an opportunity in the first place. So what can you do about it?
Prepare. Nail your agenda. Follow up fast. It’s all common sense, but not necessarily common practice. Everyone has a unique version of failure. Here’s mine — taken from a few missteps I know all too well:
1. Failing to read up on my customer. What’s the latest news about the company, partnerships, new products, or earnings calls? These very headlines could accelerate or derail your deal (or at least make you look like you’re asleep at the wheel if you didn’t know about something important). You can’t afford to let that happen to you.
2. Neglecting to review my past interactions. Meetings, email communications, quotes, buying history, and more can be powerful reminders. Maybe you missed a to-do, opportunity for an upsell, or there’s a customer service issue that you need to address.
3. Leaving my team in the dark. Nothing looks worse than a poorly coordinated selling team.
4. Forgetting to brush up on the competition. You want to know if your positioning is powerful and relevant, and you’ll probably only get one shot so you better know what your competitors are promising.
5. Follow up slips between the cracks. The customer might be expecting a thank you note, product brief, or something more complicated like a proposal or proof of concept. Just don’t let it slip between the cracks.
6. Under leveraging my selling team. You never know what might have been if you had delegated to your inside sales rep, asked your solutions architect to track down a ticket, engaged the right reseller, or hadn’t forgotten to update your boss. All of these team members are ultimately levers we reps need to use to our advantage.
7. Letting my CRM system grow cobwebs. I get it, nobody loves data entry. But nothing is worse than your boss getting a black eye because you forgot to clean up your forecast. We’ve all been there.
None of this is brain surgery. In fact, you might say it’s common sense. You’re right! But common sense doesn’t always mean common practice. You might have a good excuse for not planning well — you’re on the road, your laptop is out of juice, or you can’t get an Internet connection. But the opportunity cost of not being prepared is so high.
Believe me, I’ve tried everything to make meeting planning a no-brainer. Feedly and Prismatic for my news. Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive for my files. E-mail foldering and tagging. The LinkedIn app. Evernote for all my meeting notes. And on and on. Don’t get me wrong, these apps are great. Tablets and smartphones help. But doing this from the road was still so sufficiently painful in the past that I just skipped it.
What we really need in sales is a personal assistant. Someone who can tell us the news, organize our email, remind us of past meetings, analyze our account relationships, study the histories, and drop all of that off in a customer’s lobby just before that all-important meeting. You’ve got a budget for that, right? I’m sure your boss will understand.
Not typically, which is why I use Clari.
This iPhone/Android app gives you everything you need in the palm of your hand without (ironically) lifting a finger. It delivers and organizes news, emails, attachments, meetings, files, social networks, and CRM data for you by deal. That’s why it is now my go-to app. With just a few taps, I can consult what I need, when I need it. Nothing slips between the cracks. This not only helps me provide more value to my customer (and my customers’ customers), but it helps make sure that I never mismanage a sales meeting again.
Want to see how Clari can help you? I'd love to give you a demo.