Last week I asked a CEO what he wants from a salesperson when they call on him. He said that there are three things he expects to hear:
2. A prepared interview process
3. Creative ideas to save money or improve his organization
If you really want to have better interviews with clients and distributors, it is important for you to prepare properly for those meetings and using these three expectations can be a good guide for you.
Product, Industry and Company Knowledge
In order to be a sales leader you must be a student of your business. If your company is not providing you with training regarding your own product or services, then you ought to make sure that you are learning it on your own. And you must know not only your offering, but you competitor’s as well – all of them. How does your offering compare in features and in price? What is your value proposition? Is your company cutting edge or a technology follower? How about price? Are you the highest priced, the lowest, or is it a value leader? What else does your company offer your customers in addition to the product? Is it service or prestige?
Then when you get product figured out, you’ve got to make sure that you understand the industry category in which you sell. Who are the other players and influencers? Are there government entities that affect the need for your product or service? What legal standards come in to play for the manufacturers and users of you product? As with product knowledge, industry information is changing weekly.
Finally, what do you know about the companies and leaders that you are visiting today? How is the organization structured? What is the leadership team and where does your prospect fall on the org chart? How long have they been with the organization and where were they before this? What does the organization you are visiting do and who are their key customers? Do you already have a relationship with anyone there that can be leveraged? Who are they already getting your product or service from? Are they happy with your competitor’s value offering? These are all factors that you must study and consider before stepping foot into that high level prospect’s office.
A Prepared Interview Process
If you’ve considered the company issues outlined above, you have started to prepare for the interview. But there is more that needs to be done in order to maximize the selling opportunity.
1. Know Your Objective – What is it that you want to accomplish during this interview? Do you want to learn more about the client’s needs and how they are currently dealing with them? Do you want to present a solution? Are you hoping to close the deal? Depending on where you are in the sales process, you should know your objective and design the process to achieve it.
2. Formulate Your Questions – Most salespeople go into an interview with a general idea of what they want to know, but few take the time to write out their questions and arrange them in a logical order. Here are the advantages that will accrue to you if you were to do that:
– You will lead the conversation with more confidence
– The customer will talk more and you will learn more
– You will ask open ended questions instead of yes/no questions
– You will have more opportunity to think about the client’s answers
3. Anticipate Their Objections – If there is one thing that prospects are good at, it is putting objections or barriers in the way of our making the sale. Even if the purchase is in their best interest, clients will hesitate and try to find reasons to delay the decision. Here are some of the most common:
– You are more expensive than the competition.
– We don’t have it in our budget.
– I can’t authorize this.
– Let me think about it.
If you can’t deal with these and other objections you will find it difficult to close the deal. We’ll have to deal with the details of this in another article.
Creative Ideas to Save Money or Improve the Organization
What is it that you are bringing to the table? Not just a common solution, but something that will cause the prospect to rethink their current situation. To find these ideas, you must look beyond the surface product features and benefit and dive into your company’s value proposition. What is unique about the way you do business at a core level and how will it revolutionize the client’s business? It is these ideas that will be welcomed in the C Suite of any organization.
It all sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, it is! And it is what sales professionals do to ensure the success of a sales call.
By Bill Hellkamp, REACH Development Systems