By Richard Schroder
Preparation is perhaps the most critical trait of a successful salesperson. Proper preparation positively affects all phases of the sales process and is especially critical to formal sales presentations. Win Loss Analysis research shows that prospects both notice and favor a sales presentation delivered by a salesperson who comes across as well-prepared.
Given the hectic schedules and demands of typical sales jobs, many salespeople are procrastinators who do not prepare well or early enough for meetings. As a result, many salespeople are ignoring a huge opportunity to improve their sales performance and increase their win rates.
Salespeople should prepare early for meetings and presentations. If possible, you should try to finalize logistics and materials for all meetings at least one week in advance. With the “nuts and bolts” settled, your subconscious mind will have an entire week to process and add creative insights into your presentation, making it the best it can be. You should then use the day before your meeting to do your final preparation and get into the right frame of mind for selling.
Early preparation is critical for many reasons:
· Preparing early allows you to anticipate the prospect’s needs. There is a lot that has to happen before an actual sales meeting or presentation takes place: timing, location, attendees, agenda, travel, A/V needs, meeting material preparation, etc. Taking care of the details early frees you up to concentrate on what’s important: your prospect’s needs. Set up the details in advance. The time allotted for anticipating prospect needs often comes last in the chain of preparation. By starting early, you will ensure that you have adequate time to think about the prospect’s needs and identify the finer points that will resonate during the presentation.
· Early preparation allows you to customize your presentation: Preparing early also enables you to deliver a more targeted sales presentation. Win Loss Analysis research teaches us that prospects highly value a customized presentation that addresses their unique needs. In a competitive marketplace, a customized presentation can be a major differentiator among competitors. In revisiting your presentation over time, you will find that each new draft is more focused and more fluidly weaves in your prospect’s specifics. Multiple iterations help perfect the flow of your presentation.
· Early preparation allows you to refine your pitch. When you prepare a week in advance, it gives your mind time to reflect on the subtle details. Personally, I often find three to four new things I can add to a presentation during the week leading up to my pitch. They are frequently simple ideas to incorporate, but I know that I would not have thought of them if I were stressed out and trying to get the main parts of my presentation together the day before. When you prepare and customize your presentation, it forces you to get inside the prospect’s mind and think about ways in which he will use your products and services. This kind of preparation also makes prospects feel important. If you don’t allow your mind the time to relax and get creative about your sales presentation, you won’t come up with the kind of ideas that will win you the business.
Win Loss Analysis research has shown that in most sales situations, prospects choose one firm over another due to only two or three reasons, and it can be even fewer for industries in which the product or service is more of a commodity. In these situations, it is really the finer points of the game that win you the business and early preparation can give you the edge over the competition.
If you think you are at your best under pressure, think again. When you are fully prepared in advance, it allows you to be more relaxed both the day before and the day of the meeting. If you are staying up late the night before the meeting to get everything ready, you will often lose to another salesperson who is both prepared and also getting a good night’s sleep.
Richard Schroder is president of Anova Consulting Group, a leading market research firm focused on Win Loss Analysis