Wake Up Salespeople and do Your Homework!
The number of senior salespeople who fail to research their prospects in advance of a sales meeting is shocking.
Forrester *research has shown that while 88% of sales executives are knowledgeable about their own products, only 24% of them understand their customer’s business and the challenges they face.
The research shows that a mere 6% of salespeople are genuinely interested in partnering with their customers to make sure their business initiative is successful. It is only these people who make an effort to understand their challenges and offer suggestions, even if they don’t sell the solution, who will solve the problem.
When in sales meetings, the research shows that just 41% of sales executives listen for key words or phrases that they can use when presenting their solution. This is borne out by our own surveys at Youd Andrews, where interviews with CxOs (Senior Executives) identified the following priorities when dealing with sales executives, who should:
- Understand the prospective client both as a business and as people – they should know their prospect’s vision, where they are now, where they aspire to be and in what timeframe – identifying their capability gap
- Socialise their proposition to all interested stakeholders before the decision phase. They will need a sponsor to take them to the board and justify why this is a worthy proposition. They also, therefore, need to understand how decisions are made and justified. An understanding of ROI on smaller deals and return on capital employed on larger deals is vital.
It is now much easier to leverage the wealth of information available online to gather information about prospective customers. Study their website in depth; find the senior executives on LinkedIn and read their profiles. It is now also possible to see what other people – including their clients – are saying about your prospect, through a number of social media platforms.
It is also essential not to treat all potential clients the same or assume that they are struggling with the same issues. Effective salespeople find out the specifics about the companies they are speaking to, to show that they really understand their issues and that they have a tailored solution for their challenges.
People buy on emotion, not due to rational decisions. The only way to encourage a prospect to change their buying habits is to change their behavior. This can only be done by changing their emotions – by generating fear, doubt and greed. It is thus the job of the sales person to take the corporate marketing materials they are given, which have been created by someone who does not actually have to use it for selling, and use it to create emotions.
Asking challenging situational questions about the prospect’s business, the state of the industry and their competitors will generate fear. Once aroused, this fear can be turned into doubt by highlighting the problems that they currently face. Finally the good sales executive brings up the emotion of greed by discussing the implications of the situation. Only when a prospective client experiences these three emotions will the sales person be able to change their behavior and win the sale.
For this process to work smoothly, it is essential to invest time in understanding each prospective client. We believe that if you don’t invest in initial research into your prospects, you will miss out on engaging with the CxOs – the Senior Executives – who make the decisions.
We also believe that companies should get rid of complacent salespeople and make room for the hungry ones who demonstrate greater professionalism – and who ultimately win more sales by being better prepared and doing their homework, to have effective business conversations.