Even with all of the new digital technologies, actual meetings with customers like architects, builders, contractors, and others are still an important part of the sales process. It is also becoming more expensive, so you should do everything you can to make every call a success.
50% of First Time Calls Are Failures
Your customers tell me they want to meet with building materials companies to get answers to their questions and to learn about new products. But they also tell me that about half of first meetings with a company or sales reps are a complete waste of their time because the rep is not prepared.
A sales call based on “You buy doors, I sell doors – why don’t you buy my doors?” is destined to fail. It’s a waste of your customer’s time. Yet this is what they experience with half of their first-time calls.
There are four possible outcomes from a call and only one is negative:
- You make the sale or have started the customer down the path to a sale.
- You leave a positive impression with the customer. When the time is right, they will be strongly inclined to choose you.
- You learn something that will make your future calls more successful.
- You don’t make a sale and fail to leave a positive impression.
So, what can you do to avoid that fourth type of sales call?
How to Prepare for More Successful Sales Calls
1. Know the Company
Before every sales call, get to know the company you are calling on. If you were applying for a job at this company, how would you prepare? You would probably start with three simple steps: spend some time on their website, follow them on social media and search them online.
What can you learn about them from their website? What makes them different? What kind of values do they have and what is important to them? What’s their history?
What do they share? Do they share serious technical information or do they like to brag about themselves? Do they have a personality on social media?
Look at LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Do they have a blog, a podcast or a newsletter? What do they talk about in these?
Type their name into Google and see what comes up. Be sure to check the News tab to see if there have been any recent stories about them.
At the beginning of the call, show them that you’ve done your research. Ask them about something you learned while looking them up.
The customer will decide what kind of meeting the sales call will be within the first 30 seconds. As with most sales calls, they’re expecting it to be mostly about you and why your product is better and very little about them.
But when you start out by talking about their company instead, you establish that:
- You’ve done your homework
- They are important to you
- Your message is not just about you
2. Know the Person
To learn more about a customer, you used to have to look around their office. You’d notice family photos, diplomas, hobbies, books, sports memorabilia and other things about their personal life. You’d use these as jumping off points for a more personal conversation.
Most of that information is now available online. Before you meet with a new customer, look for them on social media. Start with their LinkedIn profile.
Most people in business today have a LinkedIn profile and it will tell you a lot about them:
- How do they describe themselves?
- How active are they? What do they comment on or share? If something is important to them, this is where it is likely to show up.
- How long have they been in this position and what did they do before?
- Where did they go to school?
- Who do they follow?
- What groups do they belong to?
- What do others say about them?
In addition to learning about them, I also recommend sending them a connection request – “Looking forward to meeting you next Tuesday.”
Don’t be surprised if you also find that they are very active on other social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or YouTube. They may even have their own personal blog.
Just like you want to set the right tone by talking about their company at the beginning of the meeting, you also want to talk about them personally. That’s another way to show that you’ve done your homework and that you’re not treating them like just another sales call.
3. Know Their Industry
If you are calling on a general contractor, you should be aware of the issues general contractors are facing. The same goes if you are calling on a builder, an architect, dealer or distributor. Whatever their job, make sure you’re aware of the things that worry people in their industry.
Gaining this type of knowledge takes more effort than just looking someone up on social media. You might have to read trade magazines and join and participate in their professional associations. I have found that one of the best ways to gain this knowledge is to just ask your customer what challenges they are facing.
Company reps who are interested in the challenges their customers are facing have more credibility. It doesn’t just show that you’ve done your research; it shows that you understand their needs. That way, they can be confident that you’re working with them to find a solution to their problem, not just to make a sale.
4. Know Your Product Better
Most sales reps are very knowledgeable about their products and what makes them better than the ones sold by their competitors. But the best reps know that customers are not looking for better products – they’re looking for solutions to their problems.
This ties back in with number 3. If you’re going to present what you’re offering as a solution instead of presenting it as a product, you first need to understand what kinds of problems the customer is facing.
Once you understand the problems they have, you’ll know how they see your product. You’ll also know how to present it in a way that matters to them and resonates with them.
Knowledge Is Your Advantage
First impressions aren’t everything, but they do matter. If your first sales call to a customer falls into the 50% they consider useless, you’ll have a harder time making the sale, even if you’re willing to play the long game.
When you come equipped with the right kind of knowledge and are ready to make the sales call about the customer, not about you and your product, then your customer won’t consider it a waste of their time.
Taking these four steps, then, will make your sales calls more effective, lead to better results and improve interactions with your customer.
Two Other Benefits
When sales reps take the time to be better prepared, two other things happen.
1. Meetings go longer as the customer finds value in meeting you with. They are also likely to tell you more information than you expect.
2. The next time you want an appointment with this customer, it will likely be very easy to make it happen. The same goes with getting your emails returned.
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