As the opportunity clock (formerly known as the alarm clock) continued to buzz, Frank continued hitting the snooze button trying to catch just a few more minutes. After hitting snooze for the last time, he realized that he had forgotten about an early morning sales call. He set the alarm early so he could do a little prep time before leaving his house. Unfortunately, in his quest for a few more z’s, Frank found himself scrambling to shower, dress, and drive to the appointment.
As he was now caught up in traffic, he started to panic, thinking he might be late or maybe even missing the meeting altogether. Luckily, he made it to the office where the meeting was being held with just enough time to start the sales call. Frank’s appearance and demeanor wreaked of someone who was anxious and worried. He missed a few key questions, answered the wrong question, and could not remember some of the details that the prospect had shared in their previous meeting. Frank was also surprised to see a couple of other people in the room that he wasn’t expecting to be there. And since had no rapport with the new folks, they were thoroughly unimpressed with Frank. He did not win the business.
Maybe even worse, Frank didn’t take the time to debrief the loss to understand what he could have done better. And his sales manager also was not in the habit of doing a post-mortem or debrief, so they could learn from their losses, failing forward.
“In order to win, we must first plan to win, prepare to win. Then, and only then, can we expect to win.” – Zig Ziglar
David had a big sales call first thing Monday morning. On the Thursday before his meeting, he organized an internal meeting with his manager, his sales engineer, the subject matter expert, and his associate Barbara who was partnering with him on the sale because it was a very large and complex opportunity. They scripted out the flow of the way they saw the sales call going, even down to the first words that they would say, the introductions, the agenda for the meeting, and the expectations that the prospect had and what they believed was the prospect’s primary objective for the meeting.
Then they took the time to think through the questions they would be asking, and the anticipated responses including who on the team would answer those specific questions. And then, based on the prospect’s answer, what did the rest of the response tree look like. They anticipated the questions they would receive and formulated their responses. They discussed the most likely objections that the prospect would raise and who would respond and what the response would be. They made a list of things they might try to negotiate. They examined the risks and potential blind spots. On Friday, David and Barbara made one more run-through of everything.
When Monday came, they were in the parking lot 30 minutes early. As they had their coffee and waited to walk in, Barbara realized there might be one more question they missed, so they quickly ran through a role-play scenario of that question and how it would be answered. They walked in game-time ready. They won the business.
Before celebrating the win, and while everything was still top of mind, they debriefed the entire process looking for things they did right, and even though they won, what could they have done to be better the next time.
Many sales leaders set the expectation for pre-call planning, but for a few reasons typically never inspect what they expect. Many sales leaders believe that preparing for a call is common sense, but we all know that common sense isn’t always common practice. Maybe the salesperson does a quick cursory review of notes but misses the devil in the details. More often than salespeople and sales leaders like to admit, salespeople ‘wing it’ more than they should. And when they do, they usually lose. If they do win, they win because of luck, and more than likely superior, high-quality products and services they are selling.
The age-old question, “Would you rather be lucky, or would you rather be good?” The answer is, “I want to be good, and if I can get a little luck, I’ll take that too.” It seems like the harder we work, the smarter we work, the luckier we will get.