Prepare like a pro

As the old saying goes: No one plans to fail, but many fail to plan.

Our research shows that top salespeople plan their sales calls. Every sales call must have an action objective because every sales call must conclude with an action step. An action objective is something that you want the customer to do at the end of the sales call. It could be: give you an order, agree to a follow-up meeting, hand over financial data, schedule a visit to your facility, or promise to try a sample of your product. Without an action objective, how would you know what to ask for at the end of the call?

You can book-end your sales call with this planning question, “What do I want the buyer to do at the end of this call?” In your pre-call preparation, this question guides the planning process. In your post-call evaluation, this question allows you to review the call and your effectiveness in achieving this call objective.

A sports journalist interviewed Tiger Woods after his first British Open win and asked him about his reputation for going to the practice range after a round of golf to continue hitting balls. Tiger responded, “If you’re not willing to put in the time to practice, you don’t deserve the success you desire.” This is great advice for salespeople, too.

Working hard for your price

How hard are you willing to work for your price? Holding the line on pricing is a function of your preparation for the negotiation. The key dynamics are knowledge, time, pressure, and patience. Your knowledge of the product, the buyer, the market and your company’s ability to serve can embolden you or cause you to wilt. If the buyer perceives that he knows more than you know about his needs and your ability to serve them, you lose negotiating power.

Time generally displaces price. If the buyer needs to act quickly, price is less of an issue. If you need to sell something quickly and the buyer senses this, he will hold out for a better deal. The same applies to pressure; whoever feels the most pressure to act will make more concessions. If the buyer knows that you feel pressure to concede, he will practice the “art of patience” and allow time and other pressures to influence your decision to concede on price.

So, how do you use this information to negotiate better deals? Study. Learn as much as you can about the buyer’s needs, wants and fears. Study. Know your product and service inside and out. Study. Become an expert on your market; know the competition like the back of your hand. Practice the “art of patience.” Do not tip your hand on urgency or other pressures you feel to sell. Keep the conversation focused on the investment that the customer is making, not the money they are spending. Remember, they are not spending money with you; they are investing money in their business.

Tom Reilly, author of Value Added Selling.

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