Research Sales Prospects
Almost every business needs to sell its products and services, be it an on-line home-based business, an Internet business or a conventional bricks and mortar business. The key to successful selling is to understand your prospective client and their industry.
With that in mind, it follows that you are more likely to be successful if you take the time to research sales prospects before any meeting or discussion takes place.
The focus is to be prepared before you contact a potential customer. What you can learn about a customer before you make a sales call can be critical to your success. If you do your homework, gather the right information and propose the best solution to your customer then you increase the likelihood that you will make the sale.
If you can uncover their buying motives by understanding as much as you can about their business and industry then you will have a better shot at not only making a sale but of positioning yourself as an expert in their eyes.
The secrets of successful selling lie in doing quality research in three main areas and how you then use that research.
Research your potential customer, finding out as much as you can about their company and its people, using various web searches or by visiting websites that specialize in research. Anyone can find information on a customer’s website but be creative to find really useful information that you can use to move the sale forward. As you learn about a potential customer consider these questions:
For example, if they have just laid off staff they may not be in the mood to spend money unless you can provide a valuable reason for them to do business with you. In difficult times companies still buy, but they focus on products and solutions that will help them make a profit.
Here you are looking for information about their industry. What developments have there been in their industry and how have those developments affected them? How do industry trends affect their place in the market? Who is their competition within their own industry? Where do they stand in comparison to their competition? Maybe they are doing well in the current economic climate while their competition is not doing well, or vice versa. Find out why.
This is the key to how you will approach your prospect. Did your research reveal potential opportunities for them, which will help them profit in their industry? Is there an opportunity coming up that will help them to grow their business?
When learning about their industry it is also important to learn their language. The kind of specialized language they use will help you understand how they speak and communicate. Learn enough so that you can follow a conversation and ask smart relevant questions. Don't try and be a show-off.
Competitive Differentiation Research
This tells you about your ability to stand apart in your own industry and how you can blend your product or service into the customer’s industry. It is also about how you communicate your competitive advantages.
While it is important to understand your customers and their competition, it is equally as important to understand yourself and your own business. It is not about comparing yourself with the competition; rather understand how you’re different and better. Look for concrete evidence that separates you from rather than compares you to the competition. Why is it that you are powerful/successful/respected in your industry?
Look at your competition and check out their websites. What are they offering; what unique products and services do they have that you don't?
Talk to some of your current customers to identify some of your competitive advantages. Why did they buy from you? What do they like most about your company or service? Why did they pick you over the competition? You could even ask them if there is anything they wished you did that you don't or what your competition does that they wish you did. They may be hard and uncomfortable questions but you have to understand them to learn how to be your best. Find out if what you see as your competitive advantage actually means something to your customers. What is the value of your differentiator to your customer? Think about how you are different and how you are important to the customer. Do you share any of the same customers with your potential customer, which could make you a connector? Are there any other connections that you may have with their company?
The secret to success is making sure you have complete information in each of the above three areas. Don't think you can get away with knowing nothing about them or their industry and competitive differentiators. Readiness is about being prepared, every time, with all the information. It is only when you have all the information that you are able to select the pieces you need to create a customized approach that lines up with the perceived needs of your customer.
Preparing for the First Meeting
Apply the information you have collected.
1. Identify what possible solutions you can offer the customer based on company and industry specifics. Can you align yourself with their perceived needs?
2. Identify potential objections the customer may have. Make a list of how you can prevent and answer each one. If you are aware of customer objections, it allows you to be pro-active and deal with them before they come up.
3. Create a list of intelligent questions that will engage the customer. The questions you ask will not only give you instant credibility, they open up dialogue. Avoid asking simple yes and no answer questions as they can lead you into a situation where you can no longer go anywhere with the customer. Great questions are always open ended. When coming up with questions think of the following possibilities:
- How will it impact your business, if …..?
- What do you plan to do if …..?
- How important is …….?
- If you could change one thing in the area of ________, what would it be?
- Why do you believe most of your customers buy from you?
Such questions open dialogue, which is the key to your sale. People do not care about you, your company or your services unless it has an impact on them. Not just on a professional level but also personal. So when developing questions think about them in terms of the customer’s needs and not yours. Don't assume you have all the answers because you have been doing this for years. The solution you are going to offer the customer need to be tailored to them based upon your research
Preparation will both improve your chances of getting a meeting with your potential customer and will certainly allow you to have a meaningful conversation with your when you do.