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Anticipation and Preparation

by Dave Brock on April 4th, 2012
prepared for rain

The other day I watched an outstanding video by Tibor Shanto, Preparation Trumps Rejection.  Tibor focuses on how to increase your prospecting effectiveness and deal with the potential of rejection.  Be sure to look at it.

Tibor’s comments prompted me to think about the importance of “Anticipation” as part of your preparation for every engagement you have with your customers–not just in prospecting.

I watch sales people preparing for a call or customer meeting.  They know what they are trying to achieve, they think about the questions they want to ask, what they want to present.  They may bring others along to help them achieve their goal–maybe it’s presenting some of the capabilities of their solution.  They may have a presentation, some collateral.  They’re prepared and ready to execute.

Then they go into the meeting, they get started, focused on executing their call plan.  All of a sudden, the customer asks something unexpected.  Or perhaps some different people show up.  Or perhaps the customer has a different agenda.  All of a sudden the meeting is derailed.  All the preparation goes out the window.  Perhaps the sales person tries to recover and get back onto “their plan.”  Perhaps the sales person deals with the new direction the customer establishes–maybe achieving their outcome, maybe achieving another outcome, maybe not accomplishing a whole lot–not moving the customer forward in their buying process.

Too often, the customer comes up with “the Question From Hell.”  You know what that is–it’s the worst possible question they can ask.  It’s the thing that we fear and hope they never ask.  Guess what, they almost always ask it and the sales person, looking like all the blood has suddenly left his head, stumbles with responding.

These things happen too often–a study we did years ago showed sales people make up to 3 times more calls than necessary to close, largely because of poor preparation and execution. 

The problem with much of our planning is we focus on what we want to accomplish, we don’t spend a lot of time anticipating the customer.  What do they want to accomplish in the meeting?  What questions, concerns, issues might they have?  Are we in sync with where they are in their buying process?

Anticipation is critical to our preparation and execution of winning sales calls.

  • What questions is the customer likely to ask?
  • What concerns might they have?
  • What’s the customer’s expectations and objectives for the meeting?
  • What do we do if people we didn’t expect show up?
  • What objections might the customer have?
  • What attitudes toward us and the competition might the customer have?
  • What’s the customer going to get out of the meeting?  Does it align with their expectations?  Does it create value meaningful to the customer?
  • What’s the worst possible question the customer might ask and how do we deal with it?
  • What else could possibly derail this meeting?
  • What happens if, by some miracle and the stars are aligned, everything goes right?!  How do we leverage that opportunity?

Preparing for high impact sales calls is more than preparing for what you want to accomplish.  It means anticipating everything that might happen in the meeting and developing strategies for managing it.  They may not happen, but if they do, we have it nailed.  We won’t be able to anticipate everything, but we can tilt things in our favor with a little paranoia.

There’s another critical aspect about anticipation and preparation.  By doing this–we have the opportunity, with the customer, to shape an agenda in advance.  We can make sure both we and the customer are aligned.  We can make sure we are both prepared to accomplish something of value to each of us.  It can help us minimize surprises.

When you prepare for your next call, don’t just focus on what you want to accomplish.  Spend some time anticipating waht the customer might want to achieve or do.



Want to learn about the application of Lean principles to Sales and Marketing? We’ve seen them have a profound impact on the results produced by leading organizations. Learn more in our newly released Lean Sales and Marketing eBook. I’ll be glad to provide a free copy. Email me at dabrock@excellenc.com. Be sure to provide your full name, company name, and company email address.

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  1. Eric D. Brown - Links for April 8 2012

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