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Doing Your Homework!

by David Brock on January 12th, 2010

This is one of those blogs where I get on my soap box and rant a little bit.  I got off the phone with a sales person–someone who came highly recommended by a colleague.  We had set the call up some time ago.  He had sent me some introductory information about his company and product, and we had our call.

After we went through what appeared to be the obligatory two questions (How are you?  Did you get a chance to review the materials I sent you?), he went into heavy duty product selling mode.  I suppose I was a little at fault.  I started asking him some questions about his products, that apparently gave him the excuse to launch into the pitch.  I tried prying a word or two into the conversation, finally gave up.  At the end when I said that I didn’t thing it was a good fit, he asked me, “Don’t you do this…..?”  I said no, our company did very little of that.  He then asked, “Isn’t your typical customer like this…., don’t they have these needs….?”  I replied,  “No, our sweet spot is with these types of clients…..  They have the needs you describe, but we typically don’t choose to get involved in those types of issues, it is not a core focus of our business.”  As you can guess, the conversation probably left both of us a little frustrated.

Now why did I go into that diatribe and what’s it have to do with Doing Your Homework?  Well, if the salesperson had bothered doing a little research in advance, he could have known that the product he was selling was not a good fit for our company, or he could have figured out where it would have been a good fit (there are actually some areas, but it was worth my time to tell him where he might help me.).  He could have read some of my blog posts on the subject he wanted to talk to me about, I have actually written about the issue.  He could have visited our company website and gotten more information.  While our website navigation is a little cumbersome, it clearly outlines our target customers, markets, and provides case studies.  He could have visited my LinkedIn profile and gotten a little bit of my background.  He could have spent some time talking to the person who referred me, understanding from him a little more about me.

There is lots of information available about me and my company available.  With less than 30 minutes research, he could have gotten enough information to learn some potential hot buttons that would have captured my attention.  Instead he chose to wing it.

He could have also done something different in the call.  He might have considered asking some questions about my business, my target markets, the kinds of customers we serve, and the services we provide.  But he chose not to, instead, pitching product features, functions, capabilities.  He dropped a few impressive names, and said I would be well supported if I bought (I’m not sure I was worried about being supported.).  I guess it was easier to shoot from the lip and pitch than to prepare a good call.

My friend, John Cousineau, in his article Triggering Sales Productivity,  made an interesting observation:  The more information sales people have, the less of it they will consume.  There are numerous tools available to give sales people great insight into their customers, the markets, and individuals.  They can be as simple as a Google Search, or can be very insightful analyses.  None of this makes a difference unless the sales person chooses to do their homework. 

We have to do our homework–research up front and preparing the call to create maximum value and impact.  Winging it or shooting from the lip, is not the mark of a professional or a high performer.

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. Interesting. I am trying to hire two salespeople for a client of mine. My first question is what do you know about our company. Many of them knew absolutely nothing. It immediately disqualified them.

    • Great comment. If in looking for a job, they haven’t done their homework, then why would the ever do it? Amazing people can be that bad.

  2. Dave,

    What you describe with your experience with a sales person is what I refer to as “factory selling,” sort of one-size fits all approach, and not going to work hard to find out more about a prospect.

    A you mentioned, there is no excuse for this today when you have all kinds of tools on the internet. In your case, he could have refered to one of the blogs you wrote.

    This may be a sign of lack of motivation here.

    Good Post.


    • Jay: You’re right on target. Too many sales people use meaningless scripts, or just fail to think and prepare to engage the customer in a meaningful way. There is no excuse for this kind of selling—it wastes the customer’s time and creates not value. Thanks for the follow up! Great points!

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