Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why Prepare for Sales Appointments?

Why Prepare for Appointments?

Scheduling appointments with prospects is hard work. You not only have to arm-wrestle with gatekeepers, but then you have to contend with voice-mail. But eventually, whether by sheer persistence or a little luck, you get through to the intended prospects and you schedule appointments. All of those efforts, however, are wasted if you’re not properly prepared for those appointments.

How do you properly prepare?

The preparation process actually begins before you schedule the appointments. That’s right…BEFORE you schedule the appointments—before you even make the first prospecting call. It starts by specifically targeting your prospects. Doing a little research if necessary and identifying market segments for which you know your product or service is particularly well suited. With a target market segment in mind, you will need to develop two groups of questions to ask during the resulting conversations.

The first group of questions will help identify specific problems prospects are attempting to solve or goals they’re attempting to achieve—areas in which your product or service is highly effective. Here’s an example:

Lately, we’ve had a number of requests from companies in your industry to help them develop cost-effective methods for complying with the new EPA requirements for storage and disposal of industrial solvents. Has your company established such an initiative yet?

The second group of questions will reveal aspects of your product or service that help prospects with their efforts, and establish reasons for them to meet with you. Here’s an example of such a question:

Would there be any value in exploring the specific ways we’ve helped other companies not only minimize the impact of the new compliance requirements, but at the same time substantially reduce their recurring solvent expenditures… and then determine if those methods would work for your company?

Asking, and obtaining answers to these questions will facilitate scheduling appointments that are decidedly relevant and focused for both you and the prospect. In other words, they represent substantially more than suggestions by prospects to “Stop by when you’re in the area.” And, they are more productive than those appointments where you have pleasant conversations and leave literature which, after the meetings, is promptly filed away, and just as promptly forgotten.

There's more to do.

After you schedule the appointments, there’s still more preparation work to do. You should learn as much about the prospects as possible. Visit the companies’ web sites. Google the key players and learn what you can about them. Check the web sites of trade associations to which the prospects might belong and search for articles about them or submitted by them. The more you know about the prospects, the more intelligent and relevant the discussions will be.
More questions.

Just as you prepared questions for the initial prospecting call conversations, you should prepare questions to ask during the appointments—questions that will control the subject matter and direction of the conversations.

Develop the questions you’ll ask or third-party stories you’ll tell to expand on the initial reasons for meeting and help prospects discover specific reasons to do business with you. Also, decide on the strategy and questions you’ll use to obtain the additional information required to fully qualify the opportunity—investment issues or timing of a buying decision, for instance. You need not memorize each and every question. But, you should begin the appointments with a sense of how and when you will bring up the relevant topics.

And finally...

Be prepared to ask for a commitment—whether it’s to take the next step in the selling process or to make a buying decision. All the preparation is for nothing if you leave things open-ended at the conclusion of the meeting. Be prepared with a specific strategy and specific questions to ask.
So, why prepare for your appointments?

The more you prepare for appointments, the more control you’ll have over the selling process. The more control you have over the selling process, the more frequently you’ll “go to the bank.” And, that’s a pretty good reason.

Thank you to Steve D'Agostino from Avega - http://www.avega.ca/ for sharing this article with me!
Happy Selling!

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