By Chris Cowan
Chris Cowan is the Vice President of Sales for AchieveGlobal and a new contributor to the blog. Chris leads the client management and business development efforts in the U.S. and is responsible for the strategic direction and execution of a large and geographically-dispersed sales organization. Prior to AchieveGlobal, Chris’ spent 20 years in sales and sales management in the financial services, consulting, travel/entertainment and technology sectors.
Industry experts are replete with tips on successful sales calls…from Entrepreneur Magazine’s article, “8 Steps to A Successful Sales Call” to a Lynette Ryals article in Harvard Business Review titled, “Make the Most of Your Sales Call.”
Is your sales team clear about what makes a sales call successful? I always coach that the game is won or lost before you ever step on the field. What I mean is that preparation is absolutely critical to your success, and central to that preparation is in-depth research.
Here is a short list of research tools I suggest your sales professionals should look at before they ever reach out to a prospect:
- Analyst Reports – What are market analysts saying about your target company? I can guarantee the senior leaders of the company know, so arming yourself with the same intelligence will give you an advantage. From these reports you can understand the financial position of the company, their competitive set and comparable strengths and weaknesses, key economic drivers of their business model, and some sense of forward-looking prognostications.
- Company Annual Reports – These offer valuable insight into what company leaders are saying about their business, and are also a good guide for your networking efforts to identify key leaders and board members. Of course, be sure to look at the financial statements, too, like 10-K and 10-Qs.
- Company Press Releases – What is the company choosing to say about itself to the outside world? What are they emphasizing as important to their success? What recent developments, positive or negative, should you be aware of?
- In The News – What are other entities saying about your target prospect company? Does the word on the street align with, or conflict with, what they’re saying about themselves? There are many good services available to keep you on top of breaking news or developments that often can become the launching point for a compelling contact to a prospect.
I think this is often the most overlooked aspect of a successful sale. In general, salespeople are oriented with a bias towards activity and many do not take the time to pursue this more cerebral and contemplative step in the process. Many will say they don’t have the time, however I truly believe it may be the time best spent to move you closer to your sales goals.
In part two of our sales success series, we’ll cover what to do with the information gathered during the research phase.