Prior proper planning prevents poor performance. It may be a tongue twister, but it’s important to remember that our productivity is greatly increased when we make the time to prepare. Notice I didn’t say “find” time. (Though, wouldn’t that be great to pick up some time we found on the sidewalk?) Preparation is a discipline and successful professionals make the time.

Preparation is even more important in a changing economy. We need to change our preparation strategy during this time. What worked yesterday may not work today.

Here are five ways to do your homework and prepare.
1.  Know who you are meeting with. In the overall sale, is this person the only person you should be meeting with? Are there others within this organization that should be included in the discussion? For this person, what is happening with them today? How is the economy affecting them personally? As you consider how to approach them, identify a question or two that is just about them!

2.  Learn about the industry they are in. Conduct research to find out what is happening specifically in this industry today. Are lines of credit to this industry lessened? Does the global implication matter to them? What is happening with the workforce? These are good starting places for research.

3.  Research the company. Have they had layoffs? Are they hiring? What is happening with their stock (if applicable)? What is their competition doing? There are many companies who have found a way to capitalize on the financial situation in the US.

4.  Review notes from past contacts. What level of discussion have you had? Has it been strategic – tied to increasing results, decreasing costs or lessening risks? Or tactical – focused on one specific piece of information that is tied directly to what you offer? Prepare to broaden your discussion to strategy and help them solve business problems or create opportunities.

5.  Communicate with them the way THEY want to be communicated with. Every person has a “language” they speak. Some speak facts and figures, others talk about people. Some are “quick” communicators – they like bullet points, not a lot of detail and get right to the main points. Others like to hear stories, need a ton of detail and won’t be rushed. You can get an idea of their language through any communication you have had with them in the past – emails, telephone calls and voicemail messages tell a lot. If you can find them on any of the social networking tools like LinkedIn or Twitter, you can learn a lot about how they communicate. Prepare to adjust your communication to “talk their language” and the level of trust will be stronger and the information will flow smoother.

To make your preparation efficient, here a few tools to use:

1. Google alerts. Use these to receive an email when a specific industry, company, or person is in the news. Go to to set your alerts.

2. Use your in-house CRM system – Garbage in, garbage out. If you have input good information, now is the time to use it! If you haven’t, set aside 30 minutes a day to populate your system.

3. Put pen to paper! Writing your call objective, questions you will ask, benefits you can create and problems you can solve will help you retain focus during the discussion.

The biggest obstacle to preparation we hear is the “not enough” excuse. Not enough time, not enough information, not enough value in doing it. However, in our control studies, the sales professionals who prepared were 17-25% more effective than those that didn’t. How would those sales increases impact you?

What tools do you use to plan, prepare and increase productivity?


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