One of the most colorful characters I have known in my life is my friend Harold.
To me, Harold is one of those larger than life kind of people that you just seem to gravitate towards. He is personable. He is fun to be around. He is also one of the most well known people in the voluntary employee benefits industry. Many times over the years, I have taken advantage of Harold’s thirty-plus years of experience.
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about Harold is how many people he knows. It is astonishing to me. I don’t believe we have ever been on a sales call together that the person we were meeting with didn’t already know Harold – or at a minimum, the two of them had close acquaintances in common.
Once I decided to pull a prank on Harold and make him think that I was putting his sphere of influence to the ultimate test. My wife Laurie and I were on vacation in Orlando, Florida waiting for a performance of Cirque du Soleil to begin. We had gotten there pretty early, but there were already around 300 people in the auditorium. Laurie and I were discussing Harold, and I decided to send him the following text message: “Laurie and I are in Orlando with about 300 other people waiting on a performance of Cirque du Soleil to begin. I just stood up and yelled, ‘How many people in here know Harold M********?’ and 14 people raised their hands!”
About thirty seconds later, Harold replied with the following text: “Well, that explains it! I have gotten a text from five different people saying, ‘H – some idiot in Orlando just stood up and asked if we knew you!’ I didn’t raise my hand, but several others did. What’s up with this guy?”
Harold is a very funny man!
One of the things that I picked up from Harold over the years was that there is no excuse for not knowing the person you are talking to in a sales presentation. Now, don’t misunderstand my point. It is not feasible that you will actually know everyone to whom you will make a sales presentation. But you absolutely can know a great deal about the person and their company before you walk into that office.
I was raised to structure my sales presentation in such a way that part of the first meeting was a “get to know you” session. I would ask all the right questions to discover information about the company, and if the prospect had time, I would learn personal details about their life, hobbies and family. It was part of how I built the relationship that would later lead to a successful sale.
There should still a place in your presentation for you to “get to know” the decision maker. Based on their time available, that can still get into social as well as business areas of their life. However, with the advent of today’s technology and social media, you should do your research ahead of time and conduct that “get to know you” session from a posture of already knowing quite a bit about them and their company.
Through Google and many other search engines, you can usually find the company’s website in a B2B sale. Through linkedin, twitter, and facebook – you can learn much about their professional credentials as well as their hobbies etc. And in many cases, the sales process can actually start (and should start) by making contact through the social media outlets. The same holds true in B2C sales.
If you do your homework prior to your actual presentation, you can use more of your “get to know you” time actually helping your decision maker process their business needs. You can also use that time to establish the value you bring to their table that far exceeds what they will spend with you or your company. Additionally, you can begin the relationship on a higher level of socialization that most sales people will never achieve.
How effectively are you using the various online tools available to you in preparation for your sales calls?