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obtains prior to the call, the higher the probability of earning the customer's business. Successful
entrepreneurs see advance planning as essential to achieving success. Increasing confidence, using
time effectively, building credibility, reducing sales cycles, and differentiating themselves from the
competition are just a few of the benefits they see. As an investment, planning and preparation increase
productivity a minimum of 20%. Think about it. Imagine the outcome of a wedding or a vacation if you
didn't take the time to plan or prepare. As one sales manager says, "Even to successfully rob a liquor
store, you have to plan." However, be sure that the costs involved in precall planning don't outweigh the
potential benefits obtained.

The corporate arena will no longer tolerate selling by the seat-of-the-pants approach. We must plan prior
to the sales call. A good carpenter knows all too well: measure twice, cut once. Imagine the positive
results if we did that in our personal lives and in our sales careers. Interesting how there is never enough
time to do it right the first time, but there is always enough time to go back and fix it. Winging it is a
luxury that sales professionals cannot afford, as it could be months or years before we get a second
chance to do it right. A "No Fear" T-shirt said it best, "Second place is the first loser." Unlike the
Olympics, the sales arena doesn't offer a silver or bronze medal. Just as an athlete commits to
countless hours of training and conditioning prior to a game, a sales entrepreneur must also commit to
several hours of preparatory work.
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You Have Planned, but Are You Prepared?
History has long confirmed that success is created by proper planning. Imagine a commercial pilot
without a flight plan, a builder without blueprints, a coach without a game plan, or a sales entrepreneur
without a business plan. Successful sales entrepreneurs plan their work and work their plan. They know
the pitfalls of aimless activity, guesswork, or relying on occasional luck.
What's the difference between planning and preparing? I offer you Webster's definitions as well as my
own. Webster's suggests that planning is: 1) to formulate a way to achieve or do. Preparing is: 1) to
produce by combining elements or ingredients; 2) to make or get ready for some purpose. I augment
Webster's definitions by suggesting that planning is doing the necessary things to arrive at the
appointment ready to do business. Planning includes making the initial appointment, doing your precall
homework, knowing your product, developing a sales call objective, and packing your briefcase with the
appropriate tools, samples, and order forms. As Webster's says, "Formulate a way to achieve."
Preparation is being in a state of readiness once you arrive. Good preparation ensures that you are
ready to perform guided by a sales call objective. Thus, by our definition, planning is stuff we do prior to
the call and preparation is being ready to perform at the call. Customer feedback consistently tells us
that sales representatives may have indeed planned, but they are seldom prepared. Once sales
representatives have secured an appointment and confirmed the address, they rejoice in a false sense
of accomplishment. At best their precall planning is weak and their preparation is nonexistent.

But don't be too quick to view planning and preparation as a laborious exercise. At first glance it may
appear to be extra work, but compare it to the consequences of not planning and preparing. The
consequences come in the form of longer sales cycles, repeat sales calls, and aimless activity. Good
planning does not increase your workload but instead helps you to work more effectively and
productively with less physical effort. You may end up with fewer appointments throughout the week,
but the time spent planning and preparing will be rewarded with higher close ratios.

Successful entrepreneurial selling demands both planning and preparation. Remember, your Sequential
Model allows no missing pieces.
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What We Need to Know
The more information we gather prior to the call the better we can plan and prepare for the call. Your
product or service may very well help the customer's world move forward, but initially the customer sees
you as an intrusion, an interruption. It is even worse if you arrive unprepared and ill-equipped. However,
by being prepared and ready to advance the sale, your customer will be flattered by your interest and
will begin to relax the barriers and perhaps even entertain your ideas. Advanced planning allows you to
differentiate yourself. I am not suggesting that at the planning stage you learn intimate details about
your potential customer, but rather that you acquire a conversational understanding of his or her
business. Specific details come later. You need to familiarize yourself with the macro-issues of the
business. Planning is knowing the following pieces of information.
 type of business its competition
what it does private or public company

location(s) current vendor”how long

head office political landscape

branch offices hiring or firing

distribution channels organizational chart

markets decision process

number of employees decision maker

how long in business


I'm sure there are several other issues, but this list certainly guides you in the right direction. Use this
as your precall checklist. Customers no longer have the time nor the patience to educate sales
representatives.

I have personally experienced the plight of no planning. With hesitation, I share my story. A few years
ago I was trying to get an appointment to see Mr. Ray, VP of sales with a large Calgary company. I was
selling sales training. Mr. Ray was the decision maker (bag of money) and it took weeks to finally
connect with him. My persistence paid off with a 7 AM appointment. I arrived at 6:50 AM planned and
prepared, or so I thought. Ten minutes into the call, Mr. Ray looked me straight in the eye and asked,
"So, what can you tell me about my company?" I responded with my usual, "That's why I'm here, to
learn more about your operation and your specific sales training requirements." Mr. Ray then said,
"That's nice, but what can you tell me about my company?" With terrifying speed, I realized my
dilemma. I put down my pen and responded with a deafening, "Nothing." Busted! I didn't know a darn
thing about his company, didn't even know what they did. What the heck, wasn't it easier to just jump in
the car and show up to another sales appointment? Mr. Ray wasn't finished. He knew I was selling
sales training so he pondered for a moment (I'm sure it was 20 minutes!) and then asked: "Sales
training, eh? Can you teach my representatives to show up unprepared?" I thought I was going to die.
I'm not sure what color my face turned, but it was either red, white, or blue. It was 7:15 in the morning
and I was experiencing the call from hell. Needless to say, I was utterly embarrassed. Oh, the joys of
professional selling. If this situation hasn't happened to you, consider yourself fortunate. The customer
hasn't tested you.

This has never happened to me again and it never will. That experience proved to be one of my most
valuable lessons of entrepreneurial selling; the value of planning. All I needed to satisfy Mr. Ray's
question was this: "Your company is in the business of data management and has been since 1977.
Your head office is in Houston and your Canadian office is in Calgary with approximately 40
employees." I'm sure Mr. Ray would have been satisfied with my conversational knowledge of his
business and the call would have proceeded. I would have earned the right to continue.

By the way, after about 30 minutes with me doing the backstroke in Mr. Ray's office, he finally agreed
to evaluate our seminars by attending himself. We eventually did business.

I want to make it clear at this stage that we are not out to identify our customers' specific needs and
requirements or identify how we can help them out. We can't possibly learn their specific needs until we
meet them face-to-face and conduct a needs analysis by asking a series of probes. Annual reports and
company brochures do not reveal customer needs. Only customers themselves can reveal their specific
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needs. Our precall planning is done to reveal only the macro-issues of their business. Face-to-face
dialogue with the customer is the only means available to reveal the micro-issues, such as specific
requirements, nuances, ,and particular needs.
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Where to Find It
We live in the information age, where knowledge abounds. The amount of information we are bombarded
with can be rather daunting”we are exposed to over 1,000 pieces of information a day, most of it
useless. As a sales entrepreneur, we cannot afford to be wading through reams of useless information.
We need to identify and peruse sources of information that will deliver reliable, informative, intelligence
about our customer. These sources include:
 the internet
 annual reports
 Dun & Bradstreet
 trade journals
 the company receptionist
 old files
 newspapers
 information brokers
 business library
 brochures/catalogs
 company newsletters
 industry associations
 other sales entrepreneurs
 friends in low places
 their sales department

I am sure your experience will offer other avenues to gather company intelligence. One of the best ways
to gather intelligence quickly is to call the company and ask to speak directly to one of their sales
entrepreneurs. Introduce yourself, tell them that you are doing some homework, and ask for their help.
This is a great source of rich information, often overlooked, and my bet is they will be willing to
accommodate you. They are easy to reach as they are in the habit of returning phone calls. I also bet
that when they hang up they will say to themselves, "Hey, great idea, maybe I should try that approach."

The company's receptionist is another excellent source of information. Receptionists are often willing to
answer your questions and offer interesting tidbits. However, understand that they see a lot of
one-dimensional, intrusive sales representatives come through the door, so initially they may be
reluctant to help. Be professional, introduce yourself, and tell them why you need their help; you are
doing your homework. You can also speak to someone who knows the workings of a company better
than anybody else”it may be a foreman, a supervisor, a shipper/receiver, or a driver. These people are
usually happy to chat with you.

The list of potential sources is endless. It all depends upon your creativity and commitment to the
relationship. Ultimately, your potential customer will be impressed with your knowledge. It demonstrates
an obvious respect for their time. Unquestionably, it's a first big step in differentiating yourself and
neutralizing your competition, especially if they are hanging out at their adult daycare center being too
busy to plan.
From time to time you may find yourself responding to unexpected inquiries where a potential customer
has called your company. This call could be triggered by word-of-mouth, one of your advertisements,
seeing you at a tradeshow, or it may be simply an inquiry. In any case, your objective is to get an
appointment. Resist the temptation to sell them on the telephone. Sell the appointment instead.
However, during the initial telephone conversation learn as much as you can about them to ascertain
their potential.

If there is potential, sell the appointment and then do your homework prior to the call. A strategy that
has proven very effective for me when we get unexpected inquiries is to call their receptionist and ask if
he or she would mind putting together a corporate package. This may include an annual report,
brochures, and other items such as a company newsletter or quarterly flyers. I then send a courier to
pick up the package within 24 hours of the call. When I show up to the appointment knowledgeable
about their business, customers are impressed. Once again it's about being planned and prepared.
When is the optimum time to do your planning? I'm sure you answered "during non-selling hours." Right
answer. Don't use valuable selling hours to plan. As we discuss in Chapter 4, ideally your planning is
done before or after selling hours, not during. However, sometimes selling hours provide the only
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opportunity to call receptionists or other sales entrepreneurs. Even so, use your limited selling hours
wisely.
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A State of Readiness
With our planning complete, we are now ready to prepare for the call. Remember, planning is stuff we
do prior to the call, whereas preparation is being ready to perform at the call. A state of readiness
begins by arriving on time, which means being 10 to 15 minutes early. This gives you time to mentally
and physically prepare. Preparation includes not only checking your personal hygiene (fix your hair,
check yourself out, look good) but your corporate hygiene as well. Corporate hygiene is not something
we put much thought into. It means having the appropriate tools with you to conduct business at the
call. It includes having a professional carrying case or briefcase stocked with product manuals,
company literature, calculator, price list, professional notepad, and perhaps a laptop. All these
corporate items contribute to the overall impression you make on your customer. Remember, the
Sequential Model says that you are engineering customer commitment (closing) beginning with Step
#1. Anything you do, say, display, or not display will either enhance or erode the sale. You cannot
afford to sabotage your credibility through the use of cheap, unprofessional tools that contradict your
objectives as a sales entrepreneur. Get rid of the 99¢ Bic pen and the $1.50 notepad that
communicates, "I'm not really serious." Sweat the details. Most people can't distinguish between a
$1,000 suit or a $450 one, but they can see the difference between a good pen or a cheap one. Don't let
the 99¢ Bic be your signature.

What about your personal identity package? For years experts have reminded us of the tremendous
impact image communicates. Your wardrobe”your business attire”speaks volumes before you speak.
People buy you with their eyes within ten seconds. Appropriate apparel and impeccable grooming
demonstrate respect for yourself and for your customer. They communicate authority and exemplify
your commitment to perform to the high standards of a sales entrepreneur. Dress violations such as
wearing white socks with a suit, a too-short tie ,or having a run in your stockings can be very distracting
to your customer. Neutralize your appearance so that the focus is on you and your message. Don't
draw their attention away by wearing something that speaks louder than you. You must make sure that
nothing you say or display distracts from the call. You can't aim too high in the pursuit of personal and
corporate hygiene. A winning combination of the two will certainly put you at an advantage and exceed
the expectations of others. A footnote regarding the importance of image: Naked people have made little
impression in this world. Look good, feel good, be good.

For a sales entrepreneur the highest of personal and professional standards should prevail. Planning
and preparation will complement your commitment to excellence, as the standards you set will reflect
the rewards you get.

A true story to illustrate the importance of readiness: A few years ago I had a sales representative call
on me selling disability insurance. She had made an appointment and she arrived exactly on time. As
we went through some initial pleasantries I found her likeable. Her name was Betty. About 10 to 15
minutes into the call, I asked Betty what disability insurance would cost for a fellow my age. I was
interested. I recognized a need and I wanted more details. Betty's answer was, "I can't give you that
information today. My computer is in the car. I will have it for you next week." I was a little annoyed.
However, the conversation continued and she finally asked what I did. I love answering that question. I
told her I facilitate professional selling skills seminars to sales professionals like herself. Her jaw
dropped and she asked, "Oh, how am I doing?" Reluctantly, I told her she was doing terribly. "Why is
your computer in the car?" I asked. What's wrong with this picture? Her defense was, "But this is my
first call to you. I'm here to get to know you." That's funny, I thought she was here to sell me disability
insurance. Betty seemed to think she should make a couple of social calls, then sell me. You see,
Betty was guilty of minimal planning and no preparation. Clearly, she was not prepared to do business.
She arrived at the call with little more than a predetermined, well-rehearsed selling strategy that did not
include any precall planning. No flexibility. I have seen it applied countless times: Representatives plow
their way through a sales call with little regard for the customer's agenda. I call it the "cookie-cutter"
sales call. We eventually did business, but it took her more calls than necessary to close the deal.
Betty and I became good friends and she still talks about her call from hell.
The Betty story is classic. I know there are countless sales representatives out there making sales
calls not unlike Betty's”little planning, unprepared. I may be getting ahead of myself, but the most
effort you should put into closing a sale is on the first call. Of course this won't happen on every
occasion, especially if you have a long sales cycle (the time it takes a sale to materialize). The mindset
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of a sales entrepreneur is this: I'm here to sell something, not just to visit and have coffee.
Every sales call, including telephone sales calls, must be packaged around two important aspects: a
primary agenda and a secondary agenda. Your primary agenda is to sell something”it's the number
one reason you are there. Your secondary agenda is to establish rapport and build a relationship”get
to know your customer. During the call, however, the sequence is reversed. First build rapport and trust
(make a friend) then build on that trust by selling a solution that the customer buys. Although being
friendly and building relationships are important, customers know that the reason for a sales call is a
sale. Each time you speak with a customer you should have a clear objective”an action you want
taken as a result of the call. You are there to do business, to advance the sale. Why do you think you
were hired? Your customer expects you to pursue an opportunity to do business, otherwise you may be
perceived as wasting their time. By appreciating these two aspects of a call agenda, you save yourself
valuable selling time and reduce the number of wasted and unproductive sales calls. Be prepared to sell

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