Promoted Newsletter #1: The True Value of Preparation
Jul 23, 2023
In my first sales job, we had a scripted approach for everything.
Literally every aspect of the process had a script to follow.
Most people hated them. New sales representatives said it didn’t feel natural, it didn’t sound like them, and it made them feel too rigid.
And guess what?
They’d go out and not sell anything.
I know, because I was one of those people early on.
Then I talked to a couple of the top salespeople. I asked them how many of the approaches they followed, and how much they adjusted them to fit “their style.”
Interesting enough, almost all of them just followed the talk tracks provided in training. There was some deviation from it, but not much.
Only enough to ad lib and make the conversation feel more natural, if the situation dictated.
Since I had nothing to lose, I figured I might lose my ego and try them out.
So I did, and it worked! People started booking more appointments with me, prospects started buying, and I started getting more referrals.
All my measurable numbers shot up significantly - appointments scheduled, closing percentage, average order, referrals generated, and above all else, revenue. So did my pay checks.
From that experience, I learned a huge lesson that's stuck with me to this day: Having a script or an approach to follow is a key to success in any meeting.
It allows you to be fully prepared, have more confidence, appear more competent, and be ready for different twists and turns that can pop up along the way.
Early in my career, when I was just winging it, it came off that way, so I wasn't perceived as credible, confident, or competent.
Fast forward ten years from that story, and I was in my first management position. I was tasked with a challenging situation of presenting new territories, a new compensation plan, and a new business strategy and direction to my new sales team.
Although I had undergone an extensive amount of leadership training before being placed in that role, this wasn't practice anymore.
I had no clue how the conversations would go, what questions or concerns they’d raise, or even how they would receive the changes to their business.
I also didn't know how they'd response to me being their new boss, especially since they knew it was my first leadership role.
As I was preparing for my meetings, I thought back about my early years in sales. I didn’t think there was a way to script things out, but there was a way to leverage the training I’d gone through, go in prepared, and approach the situation how I’d want if I were still in their shoes.
So I prepared as best as I could, went in for the meetings, and fortunately they went well. I ended up leading that team for two years, and the team did so well through the transition that I was transferred to a different segment of our company, where I was asked to take over an underperforming team.
Things went even better in that next role.
When I go into any meeting, even to this day, I spend some time beforehand with a notebook, and I map out an outline for the meeting.
Here the questions I go through and try to answer beforehand:
1. What is the purpose of this meeting?
2. Who is attending the meeting?
3. What is important to them? What are the main objectives of their role, and will they need to get out of this meeting?
4. What are the biggest challenges they're trying to solve? How are they doing in those efforts to solve them? Where can I potentially help?
5. What information do I have available to me? Where will that information be useful in this discussion? Where can I find what I need to know to be fully prepared for this interaction?
6. What initial thoughts do I have, especially in terms of proposing a solution to the problem?
7. This meeting will be a success if ____? (fill in the blank with top 3 objectives).
Usually, I'll take up a whole page or two in my notebook writing down the information I find, the questions I want to ask, and initial thoughts I have.
I'll also spend a few minutes articulating what I've learned, even if it's just to myself. I find if you can explain something as if you were going to teach it to someone else, you will be at an advantage.
You'll be able to speak the lingo, and the meeting won't be the first time you've thought about or said any of these things. I feel most people don't fully understand the true value of this point.
Then, I start a blank piece of paper for the actual meeting. I divide it into 3 sections:
- Action Items / Next Steps
I fill the agenda out the day before with 3-4 bullet points. At this point, I've already researched the information, practiced saying what I want, and how I want to say it. The agenda items are so I don't forget my main objectives I want to bring up.
During the meeting, I capture any important ideas or pieces of information in notes.
When someone says they'll follow up on something after the meeting, I write their name with the deliverable next to it, and when they committed to getting it done.
Bonus tip: as soon as the call is done, I follow up on any action items of mine if I'm able to. If I have another meeting or something right after and can't, then I block out time in my schedule within the next day or two and make it happen.
If you follow this advice, you'll never find yourself over your head in a meeting.
Make it a great one!!!
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