What is the Right Amount of Homework?


We have addressed the topic of adequate “homework” before. We’ve all witnessed a sales call where a rep asks ridiculous questions, “so, what does your company do?” This is an obvious and inexcusable lack of preparation. Our natural instinct in order to avoid a scenario like this is to learn everything we can about the prospect company; however, just as you can make a bad impression by being unprepared, there is also the scenario of doing too much, or not the right kind of homework.

As a sales professional, the objective is to gain an understanding of the target company, research to ensure an effective exchange, and advance our position.

Let’s be clear that this is not a demonstration of how deep we can go into company detail. Our goal is to gather information to qualify this prospect, not learn their entire company history. In other words, do they have problems that our solution uniquely addresses well? The most important step is to determine the #1 priority for our key stakeholder. If you can contribute to that, you have a prospect. In order to earn the right to ask the hard questions, we must create context. This is our homework, doing enough research to start a conversation that allows us to uncover more information through asking the right kind of questions. Company performance data is readily available (for both public and private companies) that allows sellers to create comparisons on targets, obstacles, strategies and milestones. Translated, those are Business Issues, Problems, Solutions and Value.

Understand the positioning of your prospect, listen to their earnings calls, talk to their people – then establish a meeting to move the metric that is most relevant for your Target Buyer. Prepare your questions comparing their current performance to their desired state or competitor position. Doing so, you gain an understanding of how you can make a meaningful impact. It’s important to remember that you are always learning. No matter how far you’ve come, do not underestimate the necessity to level set on the ValueSelling elements and re-confirm where you stand in the prospect’s eyes.

Beginning your discussion with a success story (Credibility Introduction) that resonates with this prospect is important. Transitioning in order to gather elements for your ValuePrompter is the next order of business and is critical to maximizing your time. Remember, your objective is to effectively qualify this prospect to determine if an opportunity exists, or at least an opportunity big enough for you to re-prioritize others in your funnel.

In our workshops, it is common to hear Visualize Facilitators say, “this is not a tactics course…” In my experience, demonstrating that you are well prepared and that you have a fixed amount of time to address the meeting objective sends a clear message that you know what you’re doing and value the time that you will spend together.

Good Selling!

As a Vice President of Visualize, Gerard helps organizations improve business metrics by creating a better connection with their customer’s definition of value. He is focused on refining his client’s selling approach & their ability to differentiate – to drive increased revenues, market share and profitability.