Preparing for a sales meeting is not a new piece of advice, but experienced advisors often shortcut the lead-up to a meeting, missing critical opportunities to win more sales as a result.
Top life insurance and annuities prospects warrant your best sales performance, and the only way to deliver that experience is to enter a meeting prepared, confident, and poised. And they can tell when you have not taken the meeting as seriously as you could have.
In a more public arena, you can see this dynamic play out in NFL press conferences over and over again.
Regardless of how you feel about Bill Belichick and the Patriots, we can all agree that Belichick is a national treasure when it comes to press conferences. He does not tolerate poorly prepared questions. He shuts them down and moves on after a frustrated one-word answer and a look of disappointment. For journalists, Belichick’s handling of bad questions is an example of how important it is to prepare good questions ahead of time because you may not get a second try.
We might laugh when a sports journalist fumbles a question at an NFL conference, but the reality is that many of us are guilty of entering sales meetings as equally unprepared. The more experienced we become, the more likely we are to “wing it.” We don’t prepare questions ahead of time. We don’t rehearse. In some cases, we might not even research the prospect.
We’ve had hundreds of sales meetings before this one, so we go in with a false sense of confidence and often miss easy opportunities for big wins by virtue of our lack of preparation. Just as a poorly formed question sounds silly in a televised press conference, so does a poorly formed (and uninformed) question corrode our reputation in a sales meeting.
To deliver a sales experience that earns you the respect of prospects, prepare for your meetings by doing the following:
1. Research the prospect.
Don’t just look at their website and their LinkedIn connections, dig into their space—their company history, the articles written about them, the major happenings in the industry, and the behaviors of their competitors. You might even place a few calls to mutual connections to learn more than what’s available online.
2. Refine your questions.
By answering as many questions as you can with your research, you can skip ahead to asking insightful, productive questions that demonstrate not only your level of preparedness but also your level of commitment to doing the right thing for the prospect.
3. Rehearse your sales process.
Your sales process does not have to be a word for word script, but you should practice the delivery of your key stories and key points. By reviewing this material and delivering a few bathroom mirror renditions, you can smooth out stumbling points and identify new opportunities ahead of time.
4. Ask for help.
If your meeting came about as the result of an appointment-setting firm, ask them for the intelligence they have gathered on the prospect. If you generated the lead yourself, game-plan your approach with a colleague or with a sales coach so that you can develop a more effective approach.
5. Reflect on your meetings.
How you learn from a meeting helps you to prepare for the next one. If you aren’t doing a debrief of your sales call, analyzing what worked well and what performed poorly, you are missing opportunities to improve. Make it a habit to conduct this review and to implement improvements.
In another realm, we do not expect a cold swing to be the best possible effort. We need to practice. We need to warm-up. We need to prepare. The best performers of any field do not simply walk into a championship scenario. They spend months getting ready. Advisors should have the same mindset when it comes to sales, otherwise a prospect will give you the Belichick sigh and move on to the next advisor.
— Read 6 Ways to Capture the Rewards Hiding in the Unknown, on ThinkAdvisor.
John Pojeta is vice president of business development at The PT Services Group. Before he joined PT, he owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years.