The Chinese philospher Lao Tzu once said: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
While it is unlikely he had the modern sales professional in mind when he said this, that doesn’t make his words any less applicable to those hoping to be a success in the industry today.
Most salespeople already understand how important it is to know as much as possible about a prospect and their company before trying to sell to them. The successful ones practice the research aspect of first call preparation religeously and often reap the rewards of knowing exactly how they can provide a solution to a prospect’s challenge. Less successful sales professionals frequently skip this step in favor of “winging it.”
However, both groups are usually guilty of skipping an equally critical step in preparing for that first call: They neglect to research themselves.
How much should you know about yourself before reaching out?
Before picking up the phone to make a first-contact sales call, it is critically important you know everything there is to know about your own company. As any top sales coach will tell you, you should know your company’s history, its leadership as well as its products and services inside and out.
Before you can even start crafting your pitch, you must understand exactly what makes your company’s products or services valuable to others even if they are not the products or services you are specifically charged with selling. Just as it is nearly impossible to sell a product or service you don’t believe in or fully understand, it is extremely difficult to sell anything if you don’t believe in your company or its mission.
Make sure you know what makes you and your company stand out from the competition. Only then will it become obvious how what you have to offer will be a solution to your clients’ problem.
Even the downsides can be upsides
Conducting a deep dive on your own company might result in discovering some – shall we say – less than favorable information. Obviously, you shouldn’t volunteer this information to your prospects but knowing these issues exist will help you to respond effectively if a customer or client ever brings them up. You might even be able to turn them into positives.
Remember, nothing beats being an expert with superior product knowledge. Knowing your own company’s products or services better than anyone else will be a key factor when it comes to winning new business and closing deals.
At this point, if you’re struggling to understand why you should put so much effort into knowing everything about your company and its products and services, try putting yourself in the shoes of a potential client.
What would you do?
Would you buy from someone you repeatedly have to ask questions about their products? Is there anything more frustrating than asking a question about a product or service only to be told “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to get back to you on that”? Chances are you’d be just as inclined as your prospective customer to seek out someone who does have the answers i.e. the competition.
If, on the other hand, you are able to display a deep knowledge of (and pride in) your comany and its products and services, you’ll be more likely to be seen as a valuable resource that can help them grow their business.
That is why you should read all your company’s press releases, blogs and newsletters to stay current on any updates and developments. You should also try to spend as much time as you can with the sales engineers who know the technical aspects of the products your trying to sell.
Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard
Part of the challenge here is that few people go into sales thinking they will have to do all of this “extra” work. Well, there’s a reason sales is considered the highest paying hard work or the lowest paying easy work you’ll ever have.
Bottome Line: It is a lot of hard work and you will spend a lot of time on things that may seem outside the scope of your role. But, the value you create for your company and your customers by going above-and-beyond will see you well rewarded in the end.
What comes next?
So, all your hard work has paid off and you closed the sale. Now what? If you answered “more hard work,” you’re starting to get the message!
It’s not enough to understand how your company’s current products and services work, you must stay on top of developments to know what’s coming in the future and how it may provide additional solutions to your customers’ evolving challenges.
Industry-leading certified sales coaches recommend subscribing to customers’ blogs and newsletters to stay up to speed with what they’re doing and what their future needs might be.
It’s not all bad news
While the thought of doing all this research might seem daunting at first, it’s not actually as bad as it sounds because most of it will only have to be done once. For example, once you know your company’s history, you know it. From that point on, it will simply be a case of keeping an eye out for new developments in the story.
Of course, there’s a little more to it with potential customers as you will have to do a deep dive for each and every new one. However, once they become a established client, you’ll be in the same position you are with your own company in terms of just staying up to speed with developments.
There is no better way to establish and build a relationship with a customer than to know them as well – or better – than they know themselves. Calling them first to say, “I heard you guys are thinking of doing this and I think we can help” is always going to be more effective than sitting there waiting for the phone to ring.
As any top sales coach will tell you, failing to prepare is the same thing as preparing to fail. So, the choice is yours: Do the hard work and be rewarded for it or don’t do it and continue to struggle.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Natasa Tomic is journalist and content producer who specializes in writing about business and sales.