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One of the biggest mistakes made by hardworking salespeople is the failure to prepare effectively for a sales call – not by packing a sample case, but by recognizing the true goal of their efforts.  Don’t just pack a sample case; think of a goal for each call.


See if this scenario is familiar:  A telephone call is made to get an appointment with a prospect.  A request is made for only fifteen minutes of the prospect’s time.  It is important to meet face-to face; once the prospect sees the value from the demonstration of the product or service, he or she will certainly be as excited about buying the product or service as the salesperson is about selling it.


Now comes the rehearsal of the product demonstration to cover all of the available features.  For any of the features which cannot be demonstrated on site, or may need further explanation, the salesperson plans ahead to bring along enough literature to distribute. 


When the time arrives for the appointment, the salesperson is all prepared to conduct a Million Dollar Demonstration.  Since fifteen minutes have been allocated for this meeting, the first order of business is to perform the product demonstration. 


Successful presentation completed, the hardworking salesperson asks probing questions and goes to a carefully rehearsed closing technique.


Result:   Sometimes an order.  Always a tired salesperson. 


This common scenario is happening to salespeople many times every working day.  Where did the salesperson go wrong?  The demonstration was great.  How could anyone resist buying such a good product/service, especially when it would help the prospect? 


To answer these questions, the following questions must be closely analyzed and answered:


1.  Does the salesperson contact a prospect with the intention of qualifying whether or not the prospect meets certain criteria for doing business with his/her company?


2.  When the initial phone call is made to the prospect, does the salesperson conduct an interview or merely make a plea for a small amount of time to see prospect? 


3.  Does the salesperson believe that the features, quality or value of the product/service will convince the prospect to make a purchase?  Or, does he/she recognize that there are other reasons the buying decision is made?


4.  Companies spend millions of dollars developing and printing brochures on their products.  How should such literature be used most effectively by a salesperson?  Often the literature is being used as a means of allowing the prospect to end the sales interview, i.e.:  Prospect: “Can you leave me some information to look over and then I’ll get back to you?” 


5.  Why does the salesperson approach the prospect with the intent of providing a product demonstration at any cost, even if it means not closing a sale?


6.  Does the salesperson have the pressure of a time limit imposed on him/her to complete a product demonstration? 


7.  Who created that pressure: the prospect or the salesperson? 


8.  Does the salesperson go to the prospect with the purpose of selling or helping the prospect?


The answers to these questions may seem obvious to you.  If they are apparent, why are so many salespeople falling victim to the scenario described at the beginning of this article? 


Why?  Because many salespeople see themselves as just salespeople.  Do a simple word association test.  Ask salespeople to tell you the first thing that comes to mind when you say the word “salesperson:”  The responses received from performing this test are often somewhat degrading to the sales profession – and that is from people who make their living selling! 


Many salespeople go to work everyday without understanding their purpose, or perhaps confusing their purposes with goals.  Salespeople go into every prospect with the goal of hoping to get enough time, and to find the right time, to pull out the goods and a product demonstration.  The problem is one of both perception and mechanics.  Salespeople are professionals, and must view themselves as such.  They must learn, understand and believe in the tools of their profession.  They must develop the ability to apply these tools in the best interest of the prospect, without losing focus on their own goals.  However, salespeople must know their true goals, and not mistake them for some other activity.


Making a sales call means conducting a sales interview.  The goal is to sell the product/service, not provide an education through demonstrations.  The professional salesperson knows this, and works with a system to conduct the interview and end the sequence at the salesperson’s discretion.  If the result is less than a sale, then the salesperson has maintained control of the situation and knows what the next step is in the process.  It means no more wishing and hoping that someday this prospect may become a customer. 


Reprinted from The President’s Club Report, ©1994 Sandler Systems, Inc.  All rights reserved. 

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