There’s a quote originally attributed to Abraham Lincoln that goes something like “If I had an hour to chop down a tree, I’d spend 55 minutes sharpening my ax!”
I’ve always been intrigued by that idea; spend more time planning for a job than actually carrying it out. It gives you all the confidence you need to then attack the project, because you’ve laid the foundation before building the structure.
The same can be applied when making initial contact with the prospect. When you consider everything that’s involved (the type of business they run, the current supplier of their solutions, the style of buyer that will make the decisions), it’s obvious that the investigation work should take the necessary time and effort to lay that firm foundation.
There are basically four people who you need to be aware of within any company you’re going to approach; the gatekeeper, the decision-maker, the end user and the advocate. Many of these will roles will cross over, but you have to be aware of their roles and responsibilities within the business.
When you know who these persons are, you can develop a series of questions that will help you progress in the call.
Here are some of those questions that will sharpen your ax and get you closer to getting the business:
Who’s going to be my main competition in getting business with this client?
What does my competition do that will impress the client?
How does the client buy and use the product they are using currently that I am attempting to replace?
What’s the relationship like with their current supplier? What will I be up against?
What time frames might I be working in with this client before they make decisions?
What will they possibly know about me and my company?
Will they have come across my products and services before, or will this be totally new to them?
What will be most important to them? Price? Quality? Warranties? Long-term costs? Back up?
What buying structure does the company have? How do they go about making decisions?
What are the key buying motives that will drive the decision there? Is timing an issue?
The answers to these questions will help you formulate your plan of action and improve your chances of creating a need for your product in the prospect’s mind. If you can get clear on as many of these points as possible, you build confidence in your offering in their mind as well as your own. With that confidence comes a much more determined approach that you are the right supplier of solutions for their business.