Success is 90% Preparation, 10% Perspiration

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We’ve all heard the adage “Success is 90% preparation and only 10% perspiration”. The great scientist Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind”.  This is an area that I believe needs to be addressed more effectively by sales people and the organizations they work for today. So, let me start by asking: Are your sales people as prepared and effective as they need to be in order to sell your company’s products or services to your target audience?

According to current research from such notable organizations as IDC, Aberdeen Group, Forrester Group, CSO Insights, etc., only 25% of prospects rate sales people as being knowledgeable, effective or prepared, when they call on them. Wouldn’t you agree that one of the most important sales enablement objectives should be to help your sales people clearly and concisely articulate value, as well as product differentiation, in the context of the customer’s specific problems?

A recent survey of some 10,000 C-Suite executives were asked what their major hesitation was in meeting with sales people, and the overwhelming response was: “Most sales people who call on me simply don’t know enough about the issues in my industry or my pain for me to waste my time to meet with them”. The good news, however, is that those same executives went on to say that they almost always grant access to sales people who demonstrate an understanding of their problems and respect their time by quickly getting to the point.

Sales people can only prepare themselves so much, when it comes to being as effective and as prepared as they need to be. The reason is, a lot of what they need to reach that level of preparedness and effectiveness is buried in the tribal knowledge, experiences and information within their own organization. Sales training can only go so far to prepare your sales people, because sales people are what I call “Just-In-Time, Opportunity-Specific Learners”.  In other words, they will only take away and retain a small percentage of what they get from sales training, unless it is relevant to an opportunity they are currently working on and that training will immediately help them. What they learned in training falls off exponentially over a short period of time if it isn’t used immediately. That is why they need to have some type of repository that will allow them to access that training information when they need it.

In order for sales people to be prepared to meet the challenges of today’s buyers, they must:

  • Have an understanding of the problems and issues of not only the buyer they are dealing with, but of all of the stakeholders who might influence the buying decision and their industry or business.
  • Understand and be able to consistently and effectively articulate and communicate a value message that is relevant to their prospects.
  • Know who their target market is and why they are considered to be so.
  • Have a command of their own company, products, services and the value proposition they can deliver to those prospects.
  • Know who their competitors are, what they offer, how they compete with them, and how they are different from them.
  • Know, and be able to provide similar, referencing clients that had a similar problem.

As you can see, sales people need to be equipped with a lot of knowledge and information if they are going to be successful, and a lot of that knowledge and information needs to be in a platform that they can easily access.

So, after seeing what sales people need to have in order to be prepared and effective at selling, allow me to ask my question again: Are your sales people as prepared and effective as they need to be in order to sell your company’s products or services to your target audience? This time, ask yourself whether your organization has taken the steps necessary to help prepare them to do that and if you haven’t, then perhaps the problem with not being prepared is as much your responsibility as it is theirs.

At least that’s the way I see it, what say you?

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