Salespeople! Please...do your homework.
Today, I went to get my nails done. This is normally a time for me to spend with my daughters and unplug from work for an hour or so. However, while at the salon today, I witnessed a sales call that was just a hot mess. And as I sat and listened to the exchange between the salon owner and the salesperson, I was painfully reminded of how important the basic tenants of sales are. The primary one...be prepared and do your homework.
My chair was right next to the podium/greeting area, so I had a front row seat. A young(ish) woman walked into the salon. She was dressed for business and had a portfolio, her phone and some marketing material in hand. As she asked for the owner, you could tell she was slightly nervous and uncomfortable (which I get...because cold calling can be hard). Once she established that she was speaking to the owner, she LAUNCHED into a verbal barrage about her products and how she could help him. She never introduced herself or her company. She never asked for his name. It was a missed opportunity to begin to build rapport or a relationship. Further, by not asking questions about his business needs, she missed a key opportunity to become this business owner's problem solver.
What struck me the most was that the salesperson did not take the time to consider the type of business or what their potential needs might be. As a nail salon, they may need the typical business products; paper, toner and staples. However, if you think about it, other things they may need are paper towels, cleaning supplies, water bottles, etc. If she had taken the time to think of these things, this salesperson could have provided information on sales or savings opportunities for these specific products as an opener. She could have prepared marketing materials to leave behind to allow for a follow up appointment. Instead, this salesperson desperately tried to push every product in her arsenal, even if it wasn't relevant. Instead of a sale or even a successful introduction, she left empty handed and the business owner threw away her information the minute she stepped out the door.
As she left today, I couldn't help but feel some empathy for her. I would bet that she probably has the potential to be a great salesperson. The simple fact that she was willing and able to cold call shows guts and tenacity. However, I am also willing to bet that no one has every trained her on any of the best practices needed for success. If I had five minutes with her, my advice would be this:
Develop a plan. Come up with a list of potential business targets.
Do your homework. Learn about the business & try to anticipate some basic potential needs
Prepare. Based on the potential needs, brainstorm some solutions.
Ask questions & build rapport
So, please...as salespeople...DO YOUR HOMEWORK!