Failing to Prepare or Preparing to Fail?
Ten Tips to Get You Back on Track

By Tim Wackel

Be prepared!

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? After all, the Boy Scouts have been teaching this idea to kids for almost 100 years.

So why in the world would most sales professionals show up so unprepared? You see it all the time—they dash in from the parking lot with a handful of binders—or maybe an iPad if they really want to impress—but all too often, they have no real plan on how to engage.

Why do so many dealer sales reps fail to prepare? Because it is always easier to talk about you, your company and your products than it is to prepare to have a conversation about the people who really matter—your clients and prospects!

Here’s the big question: What are you doing to prepare that if your clients knew you were doing it, would make them more inclined to have an open and honest dialog with you?

The next time you meet with a prospect or client, open the conversation with this simple phrase: “In preparing for this meeting I took some time to…” Then simply highlight the two or three critical things you did to prepare and watch what happens.

If nothing else, you will absolutely blow away the last rep who stopped by and opened their meeting by announcing that they were just “checking in” to see if anything new was going on.

The less you talk about yourself, the more you have to prepare to talk about them. And the more you talk about them, the more likely they will be interested in you. That may not quite be the secret formula you were hoping for but it is an obvious formula—so obvious that most sales reps ignore it.

Here are ten key elements you can use to create your own successful pre-call habits:

  1. Learn about their business—their products/services, customers, industry trends, key initiatives, financial status and competition.

  2. Discover something about the person you are meeting with. Google them, check them out on LinkedIn, talk to their colleagues or call others in the industry who have insights.

  3. Define the exact purpose of your call. What are the goals for this interaction?

  4. Identify the benefits of your meeting. And make sure those benefits are clear, concise, credible and compelling!

  5. Prepare ideas that hold value for your customer. Your language needs to reflect a focus on solutions…not on your latest desking product or task chair!

  6. Plan questions that establish your expertise and get them to think in new ways. The more thought provoking your questions are, the more your prospective buyers will respect and remember you!

  7. Communicate an outline of your meeting prior to the appointment. Ask them to review it and provide you with feedback. Getting their buy-in before you walk in the door is critical and demonstrates your commitment to delivering value.

  8. Anticipate the resistance that you are most likely to encounter and prepare ideas, case studies, testimonials or expert opinions to counter it and reduce your prospect’s reluctance to move forward.

  9. Plan how you will end the meeting or call and decide what agreements you need to ask for.

  10. Remind yourself to be warm, friendly and courteous to everyone you encounter. Your prospects are constantly evaluating you—deciding how much they like you, how much they believe you, how much they trust you and how much confidence they have in you. It takes time—often a long time—to build your personal brand but it takes only a few seconds for that brand to be destroyed.

The determination to win is important in selling…but the determination to prepare to win is even more essential if you’re serious about getting to the top of your profession!

Tim Wackel, a sales and sales management expert who has been providing effective sales leadership to a broad range of organizations for over 25 years, will present the sales training track at Workplace Furnishings’ 2017 Annual Conference in San Antonio, April 2-5. To learn more about Tim, visit his website at and prepare for your own sales success in 2017 by making plans now to attend next year’s WPF Conference!


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