6 Things To Learn About Prospects, Before You Sell to Them

The days are long past when you can walking to a customer meeting and lay down a sales pitch. Before you even THINK about selling to ANYBODY, you need to know (or at least have a good idea about) the following six things:

  • #1: Their History. Where are they coming from? How did they get here? What do they know about your and your firm? What dealings have taken place in the past?
  • #2: Frames of Reference. What ideologies and situations might affect their decision-making? Do they have a certain way of viewing your offering? How do they feel about their own firm?
  • #3: Needs and Desires. Where do they want to go? How do they expect to feel when they get there? How do they think they’re going to get there? What do they think will prevent it?
  • #4: Likely Objections. What is going to cause them to balk? How fervently do the believe in that objection? How real is it? Might it block the deal, no matter what you say or do?
  • #5: Capacity to Act. Are you communicating with decision-makers or seat-warmers? If decision-makers, what decision do you want them to make? If not, why are you talking to them?
  • #6: Decision-making Style. If they’re decision-makers, how do they make decisions? Are they all about facts and figures? Or do they decide according to a gut feeling?

If you understand these six perspectives, you can tailor your conversation to match. For example, if you know that your firm contributed to the prospect’s success in the past, you can make sure that each contact knows about it, even if happened before they joined the company.

Similarly, if the decision-maker likes facts and figures, you can build your value proposition around ROI. By contrast, the the decision-maker is “gut-feeler”, you can use anecdotes and imagery to bring out the right emotions.

How do you find out this information. Easy. Research the firm and the audience on the Internet. Then ask around. Look for colleagues who know the company or the players. When you meet with prospects, keep your eyes and ears open for how they make decisions and how then tend to think.

After a while, it will become second nature.

The above is based on a conversation with with Bill Stinnett, author of the bestselling books Think Like Your Customer and the new Selling Results (McGraw Hill, 2006).

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