The First Step in the Sales Planning Process: Don't Freak the Prospect Out

BY Rachel Cagle
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Imagine, if you will, that you are an executive of a company beginning a meeting with a salesperson you have never met before. They come in and shake your hand. And what's the first step in the sales planning process they have crafted for themselves? To immediately reference an activity you enjoy that they had no way of knowing, even from the items you showcase in your office. The sales reps who knows too much about you then invites you on a trip to participate in said activity with them. At this point, you are terrified, or at least a little uncomfortable, right?

That’s an example Sharon Gillenwater, writing for SellingPower, gives when highlighting the difference between being well-​prepared for a sales meeting and being invasive in your research.

The First Step in the Sales Planning Process: Research, but Not Too Thoroughly

Yes, researching a prospect on social media and the internet in general can seem a little like stalking during the process. However, you never, EVER, want to let on that you know personal things about your prospect before you have officially met them. It's weird and creepy and your lack of boundaries will scare them away.

You should not avoid finding potential conversation starters, though. The first step in the sales planning process should be to find a good opener based on research. You just need to be graceful when incorporating the facts you have found into your meeting. After all, connecting on a personal level is one of the best ways to make a prospect feel comfortable with you and more likely to make purchases from you. Gillenwater gives the example of a prospect who loves to go hiking. Instead of starting small talk with your knowledge of that personal fact, gradually lead the conversation in the direction of your findings. Notice a personal item in their office that could relate to the hobby and go from there.

For example:

You, noticing a picture of a dog on the prospect’s desk: “Is that a picture of your dog? They are so cute (or beautiful or other positive adjective).”

Them: “Ah, yes. [Name], she’s this many years old.”

You: “Have you taken her to [trail you know of]? It has all these sights and is dog-friendly.”

Boom: A non-​creepy in to a personal conversation about a private hobby.

Or, one of your slides in your presentation could be centered around a hiking metaphor, which you can then point out is a hobby that you enjoy. That strategy let's the prospect start the bonding conversation by offering up the personal information to you directly. Even if they don't respond to it by chiming in that it's a hobby you share, it is still bound to perk their interest. This will help them engage more with you and the information you're communicating and help commit the facts to memory. A memorable presentation is an effective one.

So, continue to do your research and find information that can lead to a personal connection. But make sure you the first step in the sales planning process: don't make it weird. Communicate the personal connection in a tactful way, because creepiness will cost you a sale.