I have spent my entire career in sales, since I graduated from college, in sales, both as a representative and in management positions, and over the years I have found that knowledge about a clients’ business and personal interests can be a powerful tool.  My first job out of college was as an account executive at UPS, and back then, our client information was contained in large binders of customer data that were printed off the mainframe, e-mail was still a relatively new development, and most background research on a company had to be done in the library (WOW, I’m really dating myself now).

Having a working knowledge about clients’ and prospects’ businesses is important, but also personal information about their hobbies and interests is equally so. Don’t waste time trying to find out basic information; successful salespeople spend more time determining how their product or service can solve a problem or meet a need.  All things being equal, people buy from people they like and trust, and most people neither like nor trust salespeople who waste their time.

Lately I have been thinking about how much more effective I would have been in my sales career if I had tools like search engines, social media, and a smartphone back then.  Instead of lugging around these huge binders or later on in my career a laptop in my car, I would just use my Motorola Droid or another smartphone to pull up information on a company that I was calling on.  My customer relationship manager (CRM) system would also be web-based and easy-to-access so I could figure out what happened on the last call and develop my strategy for this call.

To top it off, I would use a search engine to find out the latest news on my prospect and use Twitter search to see if this person was tweeting and what topic.  If I didn’t have time before the call to pull up this background information in the car, I could certainly do it (discreetly) while waiting in the reception area; this would be very cumbersome and difficult to do with a binder or laptop.

It takes time getting to know the customer, and if you are trying to do it in their office during the workday, you can’t determine how much time you have with the person because they dictate the schedule.  The prudent salesperson would conduct “pre-call planning” and search the web for the latest news and information about the prospect and armed with this knowledge, start the conversation with small talk then quickly launch into the sales presentation.

So, don’t waste time! Do your homework ahead of time and get down to selling.
Founded in 2008, AMM Communications is a St. Louis-based public relations and marketing firm that provides public relations, marketing, crisis communication, social media and sales management training for small- and mid-sized financial institutions, professional service firms and manufacturing companies. For more information, please navigate to www.ammcommunications.com or call 314.485.9499.