The three secrets to sales success are simple – “PREPARATION, Preparation, preparation”. I believe that the more prepared you are before any sales call, the more likely you will be able to, help your customers and prospects, understand their specific needs, see how your product or service can completely satisfy their requirements, the easier it will be to get them to know, like and trust you and see the value you bring. Proper preparation allows you to engage with your customers or prospects on a much deeper level and supports you to have a greater understanding of their business and personal needs. This will obviously make connecting with them and showing the value you bring far easier.

The old school style of cold calling, where you just arrive at someone’s door and say “Tell me a little about your business” and hope that they are a perfect fit for your product or service. Makes you look unprepared, unsure and unprofessional and already puts your customer or prospect on the back foot. People do not have time to waste in unnecessary meetings with sales people, who are on a fishing expedition and do not have a clue about their prospects business or needs.


There are so many ways to research any new prospects, before you even try to arrange a meeting to meet with them.

Almost every company has a company website. Spend some time surfing through their site; identify a few strategic pages, which you can make printouts of. Read through the pages several times, familiarising yourself with the company, its operations and structure. Make some notes for yourself, on the printout and prepare a few questions on things, which you do not understand. Read through your notes and the questions just before the meeting, so that you have all the relevant information and the questions you need to ask, in the forefront of your mind. During the meeting, you should ask those questions, which you have prepared. This will show that you are prepared and are only looking for them to elaborate on some key areas to help you improve your understanding of their business, so that you can better help them.
Put the person’s name, who you intend to meet, into a Google search. There may be an article written by them or you may be guided to their LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page. There is an incredible amount of information, you can glean from all these sources, which will help you get a better understanding of the person you will meet. Information, which you can use during the meeting to help you connect with them and positively influence them to see the value you offer.
Contact your prospects own sales team and ask them for information on the company, the person you intend to meet with etc. Sales people are really willing to divulge information and will speak freely, giving you a whole lot of very useful information.
Read as much of your prospects literature as possible. Even though it is normally written as a brag document, most of the ones I have read, also give information on shifts in the company’s emphasis and even market coverage etc. It also gives you an insight into what they think about themselves and their products or services. All this information will be invaluable, when you meet with them.
Try to make contact with their vendors. This can be more difficult and some vendors are reluctant to speak about their customers. If you can get one of their vendors to speak to you, try to ask questions about their relationship with your prospect. Ask questions like how well they pay and your prospects expectations and additional requirements etc. Vendors are seldom used as they are difficult to discover and often reluctant to divulge any information, but can all the same be an incredible source of information.
Contact their competition and ask them for information about your prospect. I know sales people should never directly run their competition down, but they do. Call on your prospects competition, starting with their sales team and try to get as much information as you can. My experience has shown that the more the competition hates your prospect, the better they usually are. Competitors hate people who constantly take business away from them.
Try to contact their customers and get information on delivery, organisation, quality and any subtle information, which can give you better insights and a competitive advantage.
Use your inner circle or people in your network to try to gather information on your prospect. A quick email or telephone call to people who know your prospect or who have done business with them, may present you with the bonanza you are looking for. They may be able to connect you with the right person or give you some very useful information.
Give your prospects PR or Marketing department a call. They can also provide you with some valuable information.
Finally think carefully about your objective and purpose, when making the meeting.
I know that it is far easier to just wing it and to cold call on prospects. It takes far less time and allows sales people to knock off at lunch time every day. But if you want to excel as a sales professional and make a real success in selling, proper perpetration is crucial. Yes, preparation takes time and effort, but when done properly, it saves you the time of calling on the wrong prospects and you appear very impressive, when you do sit opposite your prospect.

He or she can see that you are prepared and will be silently impressed and unconsciously connect with you. This first impression, created due to great preparation, is incredibly powerful and is the one crucial element, which separates a great sales professional from an average sales person. It is a huge advantage, which every sales professional must take advantage of. Forget about your sales pitch, power point presentation, own literature, samples and business cards, you know the same stuff your competition is doing and instead focus on researching and understanding your prospect and their needs and you will close almost every sale.

Author's Bio: 

Andrew Horton is one of South Africa's top sales training experts. He will support, uplift and inspire sales professionals to explore the limits of their potential and awaken the sales giants, which resides within all of them. His sales training presentation is aimed at inspiring sales professionals, helping them to become re-energised and eager to achieve their sales targets. The sales tools and powerful tried and tested practical sales techniques, they will be introduced to during his presentation, will help any sales professional to immediately up their game and to become a real sales giant, within their markets. Visit my website at