December 11th, 2014 | by

The flaming hot truth is this: first impressions really and truly can make (or break) your chances in sales. But that first impression is based on so much more than your pitch. Preparation and timing are also key elements. Sales reps often just hit the phones and wing it – but making those calls without solid preparation may result in leaving good money on the table. The last thing you want to do is to start the conversation uninformed about the prospect’s needs or environment, or waste time with the wrong contact (or irritate a CXO by wasting their time). Making these mistakes can cause really good opportunities to crash and burn before ever getting off the ground. Good sales prospecting is a critical skill to master – and there are a few deadly mistakes you must avoid.

Here are some ways to prepare effectively:

1. Don’t make cold calls. Sales intelligence provides you with an easy path to call preparation, so that you no longer need to make cold calls. Rather than wasting your time calling 100 numbers on a list and getting one or two possible results, warm up the list by spending a little time getting acquainted with the prospect organizations first. What installed technologies does the organization have, who in the organization is responsible for the solution you have to offer? Read through the organization’s profile and familiarize yourself with what they do and what technologies they use. Examine the company’s organizational chart and identify the right contacts responsible for your areas of technology. Taking these steps will help you approach the right contact every time. With a little bit of preparation, you can kiss cold calling goodbye and realize the potential behind every call.

2. Don’t miss buying signals. With DiscoverOrg, you can set up Scoops so that you will know before your competition about any important executive changes, projects or initiatives at your targeted accounts. Using Triggers, you might learn when a company within your industry is planning a major migration on a key platform. One major initiative like this could turn into a host of smaller projects where your solution might be a perfect fit. Using this real-time intelligence allows you to know when to approach a company when they are primed and ready to buy.

3. Stop pushing pain. Too many sales reps focus on pain points and all of their energy selling to them. Here is an example to illustrate the point: You are running late for a flight and you get a flat tire. Luckily, another driver stops to help. The second driver says, “Looks like you need a new tire.” But that is not what you need at all – what you really need is to catch your flight.

You need a ride to the airport. Even though the flat is your pain point, fixing that is not the solution that you need. There is a big difference between selling tires (pain points) and offering a real solution (a ride). If a rep is only looking for the pain, he or she may miss the opportunity to identify the broader solution that the customer needs.

The keys to finding out what a customer really needs are: preparing, seeking, and listening. Do your homework so that you understand their environment. Use sales scoops to identify the right time to reach out. And make sure to listen actively while you are on the call, incorporating what the prospect is actually saying into your thinking, solution, and discussion. If you approach conversations with prospects as a colleague who is interested in their business challenges, not as a rep trying to sell a solution, you are more likely to provide value and become a trusted partner.

Take the time to be an educated seller. Be a trusted, informed partner. An unstudied approach leads to deadly mistakes and many missed opportunities. Investing time pre-call with sales intelligence and actively listening to prospect needs will pay off time after time. Let the other guys crash and burn – you’ve got deals to close.

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About the author

Henry Schuck

Henry Schuck is the CEO of DiscoverOrg, a 7-time Fortune 5000 company, which he co-founded at the age of 23. He has extensive experience managing the sales and marketing activities of fast-growing information technology data companies.