I recently sat through a CRM software demo and I was blown away – but not in a good way. The salesperson leading the demo initiated contact with me to set up the demo after we met at an accounting profession conference. He knew my marketing and consultant role so you can imagine my surprise when during the demo he was unprepared to answer any of my questions about how to tailor the software for the accounting profession. Instead, he kept using examples from manufacturing and dismissed the specific needs of our clients.
This interaction made me reflect on recent conversations with our clients about prospect calls and proposal content, and how often many of us miss the mark when it comes to our approach. Showing a prospect or client that you understand their company, industry, and specific needs can go a long way in building that relationship. Here’s how to start:
Read the latest articles impacting their company and industry.
With a small investment of time, you can learn the basics of almost any business and industry. We have found that firms who spend time researching existing relationships, news articles, company websites, and industry reports are more likely to win a second conversation or advance to the next round. The obvious place to begin is with a quick internet search, which may turn up news articles and related sites. You can use LinkedIn to identify relationships between employees at your firm and the prospect. If you have a CRM system, you may even be able to track down points of contact that you have had with a prospect. You can then reference these interactions during your meeting or in your proposal. There are several affordable options for industry reports, such as First Research, IBISWorld and Freedonia.
Prepare yourself with stories and examples.
The best stories and examples are about the work you have done for similar companies in the same industry. But even if you haven’t done work for a company exactly like theirs or in the exact same industry, you can still find common ground by identifying the characteristics that are most similar to the prospect. For example, if your prospect is a food manufacturer, you might share a success story about how you helped another type of manufacturer who is in an equally regulated field. For a law firm prospect, you might bring up examples of work done for other professional services or partnership clients. And when telling your story, be sure to explain why you are sharing the story and what you believe to be common ground with their company and needs.
Tailor your approach, but be flexible.
Once you collect the research and stories most similar to your prospect, you will be ready for questions that may come up during your conversation. Make sure your approach is conversational; ask questions and evolve the conversation as the discussion progresses. If the prospect asks you a question that you are not ready to answer, it’s OK to say, “That is an excellent question – I’d like to discuss it with my colleagues and get back to you with the best answer.” Your audience will respect you for being willing to do further research over just guessing incorrectly. It is likely that by the time your prospect starts asking questions, you will have already demonstrated your preparation and understanding.
These tips on preparing for prospect and client conversations will not only help you to gain trust but can also lead to better relationships and more new business.