Don’t “Wing It” – Take the Time to Prepare

“The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.” This Bobby Knight quote is one I can relate to. As I coach teams to prepare them for key customer calls and meetings, they are always impressed with the outcome when they truly take the time to prepare. When your sales team is well prepped, there are so many advantages and so fewer risks.

In the beginning, though, many sales reps are hesitant to spend much time preparing. They are comfortable with winging it and believe they can update everyone on the fly. Maybe they’ll catch you as you’re walking together to the meeting or having a cup of coffee. They’ll say that this is the way they have always done it, and that they have been in sales for years and are very successful. So why change?

Then, I ask them to try to prepare for a meeting in advance and give it the proper amount of time, focus and effort. But given our busy schedules, how much time is really needed? Here’s the basic guideline – prep time should be at least as long as the length of the meeting you’re preparing for:

  • If the meeting is one hour, then prep your sales team for at least one hour, maybe more.
  • If the meeting is 4 hours, then prep your team for at least 4 hours, maybe more.

I can hear it now:  Really, Janice? Are you kidding me? Who has that kind of time?

Ok, ok. Hold on. So you want to succeed, but you are not willing to put in the time to prepare? Why take that chance? Without the right preparation, it is difficult to truly take the call or meeting to the next level. You may luck out and it could happen anyway, but there’s such a huge opportunity to ensure it goes the way you want. And, there’s so much more risk if your sales team doesn’t take the time to prepare.

I always think back to this one time when I saw this type of preparation work like a charm.

It was a key meeting – a final presentation in which my company was one of the two finalists. The meeting was going to include all the customer’s key decision makers and influencers. We wanted to ensure we were selected. So the selling team – consisting of sales, customer service, product development, implementation and management – prepared for over a week for an 8-hour presentation. We carefully went through everything that could possibly go wrong. We identified roles and kicked a few off of the agenda since they were needed in prep but were not essential for the meeting. We went over every slide and every piece of information that placed us in our customer’s shoes.

Then came the day of the meeting. It was daunting and exhausting, and everything we thought could happen, did happen. But we were so well-prepared and ultimately came across as very confident and knowledgeable to the customer. In the end, we won this critical deal and the customer appreciated our preparation.

And, that sales rep exceeded her quota on that deal alone.

So the next time you think about what a waste of time it is to prepare for a customer meeting, think again. And think like Bobby Knight and have the will to prepare. Don’t wing it! Take the time to prepare.

Janice Mars

Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter

Leave a Reply