If a prospect has been qualified or if qualifying cannot take place until additional information is obtained (e.g., when first talking to the prospect), a salesperson’s next task is to prepare for an eventual sales call. At this stage, the salesperson’s key focus is on learning as much as possible about the prospect. While during the lead generation and qualifying portion of the selling process a seller may have gained a great deal of knowledge about a customer, invariably there is much more to be known that will be helpful once an actual sales call is made. The salesperson will use their research skills to learn about such issues as:
- who is the key decision maker
- how are purchase decisions made
- what products are currently being purchased
- how frequently are purchases made
- what is the customer’s organizational structure
Salespeople can attempt to gather this information through several sources including: corporate research reports, information on the prospect’s website, conversations with non-competitive salespeople who have dealt with the prospect, website discussion forums where industry information is discussed, and by asking questions when setting up sales meetings (see Making Initial Contact). Gaining this information can help prepare the salesperson for the sales presentation.
For example, if the salesperson learns which competitor currently supplies the prospect then the salesperson can tailor promotional material in a way that compares the seller’s products against products being purchased by the prospect. Additionally, having more information about a prospect allows the salesperson to be more confident in his/her presentation and, consequently, come across as more knowledgeable when meeting with the prospect.