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Pre-mortem: could the victim die from too many sales?

Posted by: Mike Nathan | Posted on: March 15th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Confession:  As a sales executive over the past decade, I can say my preference is to have sales reps be action-orientated for the style and culture I have created within organizations.  It is more a “sales DNA” I am more looking for within a person.  I can’t teach a sense of urgency or give incentive for courage.  We all know business development professionals who suffer from “paralysis by over-analysis”.  They will be reluctant to engage any prospect or client without knowing absolutely everything about the situation.  This behavior is counter-productive for every meeting/interaction.  Do not mistake preparation for productivity.

With all of that being said, the need to be prepared for a business professional is critical.  I have heard it said that the keys to success are to: Show up, show up early, and show up prepared.  Seems appropriate for this conversation.  The idea of preparation plays an important role in closing or winning the business.  If you do all the hard work up front, closing for the business should be easy.  Well, the “hard work up front” is the preparation.

Preparation is not just an outward looking function.  Information in any sales process is king, especially in today’s insightful/challenger selling environment.  To know something of your prospect is good, but be careful not to lose sight of the big picture as you try to memorize the prospect’s mission statement and recall the founder’s hometown.  Preparation should also be knowing what you are doing do there.  What are you trying to accomplish…are you trying to find out the decision maker’s name or are you conducting a needs analysis?  Do you know exactly what to do or say to accomplish your goal?

PREPARTION can be to know and to be ready to answer:

  1. What is your goal for the meeting/call?
  2. Who are you meeting with? Title? Function?
  3. What does this company do? How? Differentiation? Successful?
  4. Why am I meeting with them?
  5. What can I/my company offer?
  6. What am I going to do if…? ***See pre-mortem
  7. What are the next steps in likely scenarios?

Let’s discuss an important tool or exercise in preparing for any business development meeting or call.  It is called the pre-mortem.  This is the opposite of the more familiar term, postmortem.  A postmortem is an examination of what killed a person after the fact.  A pre-mortem is an examination of all that could go wrong before the fact.  A pre-mortem will list out the things that could go wrong/objections (however unlikely or likely) and possible solutions or actions to take in that event.  Here is a quick and simple example of a pre-mortem.

Task: Call for sales appointment

Pre-mortem: 1. Phone does not work 2. Contact’s name is wrong 3. I get hung up on 4. They ask me of price over the phone

Solutions: 1. Use a different phone 2. Ask for the title (not Jon Doe) 3. Call back immediately…and apologize “for getting disconnected, but what I was saying was…” 4. Respond by asking if they will buy TODAY/RIGHT NOW if you have the best price (call their bluff)…if they will buy TODAY/RIGHT NOW…either a.) Know your best price or b.) Insist you don’t know enough to responsibly guess.

You get the idea.  A pre-mortem could be on a presentation or a proposal review…you name it.  The sales team can create their own “what could go wrongs” and answer them according to the organization and industry.  When a business development team is confident in knowing exactly what to do/say in all activities, the results will take off.  A sales team that acts without the FEAR of cold calls, big presentations, tough negotiations will rocket an organization to the next stage.

If you do the hard work ahead of time, closing should be a natural conclusion to the business conversation.  Be prepared and win the business.

The take away: Do not mistake preparation for productivity.  Preparation is not just an outward looking function.  Conduct your pre-mortems with sales teams and build confidence.  Do the work required to be successful.

Mike Nathan, MBA

Managing Partner

Next Stage Growth Partners

(651) 214-7473

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