Did You Do Your Homework?

by Eileen Nonemaker

Eileenís long, successful career in sales and sales management makes her an easy choice for those leaders and managers who are responsible for generating revenue and achieving corporate goals and have no time to waste getting there. Clients appreciate her ability to help them quickly select, assess, train and develop their sales teams whether they are selling products or services. New teams get brought up to speed quickly and experienced teams develop what is necessary to perform at the next level. Through goal setting, skill refinement and the development of accurate forecasting skills, she has helped both individuals and teams develop strong success strategies. Utilizing her formal training as a business coach and consultant to supplement her natural ability to connect with people, Eileen gains the trust and respect needed to interact with both leadership and team members. When coaching individual clients, Eileen becomes a 'lady on a mission' to help them succeed. Eileen is able to help them stay focused on their objectives and establish goals that take them to that next level in their personal and/or business lives. Her coaching typically involves teaching people how to set measurable goals, how to look at goals objectively and how to re-evaluate them periodically to stay on track. Eileenís goal as a coach is to help her clients find the right balance between career and family so they have the best of both worlds.

Who among us has not heard that question?

Some of us more than others, and some of us just tuned it out, so we didn't hear it at all.

That word, "homework" was something most of us did not want to do, because it kept us from doing fun things after school or on the weekend. Those of us who enjoyed school did our homework right away, so that we could then enjoy our afternoon or evening free time and not worry about it later.

To many these exercises were drudgery and seemed of no value - just a way for teachers to make us miserable. To those who love to learn, these lessons or projects were another way to explore a new topic that could not be handled in the classroom and an opportunity to add knowledge to a subject we enjoyed.

When our schooling was completed the word "homework" left our vocabulary and depending upon the career we chose, it varied as to whether we needed to do projects after work hours or take work home.

In in a sales career, the work "homework" has a different meaning. When I asked my team that all important question - Did you do your homework? - I meant did you research the prospect? Have you done your groundwork, your fact-finding? Are you prepared prior to the sales appointment - or are you winging it?

Years ago doing research was very different than it is today. Admittedly I am a Boomer whose research was done from encyclopedias, microfilm, and books. Much time was spent in the library.

Today spending time in the library may mean finding a helpful book, but most of the time it means using the computers to search the internet. To those of us with computers or tablets at home, the library may be a thing of the past. Basically, doing research and fact finding is easier than it has ever been. Technology can be our friend.

Why then, do some sales people NOT do their homework?

Some of my bugaboos are:

  • With the use of Google Maps, MapQuest, GPS and cell phones - why would someone get lost? They didn't take the time to check out directions beforehand.
  • If there is traffic or an unforeseen delay, there is no reason to be late without alerting the client. With cell phones there is no excuse. But you have to remember to have the phone number - that takes planning!
  • Cold calling - if the prospective firm has a website, you can find the phone number, address, mission statement and often the correct contact with pertinent contact information even an email address. Why not find out all you can before dialing the number and avoid dealing with a gatekeeper? Or an automated phone system?
  • In real estate sales there is no longer the need to drive buyers from house to house without any true knowledge of the house. With the internet and multiple real estate websites, such as, Realtor.com, Zillow or Trulia, a potential buyer can see all the photos and details before scheduling a showing. With Google Earth the buyer can see the neighborhood and other location details. There is no excuse to have a homeowner spend time staging their home to show and no reason to waste the time of the buyer, if the buyer can immediately say - "this is not for me." Did the realtor do fact-finding with the buyers? Did he or she forward some links to homes to gain their buy-in or interest?

I have worked with some truly professional sales folks, and one that easily comes to mind is a senior account executive with a regional lifestyle magazine. She has been with the publication for almost ten years and is consistently the top producer. The magazine is an audited publication and each year the publisher invests in a new reader survey. The sales team is given statistics they can use with potential clients. In addition to age breakdown, household income, and education levels, there are percentages of those who will purchase specific products or services in the next year.

Before a sales call, this account executive tallies the number of potential buyers for the client's specific category, knowing in advance the number of readers, potential buyers, who will see the publication and the advertiser's information. Early in the call during the fact-finding, she finds out what an average customer spends and what they are worth to that specific advertiser. With a simple calculation she can show her prospect the potential income based on his investment in ads and show him the return on his investment. It's no wonder she has an excellent closing ratio and lots of repeat business!

I could detail many more examples of sales folks, not being proactive and not doing their homework. What we need to realize is that we are not in school anymore and that avoiding "homework" does not mean a lower grade or fewer points. It means we do our clients a disservice. We also hurt ourselves and sabotage our success and potentially affect our livelihood. A good sales professional does their homework and looks forward to it.