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Am I Adequately Prepared To Sell?
by Frank Lee

Dan felt really good about this sales presentation. He had done his homework remarkably well. He had spent the last 3 weeks thoroughly researching the prospect. He had studied the prospect's company, their industry, and their competitors. He could detail the company structure right down to the names of their board of directors. Even though this was not a particularly large or prestigious account, landing it would be a feather in his cap.

Dan felt he finally knew enough to make a credible presentation. Of course, questions might be raised that he doesn't know the answers to, but he was even prepared for that, although the thought still turned his stomach.

About an hour into his detailed presentation, he starts to panic. His prospects seem mildly attentive but aloof. One person's eyes had glazed over. Had he missed an important detail? Surely not. He was outlining in great detail all the facts and figures. He was presenting a most logical case for them to buy insurance from him. As he continues with his presentation, his mind is whirring. What other important fact should he bring up? Should he go over the liability issues again and in greater detail? His attention was concentrated more on his presentation and what he was missing than on the people who sat before him.

Another long hour passed before he was finally through. Politely, each person rose, shook his hand, complimented him on his depth of knowledge, and promised to get back to him. As he was leaving their magnificent corporate offices, he knew he should feel elated but he didn't. After all, not one person had asked an awkward question. In fact, they had asked very few questions. They knew that he really understood them, didn't they? He had laid out the facts in a clear, logical manner. Those facts were blinding, and the next logical step was for them to buy. "If it were up to me," he thought, "I would definitely buy." But they did not.

Why Not?

Perhaps his presentation was too logical. Perhaps he had presented too many details. Perhaps his presentation was actually boring!

Salespersons with a call reluctance called Overpreparer Call Reluctance often feel let down by their lack of results despite the amount of time and work they put into their presentations. They become so information-bound that they tend to recite facts and figures in a dull and boring way. They assume that, because they presented a logical case for buying, the prospect would automatically see this logic and buy. Dull and emotionless, they fail to recognize the emotional hot buttons, the feelings of the people they are trying to sell to.

A Bigger Cost

In his effort to prepare well for this important prospect, Dan had committed another Overpreparer sin. He had neglected his other prospects. This had seemed perfectly logical at the time. After all, how could he waste time on other less important issues when he had so much preparation to do?

Dan was able to justify this neglect; there was simply not enough time. He even managed to convince his desperate sales manager whom he had seen a lot of during this time. He had literally bombarded his sales manager with endless questions and requests for obscure information.

His sales manager, uneasy with the situation, had no real reason to complain. Dan always appeared to be busy. Even while sitting at his desk, he seemed to be deep in thought. Dan was definitely not a slacker. His sales manager just wished he would spread his energies around to more prospects.

As usual, when the sale did not materialize, Dan spent endless hours analyzing what went wrong. And then he had to start all over again.

The Overpreparer

Salespeople with Overpreparer Call Reluctance have a mind-numbing fear of not knowing enough. They dread the sales interview in which prospects ask questions that they cannot answer. So they prepare. And prepare. And prepare. They go way beyond the point where further preparation has ceased to be useful.

Overpreparers overindulge themselves in getting ready. As a result, they often do not have the time to do the things that they are getting ready for. They use preparation as an excuse for not prospecting or selling or doing any of the activities that will result in sales. They tend to rationalize this to themselves and can be very convincing when defending this habit to their sales managers. Dan's killer response was always, "Well, do you want me to go in unprepared?" He would recite eloquent phrases like, "Preparation is the key to success," and occasionally might even throw in some of the greats like Vince Lombardi. Always taken out of context, of course.

Overpreparers tend to relish information. They gather information and hoard it. They become walking encyclopaedias. The problem is that they are unable to translate this knowledge into sales.

Whenever they become uncomfortable with making sales calls, they hide behind the preparation. They tend to look busy. They occupy themselves with busy work. Put an Overpreparer in front of a computer when he is supposed to be making sales calls and he will spell-check the spell checker. They allow this habit to sap their energy. This leaves less energy available for prospecting.

Can We Motivate Him?

Sales managers see this lack of prospecting activity as a lack of motivation even though the behavioral pattern tells them otherwise. They send people like Dan to motivational workshops. This is the worst place to send an Overpreparer. Why? Overpreparers are not motivated by hype. It does nothing for them.

The next time you attend a motivational workshop, look around and you'll spot the Overpreparers. There usually comes a time in the workshop when participants are asked to raise their hands. In the spirit of the workshop, most people excitedly stretch their hands up trying to touch the ceiling. The Overpreparers are the ones whose hands barely reach their shoulders. They have that quizzical look that says, "What the heck is this all about?"

Rather than hype, they are motivated by logic. It is far more efficient to appeal to their sense of logic, but even this is fraught with danger because they often have their own ideas about what is logical.

What Is the Cost of Overpreparer Call Reluctance?

Overpreparers close fewer sales than other salespeople do. This is due to two main factors.

  1. They see fewer prospects than other salespeople do. After all, they don't have the time because of all the preparation they must accomplish. They avoid making calls until they feel adequately prepared—and this can be a very long time. They prepare and avoid.
  2. When they do see prospects, their presentations are so information-bound that they appear boring and lifeless. They feel that, as long as they give the right information, they will get the sale.

What Is the Outlook?

Fortunately, the outlook for Overpreparers is positive but it requires good sales management. Often, making the salesperson aware of what Overpreparer Call Reluctance is and how it damages sales careers can go a long way.

Overpreparers tend to require more information than most. The biggest difficulty is determining which requests for information are genuine and which result from Overpreparer Call Reluctance. The simplest way to determine this is by testing. Here's another way—if the answer to the request satisfies the salesperson and he acts on that information, fine. However, if the response results in more and more requests for information, you may just be dealing with an Overpreparer.

Sales managers should remind Overpreparers that, while further education and knowledge are always desirable, they should be able to act on the information they already have and not delay. A sales management technique I found particularly useful is to give the Overpreparer a deadline to complete a certain task and then hold him accountable to this deadline.




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