The gates opened at 6 a.m.
There was a moderate crush of people, but it wasn’t the fans; it was the pit crews. Watkins Glen soon enough would be filled with 50,000 cheering NASCAR aficionados for the afternoon race. The crews were there now.
They moved quickly and with purpose to their team’s designated position on the track to begin prepping for the race. They were loose, confident and all business. Over the next hour or two, the empty stage that was pit road transformed itself into what most of us have seen on television: a mobile shop of equipment, parts and gear.
What TV cameras don’t catch is how exacting the placement is of every tire, every gas can, every tool. Nor do they catch the crew, individually testing 100 lug nuts to make sure each is threaded properly and will work when the moment comes.
Every wheel is gauged, buffed, wiped down and identified before being stacked in its assigned location. It is difficult to articulate the crew’s attention to detail in their preparation. It’s awe-inspiring.
Later in the day, in the pre-race drivers meeting, 43 drivers and their crew chiefs were seated facing a small riser. The atmosphere was serious and there was no chatter or sidebar conversations. All were focused on video screens around the room that were identifying points on the track designated as exit zones in the event of an emergency. The rules official then moved on to the rules of that particular race.
If a driver misses that meeting — even if they had won the pole position — they start the race in 43rd position. Last. That’s how seriously NASCAR takes preparation.
Can we say the same of ourselves or of our sales teams?
There are many variables that impact an average sales call: Who’s in the room, their past experience with the product or the company, the prospect’s personal background, the prospect company’s current situation. The permutations are endless.
Just like a NASCAR race.
So just as important is the preparation that goes into the sales call. For existing accounts this includes:
- Account review: past purchases, terms, requirements.
- Client news: what’s been reported, press releases, successes, losses.
- Changes in their competitive position including industry changes.
- Client experience with our company: complaints and praise.
- Changes in our product offerings, personnel, reputation, etc.
For new prospects, add to any of the above:
- The source of the lead and their relationship to the prospect (referral).
- The backgrounds and professional experiences of those in the room.
- Common connections: LinkedIn is a great tool for this.
- Past experiences with competitors.
For all, prep should include:
- A clear agenda for the meeting: oral or written.
- Questions to be asked.
- Demonstrations are working flawlessly, including presentation books and PowerPoint.
- References and testimonials are willing to take calls from the prospect.
- Probable objections and the responses to them.
- Clear next steps after the close.
Keep in mind that pit crews don’t prepare during the race. There is a time for preparing and a time for selling. We don’t start prepping when we’re supposed to be out selling. That’s basic time management and focus.
Planning builds confidence and improves the odds of winning. NASCAR teams and top-tier sales professionals all understand this.
They know that every lug nut counts.
Patrick Morin is the president and COO of BrightHammer, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here, or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.