I cannot express enough the importance of being prepared in selling or negotiating. As with any other event, preparation is essential. All professionals are prepared. The more prepared you are, the better your chance for success. For example, take a look at these professionals and their preparations:
• Teacher: A lesson plan is ready before every class. Imagine a teacher coming into the class with no preparation and saying, “Hey, kids, what do you want to do today?” We already have a word for this: a substitute. Seriously, the teacher must be prepared before walking into the classroom and must know exactly what he or she wants to accomplish. The teacher’s thoughts and plan are organized so that the plan can be accomplished.
• Lawyer: Before every trial, a lawyer prepares notes, or briefs, of what he or she will cover in the courtroom. Don’t you want your lawyer to have the questions written and to have an idea of what he or she will ask a before a person takes the stand? As one of the greatest trial attorneys of all time, Irving Younger, once said, “Never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer.” The better prepared the lawyer is, the better the client’s chance of winning.
• Dentist: When your dentist walks into the room with your chart, he or she has your mouth’s history in his or her hands. Do you think for a moment that you are the dentist’s only patient? Does he or she sit around all day every day for six months, waiting for you to return? “Hurrah. Hal is here. Get me my drill.” He or she needs to look at the chart to remind himself what he or she did on your last visit and to check on what has happened in your mouth since then. As in all other professions, knowledge is power.
• Physician: Before an annual physical, he or she has a sheet with determined questions to ask about your life history: mumps, measles, heart, cancer, blood pressure and so on. You want your doctor to ask you questions. You don’t want them to walk in and greet you with, “Hey, appendix. Yes, I think the appendix should come out. No, no specific reason ... just a thought.” The better their notes are from your previous visits, the better the doctor’s chances of remembering what happened.
• Professional golfer: He or she plays the course a number of times before the match to familiarize themself with it. You don’t see a professional golfer showing up the day of the tournament and saying, “Hi there. I’m ready to play. Does anybody know where the first hole is?” The more familiar he is with the course, the greater his chance of winning. This familiarity also gives him more confidence, which provides a competitive edge.
• Race car driver: A race car driver goes through the course a number of times to get a feel for the track and to build confidence. In most races, the cars are identical, so the edge must be with the driver’s skills, knowledge of the track, desire to win and readiness to take risks to outmaneuver the other drivers.
• Military special forces: From the U.S. Navy Seals to the Army Rangers, these elite forces practice certain combat situations over and over again until they become procedures with which they are fully familiar. Again, this practice gives them a higher degree of confidence before they enter into a live attack. The military refers to this approach to preparation as military muscle. It’s said any task or exercise that is repeated 2,000 times becomes automatic. The bottom lines are the elite or special forces practice much more and train harder than other branches of the military.
After all these years, I’m surprised we still have so few people going on a sales call or walking into a meeting ready to negotiate who have simply not prepared themselves. Bottom line, the more you prepare before the meeting, the better chance you have to succeed at the meeting. Now go prepare and become a professional.
Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.