Shame on me! Yesterday I had an unnecessary bad moment in a business meeting because I didn't do the all work I should have to prepare for the meeting. I visited with a top level executive at a major corporation to discuss a "unique" service only to find that while what I was there to discuss may have been the top of shelf service in its category, it wasn't the only. I lacked a complete knowledge set, because I accepted a glibly offered piece of data and didn't take the time and trouble to verify it.
Bob Pittman, creator of MTV and so much more, one of the most persuasive people I've ever met, told me recently that he never advocates a position that he hasn't researched and doesn't understand thoroughly. He doesn't wing it. The only exception to that well practiced M.O. is a purely creative decision (kids are going to watch music videos 24/7? Are you nuts?).
Ted Leonsis, co-Founder of AOL and owner of the Washington Capitols, tells the story of his first competitive "win." It was a contest at Georgetown University where he and other juniors had to orally defend a written thesis before a group of "professor-judges." Ted says the learning for him was, "Because I did the arduous research, I knew the subject matter cold, better than anyone in the room, and I was prepared for anything in that meeting...and, because that helped me win, I have been prepared for every important meeting ever since."
Great salesmanship requires an encyclopaedic knowledge of the needs and solutions currently known and employed. After all that is accumulated and internalized, begins the process of discovery of what isn't known, and that's accomplished in partnership with the client. And all of this is work. If you are blessed with a puzzle solving mentality and a love of learning, the work is nothing but fun. But it's still work.
If you love selling, and I hope that you do if that's how you earn your living, your degree of success will in large measure depend upon how much you love all the elements that make up a sales situation. Among the most critical of them is preparedness. Your credibility, and ability to handle questions and objections depend upon it. There's no uglier feeling in a sales meeting than when the thought hits you, "how in the heck didn't I know that."
Any relevant endeavor whose outcome is in doubt, requires more than luck, charm and preexisting relationships to elevate the success prospects. The preparation required will involve research, study and planning. Don't get me wrong. You can't know everything. But you can know everything that you can know. And that takes work. Learn to love that part too.
Hey, when you left the house this morning, you probably didn't say, "Bye Honey, I'm off to fun."
Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell