Pre-Match Prep

65yo football commentator gets demoted from his 1998 appointment as a broadcaster’s Number One to its Number Two.

Leaving aside any fervent belief that nobody should hold the top job for twenty-two years, whether ageism is running amok or what ought really constitute news nowadays, there is something positive to take from the career in question.

“Fail to prepare, and you prepare to fail.”

That’s the mantra he writes that he works by.

Preparation for each match seems to follow a pattern. Maybe it’s because many in the profession are self-confessed geeks. I blogged on one of their motor racing brethren in similar vein three years back.

I have little time for sport commentators. I loved the days when you could mute them. Have only ‘stadium sound’ as your audio option. They largely ruin watching live events. And their supposed commentary box companion ‘analysts’ are often worse. All of them.

Yet it can be revealing to see what someone with so much time set aside to prepare for something actually does with it.

Such notes seem fairly standard. Factual listings of the players, stats associated with them, a two-line pen-pic for each and brief bullets on general fixture history with team form and standings.

Obviously the neater they are – as in this case – the better. I’m reminded of the beguiling handwriting of Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees. As the football man here himself intriguingly reveals;

“The neat and precise design of the charts is also a psychological prop. Their tidy appearance provides a kind of comfort blanket, a mental confirmation that I have prepared fully.”

Insight preceded by the equally worthwhile;

“…even though I could compile the same range of information on a computer spreadsheet, the manual copying out remains part of the learning process.”

Hands up all those sellers that feel they thoroughly prepare for every key meeting.

Countless times I’ve been frustrated to accompany salespeople whose default setting is to wing it. On a long car journey to the prospect, they talk only office politics and sport. Any prior scheduling communication restricted to a few words on time and place alone. No collated notes, not even a printout from a crm or such like. It disappoints me more than almost anything else you encounter in Sales.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that this is the way to succeed. It absolutely does not make for the sustainable sales results this blog strives towards.

Preparatory ‘event’ notes play a huge role in b2b selling.

On numerous occasions down the years I’ve seen pre-call planners and checklists created by management or Sales Ops. Only to face total rejection in the field.

There are reasons for this that fall outside the point of this blog (shadow reporting, admin anathemas, supervisory styles) yet salesperson reticence (or often, outright resistance) to the practice looms large on that list.

My experience is that It is pretty impossible to go from no formulised planning to blanket document completion in one swoop.

One great route to incremental adoption is to pick out only certain meetings for the formal prep treatment.

Where more than one prospect Board member is slated to attend. Where a senior exec is taken along and needs a Briefing Paper ahead of time. Where a specific style of forum needs paperwork up front, such as running a ‘workshop’.

In general consider this format. Where football has its key players listed with mini bios, related ‘stats’, and contexts, the same might well be said for your meeting participants.

What about adding transaction history, previous conversation, actions done/not done?

Topped off with aim of meeting, position in process, process complete/to still verify.

These can all fit on a single page. Even with space for hand-drawn chart graphic s per your ‘sales process’.

And upon being done once, will surely become a remarkably pain-free and worthwhile exercise as repeated and built on. So much more than mere ‘psychological prop’.


Subscribe to Salespodder

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.