Buyers are more sophisticated than ever, thanks to immediate access to information from anywhere and at any time. Various pundits in the selling industry want to argue that point. These are the sellers stuck in pre-Internet times when buyers relied solely on sales people for education. Decision makers today have an expectation that you know something about them, their business and the potential challenges that they face. Asking them questions that you can answer for yourself using the web, social networks and tools like InsideView wastes their time and yours. And by the way, increasingly those same decision makers are checking out your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles before you walk through their door. What does your online presence say about you? In a recent meeting, a CEO of a financial services company shared an all too familiar story with me. He talked about the sales rep that scored a meeting with him, but blew the opportunity the moment he opened his mouth. This rep spent no time checking out the executive’s background. As a result, he took it upon himself to “educate” this executive on current banking practices and regulations. The CEO told me it was incredibly insulting and made him quite angry. Within minutes, he cut the meeting short. Know Before You Go The story I shared illustrates the importance of common sense and doing your homework. Shouldn’t it have been obvious that the CEO might know a little something about banking? Challenging with something cutting edge and new is one thing, but you don’t start the meeting without validating what you think your buyer does or does not know. Most traditional selling models teach sales people to follow a scripted process, which are typically focused on features, benefits and some type of questioning technique designed to do a number of things: Create rapport and trust Learn about the buyers business Understand their challenges Uncover pain points Identify needs In today’s selling environment, smart sales people gather answers to these questions before the meeting. Through press releases, blog posts, websites, earnings reports, executive interviews, social web conversations or social networking profiles, you can learn a lot about the people you will meet and their company. Then you use the meeting time to validate your thinking about what you learned. Not only will the sales conversation be more fruitful, you will quickly develop trust, demonstrate credibility and stand apart from your competitors. In RAIN Group’s report, What Sales Winners Do Differently, 42 factors separated the winners from the distant second place finishers. Among the factors that buyers identified as being most important to them in making a buying decision are “educating with new ideas and perspectives”, “collaborated with me”, “listened to me”, “understood my needs” and “connected with me personally”. Sales people often complain that they “don’t have time” to do research. I ask…do you have time to waste losing sales opportunities before they even get off the ground? This is where having the right sales tools can make a huge difference. My preferred research tool is InsideView. In addition to preparing for meetings, I can set trigger alerts based on terms that will indicate a potential opportunity to engage someone. I can also follow people and companies and receive a daily digest to keep me apprised of key information that I can leverage when working to secure a meeting. With Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Fall ’13, you get Social Insights powered by InsideView directly in your user interface. This saves you time, and helps you get the information you need when you need it most. These days, there just isn’t any excuse for walking into a meeting cold thinking that you can wing it. Without preparation, you have just prepared to lose. But with the right tools that put the information you need at your fingertips, you may just be able to prepare to win! To learn more about how technologies like InsideView are powering the new generation of social selling tools, join us November 4th for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Global Premiere Event. This event will take you from Barcelona, around the world, to hear from companies who are creating amazing customer experiences. Please register today!