06/28/2010 06:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When "Sealing the Deal" Doesn't Involve a Beer

We all sell, all the time, and there are endless jokes and ads about how knowledge of the person you are selling to (whatever you may be selling) can help you seal the deal.

Everyone's been there -- figuring out the likes and dislikes of someone we want to impress before we meet them, researching a professor's political position before writing a paper -- and for a sales person in the Internet age it's time to know about each customer before we pick up the phone and call.

Here's the objective -- when you pick up the phone to talk to a customer (whether you are a business owner or a sales person) you must be talking to the customer about THEIR business. The days of calling up and hawking your wares down the phone are gone. If you don't immediately make your conversation about them it's a) rude, b) dumb, and c) unacceptable when you and they both know plenty of information about their business is available on the web. It would be like walking up to someone you find attractive in a bar and talking about yourself (sadly, this does happen).

So before you pick up the phone to hawk your wares to a prospect -- ask yourself: What is the thing you are going to talk to them about that is about them, not about you? Have you done a quick review of:
  • Their customers -- what major changes in their customer base could be creating opportunity or risk for them -- maybe one of their large customers is divesting a division, or has been bought, or is experiencing rapid growth in one of their business lines?
  • Their competitors -- are there any recent contract wins and losses which change their market, any new product introductions your customer may be having to react to that you could help with?
  • Their financial results -- how are they doing -- growing or contracting -- how can your offerings help with their growth, do you need to work with your customer on their contract pricing or more favorable terms?
  • Any management turnover -- have executives or middle managers changed jobs, joined or left your customer and does it affect the person you are about to call?
  • The industry they are in -- what are the major developments impacting them -- maybe litigation, or a new standard being approved, or changes in regulations and grants creating opportunities for new business?

If you have, then you probably have something interesting to say. If not, you are in danger of talking about you, not about them. Good sales people know this -- but time is the enemy.

But now, in 2010 the great news is that most of the information you need is available on the web today -- in blogs, industry sources, filings, local news and social media sites like LinkedIn. And the tools and technology are available to find the information for you immediately (no more lengthy searching) and present it to you in an easy to digest way.

It's worth the few extra minutes before each call to figure out what's hot to help you be the guy (or gal) that not only seals the deal but beats quota and goes to president's club.