Last week I was catching up on a day’s worth of sports and came across a quote from Patriots coach Bill Belichick from one of his press conferences. Belichick alluded to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous quote, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Belichick said before his team’s AFC championship victory over the Colts:
“No matter how much preparing you do, it’s still going to be different in the game. Preparation is everything until the battle starts, and then it doesn’t mean anything. You have to react to what happens in the game.”
This immediately made me think of sales.
When sales reps meet with prospective customers, whether in person or over the phone, they will undoubtedly fail if they don’t prepare accordingly. This preparation may be different from rep to rep, but a strong knowledge of the customer’s background, priorities and pain points are imperative for a successful sales meeting.
But this preparation can only get sales reps so far. Like football games or battles in war, each sales presentation is going to be different. If reps go into each sale with the same plan, they’re guaranteed to fail. It's necessary to be able to adapt quickly with the materials and questions ready for all scenarios, and presentations and collateral must be able to adapt too. Using the same generic slide deck will convey to prospects that reps aren’t prepared for the meeting, don’t care enough to differentiate their pitch for a prospect's specific use case, or both.
In Sunday’s game against the Colts, Belichick was able to adapt to the specific situation at hand and put the right players where they needed to be to put points on the board. When oft-favored tight end Gronkowski was covered heavily, Belichick was prepared to call plays for other players like Blount. Being able to adjust the plan without skipping a beat shows versatility, which increases the chances of success.
Sales reps should be able to do this as well. Having the right content ready for any sales conversation, dependent on stage in the sales cycle, industry, and background will allow sales reps to not only prepare for the sale, but prepare for any direction the sale could take.
Sales leaders, it’s time for you to join Eisenhower and Belichick on the list of prepared leaders and lead your teams to success.