If you want to make a success of your business then you must be able to sell your products. That makes sense doesn't it? And in most businesses that means getting out and selling to your customers. Yet many sales interviews are guaranteed to be fruitless before they even begin. Why? Well, because too many business people simply fail to do the right preparation before embarking on their sales calls. Selling requires certain skills but the number one factor in determining your success is spending time on thorough preparation. Rushing around from meeting to meeting, visiting as many customers as you can fit in the day, is a worthless exercise unless you have spent time on the pre-call process. You must adopt a professional approach. There is much planning you need to do before you arrange those sales meetings and applying your mind to these seven key points will ensure that you are heading in the right direction: 1. How well do you know your customer? You need to know what will motivate them to buy from you. How big is their business? In what market or sector do they operate? How much of their business do you currently get and who else do they buy your type of product from? How much business can you realistically expect to get? Some customers may be part of a larger organization so would your time be better spent trying to secure a group deal? 2. You must understand the market place in which you are trading. How big is the total market for your type of product and how many potential customers are there? How many of those customers can you realistically expect to be able to contact and make your pitch to? Who are the big players in the market? Also be aware of who the small-time players are and decide if your time is going to be better spent elsewhere. So make sure you research your market and get details of the real potential customer base. 3. Do you know who your competitors are? That may sound a silly question but whilst many sales people spend hours learning about their own company and products, they fail to do the same for the competition. In some markets you may only have three or four competitors, whilst in others it could be dozens. Do they operate nationally or just within one state or region, maybe even in just the one town or city? Do you know their strengths and weaknesses? Get to know all about their product lines and how they compare with yours. You may think you know your unique selling proposition but what is theirs? 4. As you prepare for your sales interview you need to consider what "tools" are available to you. This may include brochures and technical data about your product. You may also have product samples or demonstration kits. Actual case studies of when and where your products have been used are always useful, along with customer testimonials if you have them. If appropriate photographs of your product in use are a helpful sales aid too. Whatever resources are available, you must decide beforehand what you are going to need for the interview. Don't overload yourself, only take what you really need and what you can comfortably handle. In fact it may be a good idea to hold something back. That way you have a good reason to arrange a follow-up meeting if you think you need one. 5. It is vital that you manage your time effectively. Time management is a massive subject in itself which you should educate yourself about. However in planning your sales call there are two crucial areas. Firstly ensure that you arrive on time, preferably between two and five minutes early. Secondly you must plan the call so that you have enough time to achieve your objective. So don't rush the meeting, you are likely to miss something important. What's more, if you are too hasty, your customer is likely to think that you don't value his business. However always remember the old saying , "time is money" and make sure that you do not waste either your customer's time or your own. 6. Always know what the objective of your call is. Many sales people fail to do this simple thing and then wonder why they don't get the sale. Remember that some calls may be about prospecting and gathering information so have a clear idea of what you need to find out. But the ultimate objective must always be to get the order. It may take two or three calls, which is fine, as long as you know what you want to achieve at each stage. 7. No matter what you know about customers, the market, and your competitors. Regardless of how well you have planned your time and resources. There is one element that is crucial to your sales success you! You must present yourself in the right way, be polite and courteous, and act professionally at all times. How you appear to your customer is vital it is you they will, or will not, buy from. And always smile! Following these seven tips will boost your sales success and will set you apart from many of your competitors. Your customers will recognize you as a true business professional and will be glad to deal with you.