Recently, a major commercial airline made global headlines because of an error by the pilots in landing at the wrong airport. Not only did these pilots deliver a plane full of paying passengers to a different airport, they ‘accidentally’ landed at a military base.

Of course, this is dangerous for many reasons, not the least of which is the potential for an in-flight collision caused by a last minute incorrect turn on their final approach, or the fact that they were not authorized to land at the military base.

This significant error could have easily been avoided had the pilots prepared properly for the flight and trusted their instruments. Instead, they decided to ignore the instruments and documents given to them before departure, which explicitly says to avoid the military base near the airport. They were instructed to rely strictly on a visual approach, but they ignored that too.

Overall, not only was this a dangerous decision but also very unprofessional.

I have a good friend who is a commercial pilot. When he was a private pilot instructor, he would always encourage every student to invest the time and money to immediately get their ‘instrument rating’. He did this because he clearly understood the value of preparation and appreciated that you will unquestionably run into issues and unexpected weather.

As my friend described to me, in the US you can get your private pilot’s licence in about three-month timeframe. This will basically allow you to get up in the air and fly around as you please, providing you comply with airspace restrictions, etc. And although you can fly in poor weather conditions, you should not do so without further training and preparing, i.e. an instrument rating. This is exactly what experts suspect happened to JFK Jr, who tragically crashed his plane after running into poor weather (without any instrument rating or training), killing himself and two others in the crash.

Both cases described here could potentially have been avoided if they had not been complacent and made proper preparations. It’s very easy to become over confident and avoid preparation.

While most of our jobs may not be life threatening or dangerous, like it is with flying into the dark without training, this does not discount the importance and benefits derived from training and preparation. When I had my integration company, prior to any new client meetings I would personally scrub the entire showroom from top to bottom and side to side, including the toilets! I could hear my mother in my mind saying: “you only get one chance to make a good first impression”. I did not want to take any chances at blowing the first impression I would give my new potential client.
I would also envision some of the other competitors they may be meeting and how that encounter might go. What if they are interested in the latest technology? Have I studied all of the recent developments in technology lately? What if they have challenging personalities? Have I read any books on selling, communication or business lately? What if they want a demo? Is all the demo equipment in the showroom working? When is the last time it was turned on? I knew that failing to prepare for my meeting was like flying into a dark storm with no tools to successfully navigate my way out. I had to step up my game!

I would prepare as much as possible for every meeting by thinking about the following:

  1. Who am I meeting with and how can I find out more about the person or family? In many cases the introduction would come from a friend, former client, builder, architect, designer, etc. I would ask the referral point person if they could tell me anything about the person or family that I should know. What are they like? How long have they lived in the area? How many kids, pets, etc? Do you know what kind of music they listen to? Are there any conversational topics to avoid?
  2. What will they want to discuss? I would do my best to read up on industry news on a weekly basis, usually over morning coffee, and of course attend trade shows to stay up-to-date on the latest technology. I considered continuing education an essential exercise in my profession.
  3. How can I best demonstrate the technology available? I would always turn on the system, make sure all remote control batteries were charged and made fresh popcorn prior to the meeting. I ensured all testing, tuning and preparations had been performed, including cueing up movies scenes for demos, prior to the meeting.
  4. Why should they choose me? I would try to make sure they left our meeting with the best possible first impression. I would always try to make suggestions that my competitors may not think of, while also listening far more than talking. Most importantly I would follow up with the potential client and the person who made the referral to thank each of them respectively for their time and the referral. People love to hear how the meeting went after they refer someone to you.

So, what will you do to prepare for your next encounter with a new client? How will you separate yourself the competition? Are you ready to divert a storm? I believe it is not a matter of if you will encounter stormy weather or unexpected challenges in business, but when and what you will encounter. Your success rate in overcoming these challenges will significantly depend on the preparations you have made in the hours, weeks, months and years prior to the meeting.

As Thomas Edison famously said: “success is 90% preparation and 10% perspiration.”
Happy selling!

Pete Baker is a global sales and marketing professional with over 25 years of experience in the CE industry. He began his career as a licensed low voltage technician and contractor. He then joined RTI in 2002, where he successfully led the global sales and marketing efforts of the company for 12 years. He is now the president of The Baker International Group (BIG), a full-service sales and marketing representative and consulting firm and founder of CE Business Academy, providing quality education to CE Professionals Worldwide.