To the annoyance of most school children, virtually every night, their parents ask a question, “Did you do your homework?” Growing up, sometimes I would blow off doing my homework, I’d not lie, but I’d find a way not to answer the question. Eventually, that would catch up with me, I’d not be prepared for class, my grades would suffer. I learned, it was easier and better to do my homework, then to fake it.

Sometimes, particularly, on difficult assignments, my parents would review my homework. They weren’t doing it to check up on me, but they wanted to help me do the best I could possibly do for that assignment. They would ask questions, get me to think about the assignment and what I had done. They helped me learn and improve.

Somehow, as we have grown up, we’ve lost sight of the importance of “doing our homework.” Yet, the stakes for doing our homework may be much greater than when we were kids.

The majority of people “prospecting” me have never done their homework prior to their outreach:

  • They haven’t done something as simple as looking at my LinkedIn profile.
  • They haven’t looked at my blog site, or our web site.
  • They don’t know me and what I might be interested in (though I make it hugely easy for people to decode through my social media activity.).
  • They don’t understand my business and what I am likely to be interested in, based on what others in my industry are interested in.

They think they are prepared for the prospecting call, but they are only prepared for what they want to talk about, usually it’s not what I want to talk about. They may have the same script they read to everyone they talk to, but they haven’t done the homework to make sure it’s relevant to the individuals they are talking to.

Alternatively, they don’t see the necessity to prepare. After all, they’ve made hundreds or thousands of “calls” before. They know what to do, they can “shoot from the lip.” I always find people who take this approach intriguing. They feel like they have the necessary experience, that they don’t have to do their homework, yet the majority of those calls they have made have failed.

Even on calls with customers in qualified opportunities, too often, people don’t do their homework. Too often, they don’t know what they want to achieve. They want to check in with the customer, seeing what’s next, letting the customer guide the process—yet the customer has never done this before. Alternatively, they respond to the issues that arose in the last meeting, failing to anticipate issues that may be coming up.

Rather than preparing, thinking of what’s next, how we can help the customer move through their process, what the customer should be doing, whether the right people are participating, or whether the customer is prepared for the meeting; they just are glad to talk to the customer, talking about whatever they want to talk about, or asking “When are you ready to issue a PO?”

Too often, wherever we and the customer are in the process we fail to do our homework. We don’t have a plan, we haven’t developed a plan with our customer, we haven’t anticipated what the customer wants to talk about, or what we should be talking about, or how we and the customer make progress and move forward.

As a result of not doing our homework, of not being prepared, of not having an agreed upon plan with those we seek to engage, we fail. We either fail outright, or we fail to use our time/the customers’ time as effectively as we might.

As kids, we knew if we didn’t do our homework we’d fail. Somehow, we don’t seem to remember that lesson–and continue to fail.