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Preparing for a Sales Meeting
After targeting and engaging with the right prospects, meetings are key to moving to the next stage of your sales pipeline, writes Syl Cotter from The Sales Institute.
There are three main reasons many sales professionals fail to make the best use of meetings:
1. They don’t invest enough time preparing for the meeting
2. They don’t understand the components of an effective initial sales meeting
3. They focus on their own offering – not the prospective needs of the buyer.
There are a number of ways to prepare for meetings. The following guidelines can help you better understand the buyer’s needs and, ultimately, improve your confidence, productivity and sales.
Step 1: Person/Company Research
If it’s a sizeable opportunity, learn as much as you can about the company/individual in advance. In a meeting with a potential prospect, your knowledge of their business is the first thing that differentiates you from most of your competitors. Plus, by understanding what is important to them, you’re able to ask intelligent questions and align your offering with their needs. Key headings to research/investigate under are:
- Primary business (make sure you know what they do / area of their business that they specialise in etc.)
- Market segments (their competition, their geographical spread etc.)
- Their customers (have you any mutual customers?)
- Any key strategic initiatives (media coverage etc.)
- How they use your offering
- Who they currently purchase from.
Step 2: Reach out via LinkedIn
Invite the buyer you will be meeting to connect with you prior to the meeting (at least a week in advance). This will give them a chance to check out your profile and to see if you have any common contacts who they know and trust.
Likewise, you should check out their LinkedIn contact base for people you know and trust.
Step 3: Send a Personal Business Biography
Send them a personal business biography if they are not on LinkedIn.
Also send a company biography. The biography should include a list of current customers from (a) their vertical (b) their geographical area – if possible.
Step 4: Identify Possible Conversation Angles
After completing your research, identify where you might have a positive impact on your targeted person/company. Based on your knowledge of their operation, answer the following questions:
- How are they handling things without your offering?
- What kind of problems or challenges might they be facing because of how they’re currently doing things?
- Looking at their problems, challenges or gaps that may be present, what are the potential business implications?
- What opportunities might you be able to present to them?
- If this person/company used your services, what business value would they realise? What difference could it make?
Step 5: Plan Your Questions
Effective questions are essential to demonstrate that you’re committed to helping the buyer achieve their goals and remove obstacles to success. It’s imperative to write out your questions ahead of time and take them to the meeting. If you neglect this step, it’s easy to slip into a “pitch” mode that customers detest.
Good questions uncover information about the buyer’s current situation, the problems and gaps they’re experiencing, the business ramifications of how they’re currently handling things, and the pay-off for making a change.
You might even consider sending your questions in advance, via email, if it will help the meeting to flow.
Step 6: Plan Your Meeting Outcome
As a result of the meeting, what is the logical next step? Research into sales success shows that if you’ve defined an appropriate desired outcome for your sales meeting prior to the meeting, you’re much more likely to achieve it. Ask yourself what movement do you wish to create at this meeting?
Step 7: Know who you are Meeting
Make sure you know the names and responsibilities of everyone you are going to meet.
Step 8: Prepare Your Presentation
Nothing should ever be left to chance. Gary Player, the world famous golfer, was once asked what the secret to his success was. Player replied, “The better I prepare the luckier I get!”
1. Make sure your support sales material and examples are relevant to the industry of the prospect. Don’t give them the old A to Z – you’ll lose them!
2. Ensure your documentation/slides are branded with your logo and titled with the name of your prospect’s company (if possible).
3. Check for spelling mistakes – make sure you spell the prospect’s name correctly.
No two meetings are the same but, by following my eight steps, you will stand a much better chance of generating new business for your company while meeting your buyer’s needs.
Written by: Syl Cotter, The Sales Institute – promoting excellence and high performance among sales professionals throughout Irish business
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