Information gathering, also referred to as interviewing, is one of the most important steps during the sales process. It’s the part of the sale that helps determine whether the sale should, could, and would move forward.
This process will help you to qualify what type of prospect you would be working with and what product or service they’re ultimately interested in purchasing. If done properly, it will make the entire sale much smoother and easier.
Here are 5 strategies you can follow to ensure more effective information gathering in your next first meeting:
1. Be Proactive
What do you know about the prospect/company/industry you’re meeting with?
Prior to every first meeting, you should be prepared with definitive knowledge about the company and industry you’re meeting with, as well as, general information about the person. Take it upon yourself to learn everything you would need to know to land this opportunity.
Through a proactive and forward-looking approach, you will not only be confident and well prepared, but your potential new customer will be extremely impressed if you come into the meeting with all the right things: good understanding of the industry, high-level understanding of company/person, and a plan to help solve their current challenges.
2. Know What to Ask
This strategy builds on the previous one. Being proactive and doing your pre-meeting research will pay off when the time comes for opening the discussion and asking the right kind of questions.
To get you started, here are a few essential questions that you should make sure you know:
- Has this company ever worked with someone like this before?
- Is so, who and when? What were the obstacles?
- Do you know who the primary decision maker is?
- Who else will be involved in making this decision? How can involve/engage those people?
- What’s the next step that you will ask for?
- If you don’t get your ideal next step, what’s your backup plan?
For your next appointment, decide what 3 questions you definitely want and need to be answered during that meeting.
3. Sound Curious
Although this strategy may seem obvious and simple, that’s not always the case. When you’re in client meetings, it’s sometimes almost too easy to let your mind drift away from the present moment. This can especially be the case if you meet with the same types of companies, who usually share the same types of stories, challenges, and questions.
Don’t give into daydreaming or resort to autopilot.
The more you write, the more likely your prospect will be to continue speaking. This is a trick of good news reporters and interviewers. In your next meeting, take written notes. Try your best to capture the highlights and important points throughout the meeting.
In addition, this strategy not only makes you look like you are interested in what the person is saying, but it will also give you a great reference point when the time comes to formulate a proposal.
4. React vs. Respond
Everyone’s guilty of it. Sometimes, it’s easier to respond to a common question or request in an almost automatic way when you’re familiar with the topic. This is because we expect and anticipate these types of questions.
However, responding in this way could hurt your chances of advancing a deal with a potential client. Why?
Because they want to have a conversation with real reactions to the questions, comments, or requests they’ve made. They don’t want to hear your robotically rehearsed response, which can often make you appear as being rather indifferent.
During your next meeting, ask at least three questions that are inspired by something you heard from the prospect during the meeting which fit naturally into the flow of the conversation. Don’t just fire off a sequence of memorized questions!
5. Learn Buying Patterns
This process is all about uncovering and learning the right pieces of information about how the company made a purchasing decision last time. It plays into the second strategy, Know What to Ask, because by doing your research upfront you’ll be better prepared to ask the right kind of questions.
Your goal is to learn all of the factors involved in making a final decision to invest or purchase a product and/or service.
To get the ball rolling in your next meeting, ask: “I’m just curious, how did your company handle this type of decision the last time around?”
This is definitely a portion of the meeting that you’ll want to take written notes for!
These five strategies for successful information gathering will help you properly prepare, know the right questions to ask and react appropriately to create a meaningful first appointment conversation which will help you move the sales process along.