One of the easiest ways to fail as a salesperson is to avoid preparing for an upcoming meeting. Too often, salespeople show up to a prospect’s office with a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants approach and cross our fingers that they’ll buy what we are selling.
For example, how often have you…
- arrived at a meeting without a proper agenda?
- forgotten your personal business cards?
- neglected to send an email confirming the meeting beforehand?
- chosen not to do your research about the person with whom you’re meeting?
While these actions may sound simple, they are essential steps in your sales process. You establish credibility by following a process that makes it easy for your prospect to do business with you.
To prepare for a sales meeting properly, take these 5 steps the day before the meeting is scheduled.
1. Send an email reconfirming the meeting.
Just because the meeting is on your calendar doesn’t mean that it’s on your prospect’s calendar. This sounds incredibly simple and it is. We’re all working off of different platforms and systems – and wires can get crossed very easily, even if digital meeting invitations were sent last week. To avoid miscommunication, send a simple email reconfirming the meeting. An easy way to inconvenience someone is to show up on the wrong date and time. Avoid doing so by taking 2 minutes to send an email before the meeting.
Here’s a simple template you can use:
“Hi [Name] –
Just a quick note from our team to let you know that [name] and [name] are looking forward to meeting with you [date, time] at [location].
Thanks again for making the time for us. Kindly please let me know if any scheduling issues arise.
[Name]” [Tip: It’s important to note a specific suite or office number here as well so that you’re not wandering a large building looking for the right room!]
2. Gather materials that are essential to the meeting.
You should always (always, always!) arrive prepared with an agenda. No matter how simple the discussion maybe, you want to begin with a simple outline of talking points. This is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself from competitors, communicate your level of brand awareness, and to determine the focus of the discussion. You may also want to include the agenda as an attachment when you send an email confirming the meeting. Regardless, you should prepare this agenda before the meeting and arrive with a hard copy for everyone attending.
Another item that every salesperson should be prepared with is …. (you guessed it) a stack of business cards. While you may not need them at every single meeting (at least we hope not – you wouldn’t be moving through the sales process that way), you should always have 2-3x as many as you think you will need. Make it easy for prospects to contact you.
[Tip: always keep your business cards in the same pocket/folder. Don’t spend time digging in your bag when you could be spending time in an important discussion – that could eventually lead to a sale.]
Other questions to consider:
- Are you walking your prospect through a sales presentation?
- Do you know what, if any, technology limitations there are in the office?
- If a screen is not available, do you have enough hard copies of your presentation for everyone in the meeting?
- Are you prepared to tell a story that communicates how your solution helped a customer alleviate a specific pain point?
- Can you articulate how you’re different *and better* than your competitors?
Once you have all of your materials pulled together, make sure you have extra copies of each and that you’ve practiced (out loud!) the specific things you’d like to say in the meeting. You can’t prepare for a sales meeting properly if you’re scrambling to collect your materials 5 minutes before the meeting begins.
It’s important to note that it is possible to have too many materials. You don’t want to muddy the conversation or confuse your prospect by throwing all of your materials on the table, forcing them to decide what is most important. Be ruthless in choosing what you bring to this meeting and remember that you may have an opportunity to use other (perhaps less useful) materials down the road. Either way, spend time making decisions about your materials before meeting with the prospect.
3. Practice the Purpose, Benefit, and Check.
We’ve written about the Purpose, Benefit, Check many times on this blog. This is because it’s the easiest way to begin a sales meeting – and the easiest way to avoid arriving at the end of the meeting with the realization that you had two separate objectives all along. At the beginning of the meeting, state its purpose, the benefit that everyone in the room is hoping to receive, and check to see if the group is in agreement. If you’re aligned, then move right along through the agenda.
If you’re not in agreement, take 2-3 minutes to discuss. You may need to either add to or drop specific items from the agenda in order to come to a consensus. How many times have you arrived at a meeting and wondered what you were supposed to get out of it or how you were expected to contribute? It happens too often. Help your prospect cut through the noise by clearly stating the objectives outright. By doing so, you’ll make your prospect comfortable knowing that you’re not wasting his or her time.
If you take the time to construct an agenda before the meeting, put it to good use with the Purpose, Benefit, Check.
4. Review the meeting attendees.
Do you know who is going to be in the room? Do you know why it’s important that he/she be there? Who is the decision-maker?
Involve each person in the conversation. Don’t neglect anyone. Speak directly to each person and ask tough questions to uncover their needs. Depending on the size of the meeting, it may be difficult for you to address each person but you’ll be better off by reviewing this information the day before than if you try to do it on the fly.
If you haven’t met one or several of those invited, you have an opportunity to do your research (with tools like LinkedIn) that may help you move the sale to a close.
5. Write down the 3 most important items they have stated are important to them.
If you are prepping for a face-to-face meeting with a prospect, you’ve likely had 2-3 specific discussions with one or several folks at the company about their needs. Hopefully, you’ve done a good job of qualifying and you know that this company is an ideal customer for you. [Note: if you haven’t, you’re not ready for the meeting and you need to schedule an exploratory call with the prospect first.]
To prepare for a sales meeting, the day before the meeting, take 5 minutes to think about what 3 items are most important to your prospect. What have they told you in previous phone calls or conversations about their priorities? These are clues. Use them!
In your meeting, speak directly to these priorities; make them feel heard and understood. When you can communicate that you’ve listened and that you are serious about solving their pain points, you demonstrate your value as a salesperson. Again, if you can’t write down their three priorities they you’re not ready for the meeting.
Preparation is key to a smooth sales meeting with a prospect. The day before the meeting, send a confirmation email, gather essential materials, practice the PBC, review the attendees, and write down your prospect’s priorities.
You’re on your way to closing the deal.