Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group
You finally got the meeting!
While getting a buyer to say “yes” to an initial sales meeting is a battle in and of itself, much success is determined by what happens in that first meeting. There are many mistakes to avoid, especially when you’re the one setting the meeting, driving the demand for your offerings, and when you’re hosting virtual sales meetings.
At the very core, meetings set by you, and virtual meetings, flow differently than face-to-face meetings and meetings when the buyer contacts you to meet. After all, if you set the meeting, odds are the product, service, or solution you’re trying to sell isn’t on the buyer’s radar screen. You’re trying to persuade a buyer to put something on their agenda that they hadn’t otherwise been considering.
You need to connect. You need to inspire. You need to drive action. And you need to do this all virtually.
Following these 7 steps will help you get there:
Sales Meeting Success in 7 Steps
- Develop Rapport: Start with the basics: say hello, make eye contact, and break the ice with some small talk. Fill the time with conversation while you wait for people to show up if you’re meeting with multiple people. Unless you can tell the buyer wants to jump into business with military precision, do what you can to build rapport early in the conversation.
- Review the Meeting Premise: If you set the meeting, you likely did so on a specific premise other than, “Come listen to me pitch you.” When you review the meeting premise, you confirm the previously agreed to reason for the meeting and the time available.
I’ve seen many meetings go awry when buyers don’t know why they’re there—or think they’re there for different reasons! This can quickly derail the meeting soon after you get started.
- Share a Tentative Agenda: Say something like, “For the next 15 minutes I’ll walk you through how these innovations are affecting supply chains globally. Then we can spend the following 15 minutes or so talking. Exactly what we talk about will depend on what your thoughts are in the first part of the discussion, but often we get to whether it’s possible to apply any of the innovation, and what it might look like if you did.”
Note the part about “often we get to.” If there’s anything specific you want to discuss later, add it in earlier. The power of suggestion works to guide the discussion without taking too heavy a hand in dictating the agenda.
- Include Your Buyer in the Agenda Setting: Ask, “Before we get going, is there anything in particular that, by the time we’re done, you’d like to make sure we cover that will make this meeting worthwhile to you?” You never know what you’re going to hear, but whatever it is, you want to hear it and do what you can work to satisfy it. The more you understand, the more you can tailor your conversation to the buyer’s agenda and desires.
- Ask to Be Interrupted: Yes, you want to get your points across, but discussions shouldn’t be one-sided. Ask to be interrupted. If you are, you’ll know the buyer is engaged. But don’t get trapped here: if the buyer is the only one asking questions and you just keep answering, the buyer has taken control of the discussion. Ask your own questions and make transitions where necessary to keep the conversation on track.
- Tell a Convincing Story: This is where the magic happens. This is where you educate the buyer on new ideas and perspectives, inspire them to think differently, and drive them to take action. Learn more about the Convincing Story framework here, use it, and make sure your delivery fits within your timeframe.
- Shift to Inquiry and Collaboration: Now you must create discussion and collaboration. Some example questions to ask include:
- Would this work here?
- How would this work here?
- How would you compare this approach to what you’re doing now? What are the pluses and minuses as you see them?
- How do you think we’d need to alter or change the approach to make this work here?
- Why wouldn’t this work here? What could get in the way?
Let’s assume the meeting is going somewhere, and it seems like an opportunity is opening up. Before you conclude the sales meeting, seek a concrete next step that advances you toward the sale, and start satisfying whatever needs to be done to turn the new opportunity you’ve created into a sale.
When you follow these 7 steps, not only do you have more successful initial sales meetings that lead to real pipeline opportunities, you build relationships and set the table for collaboration, two essential elements to winning the sale.
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