You did the pre-work. You sent the calendar invite a week ago, you even whatsapp’d to confirm today’s meeting. Nervous?
Sales meetings almost never go according to the plan. Most typical meetings have the same flow; you introduce, do the demo, take feedback, write down the follow ups and then the drudgery of hoping you close soon.
Most other meetings; be it marketing, product, IT or you name it, have actually the same basic parts too. You introduce your viewpoint, listen and take feedback on other’s opinion, write down your follow-up and hope that you close what you wanted from this meeting.
This is why, all meetings are sales meetings. Any human collaboration depends on putting your views across, tweaking your ask and actually creating a win-win (which is the end objective of sales IMO).
But, the feedback mechanism in the real world sales process is broken
Digital marketing, specifically search and social ads thrive on constant improvement. That’s why A/B testing delivers significantly better results regardless of the original assumption.
Marketers know the value of improving by that extra 1%. So why don’t sales (or normal) folks analyse and improve every next meeting? The primary reason for this is that it’s very very hard to measure the effectiveness of the sales meeting. Only after few weeks of meeting and follow ups you realise that the deal is lost.
Feedback mechanism so easily available in several areas like digital marketing & technical development works slowly or inaccurately in real world problems.
What if you were in better control of your meetings. If you could make them more effective and actually know this.
The Meeting Compression
How to know if your meetings are being effective? It’s not what we generally assume. Getting a warm lead, request for a quote or any other signs of interest does not make a meeting effective, it's a start for sure, but you’re still far from closing. A show of interest is not a win.
A compression in a way to pack a lot more things into smaller, more efficient ways. Data compression works in the same way, resulting in higher efficiency.
My approach to real world meetings is somewhat based on this approach.
In any meeting, you want to take the interaction to a level which would happen few meetings later. In other words, you’re compressing your interactions. This does two things; one, it shortens your feedback loop and thereby two, shortens your sales cycle.
How do you actually achieve meeting compression?
Step 1 : Lead the flow
Whoever leads the meeting, controls the outcome of the meeting. Often sales people shy away from leading the meeting flow, they give up control on the direction of the meeting, that’s the number one mistake why sales meetings don’t go as planned. Awkward silences in the beginning are enough to make someone else lead the meeting. Avoid this mistake at any cost, start off easy, break the ice and get right into the desired direction. One of my fav things to say before a sales meeting is, ‘I was thinking may be we can talk about my company briefly, our products, your experience with similar suppliers and then we can decide on how to take this forward’. Clear direction, straight up.
Step 2 : Know when to let the client lead
After the meeting pace and the flow has been set, you want to give room to others in the meeting to speak their mind and be forthcoming. Sales people either don’t open proactively or become too aggressive. You want to maintain a balance, it has to be a two-way conversation, it shouldn’t be a pitch you’re making and in the end anxiously waiting for a yes/no. Try to evolve the conversation as it moves and be ready to change your ask.
Step 3 : Structure your questions well
This is the kicker folks. Structure your questions in way that not only scratch the surface but dig deeper. You already know to stay away from questions that have just yes or no answers, but another thing to keep in mind is that questions should make the prospective client dig deeper and feel the need to share. E.g. rather than asking ‘Are you happy with your current supplier?’ You should ask ‘How did the current supplier let you down?’. Right questions are powerful, use them to break pre-programmed answers and eject from the ‘meeting auto-pilot’.
Step 4: Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
Your demo will be forgotten, the product USPs will be out of the window. Keywords however will stick. Well, not the exact keywords, but the emotional trigger that the prospect feels when you use the keywords. Keywords here don’t refer to fads. Your keywords will come from describing three things — one, your product differentiation, two what the client needs and three market trends. If you can find words which address all three, oh boy you’re in luck.
Step 5: Add value
Remember you’re there for the prospect. Don’t try to make a quick sale, genuinely try to help the client. Adding value is the long game. Gary Vaynerchuk swears by playing the long term game. Give, give and give to your prospect or audience and add value before you can ask (close a sale) for anything. Adding value will significantly differentiate you from anyone else, because people crave for genuity.
Better sales meetings don’t happen because you’re the smoothest talker since Charlie Sheen; they happen because you deliberately put in a strategy to break it down to the science of personal interaction. The pointers above are no way exhaustive, I am still learning on how to make my meetings better, if you have any recommendations, please throw them my way.