You did the pre-work. You sent the calendar invite a week ago, you even whatsapp’d to confirm today’s meeting. Nervous?
First-time client meetings never go according to the plan. Most 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.
Digital marketing, specifically search and social ads thrive on constant improvement. Marketers know the value of improving by that extra 1%. So why don’t sales folks analyze 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 realize that the deal is lost.
The feedback mechanism in the real world sales process is broken.
What if you were in better control of your meetings. If you could make them more effective and actually know this.
How to know if your sales meetings are being effective?
It's not what you think. Getting a warm lead, request for a quote or any tangible does not make the meeting effective, its a start for sure, but you can do better. Assuming you did your homework, so you knew the company had a requirement for your product, a show of interest is not a win, yet.
Enter the Fast Forward Rule.
In any meeting, you want to take the interaction to a level which would happen few weeks or few meetings later. In other words, you’re fast-forwarding your client relationship. This goal does two things; one, it shortens your feedback loop and thereby two, shortens your sales cycle.
How to make the meetings more effective with the goal to Fast Forward?
1. Lead to set the flow
Whoever leads the meeting, controls the pace of the meeting. Often salespeople 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 the client lead.
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 the meeting is, ‘I was thinking 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.
2. Know when to let the client lead
After the meeting pace and the flow has been set, you want to give room to the client 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.
3. Structure your questions well
This is the kicker folks. Structure your questions in a way that scratch the surface. 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’.
4. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
Your demo will be forgotten, the product USPs will be out of the window. Meeting 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, oh god, don’t use those.
Your keywords will come from 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.
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 Vaynerchuck 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.