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Preparation is a difference maker. It separates the top sales teams from the inconsistent ones. Assuming lead generation and cold calling have both been done correctly, preparation for this first meeting has been taking place before it was even secured. There is always more to do though, even marginal improvements count. While preparation isn’t necessarily seen, at least not by the lead, it is certainly felt.
It’s important to go into the meeting with cohesion, with both parties informed of what the other wants as an outcome. You certainly wouldn’t reject a signature, but you can’t realistically expect one at this point. Think, what do both want out of this meeting? There will likely be some negotiation, some posturing and some sticking points, but you will be ready for most situations if you get your meeting fundamentals, materials and mindset right.
The qualifying process should have uncovered the most pertinent issues around a business and revisiting this before the meeting goes without saying. In addition to the work done at the generation and cold calling stages, there is always more to do to fully understand the prospect and their industry.
Learn as much as possible about your potential client’s operations and industry. One upcoming investment or fine detail could provide the extra insight required to close a deal, but even general knowledge of their company or sector could impress a lead. Turn to many different sources for news and information, including industry publications, local newspapers and their own website — you never know what you may find.
As well as their business and industry, sufficient time should be spent researching any competition and the people who will be in the meeting. Any competition will be a highly sensitive topic for a business, the drive to outperform a rival is something that everybody can relate to. If you see a competitor of theirs is expanding or generally doing well, this can be used to your benefit. Finding a common ground can also have an impact, so clarify who will be attending the meeting and learn more about them via social media. Similarly, check over your own social profiles and be conscious of your own web presence.
Prior to the meeting, ask yourself ‘what does the client see as their unique selling point’? Also consider what your own main advantage is. The answers to these will not only contain what your prospect prides themselves on, but also provide guidance on how to win the contract. Say your main selling point is international experience and your client’s is fast, ongoing growth, you will be to position yourself as able to cater for their predicted needs. Useful insights lie in answering the simplest of questions.
Agendas, presentations and supporting materials can be put together in the time before a meeting, but what you take along with you should be considered. Context is important — if a meeting is set out as a continuation of a discussion and further introduction, then save any major presentations for the pitch.
As far as supporting visuals and documents go, there are several points to factor in. Will physical copies or digital means best present your message? Will the meeting venue even have the facility for an on-screen presentation? Determining the available options and what a lead is expecting to get from this meeting will be decisive in what materials, if any, you choose to take. If a presentation isn’t expected — or desired — it will hinder a meeting rather than assist it.
Depending on the expectations of the meeting, you may want to discuss your ROI details, along with any supporting evidence. This could manifest itself in existing case studies or a top level analysis of what you can offer the client, but the nature of the meeting should be weighed up when deciding whether to explore this route. Rather than a thorough analysis, look to add value to the meeting. Potentially disclose one area where you consider the client to be under-performing and suggest a remedy. Doing this in a discussion will reinforce your status as a consultant looking to form a partnership, not a detached sales person.
The mentality that a sale professional adopts when going into a meeting will come through within it. Maintaining a positive attitude while expecting negotiation and objections is a healthy approach. If the business weren’t remotely interested in what you had to say, you wouldn’t be sitting at a table with them. Your research, initial conversations and offering suggest that a mutually beneficial arrangement can be drawn, so don’t let doubt or negativity ruin your chances.
To perform at a higher, more consistent level during initial client meetings, the following tasks should always be a part of your preparation:
Sales people have more information available to them than ever before, it would be foolish to not use it to prepare for initial meetings thoroughly.
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