“Hey there, I will be in your neighborhood next week and I just wanted to see if we could meet for a few minutes to make introductions.”
How many prospects do you think would agree to meeting with a salesperson who uses this approach? One in a 100? Maybe?
Setting new, first time sales meetings with new prospects is the lifeblood for any sales professional engaging in new business development. We all know that more qualified and more productive sales meetings mean more sales which means more commissions. But setting sales meetings isn't easy; they don't just fall into your lap. Consider the following five tips for scheduling first time sales meetings.
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Tip 1, Scheduling First Time Sales Meetings, Disarm Your Prospect BEFORE Asking
When a prospect, even those who have spoken with you multiple times, receives your call, they naturally put their guard up. Their skeptical and their busy. For these reasons, they’re instinct is to protect their most coveted asset, their time. So before diving in and asking for the meeting it is important that you first take the time to disarm the prospect and put them at ease.
Tip 2, Scheduling First Time Sales Meetings, Begin by Asking for Something Small
A study conducted by Stanford University's Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser, and written by Neil Patel in Forbes concluded that prospects are 135% more likely to agree to a meeting AFTER they first agree to a smaller request (by the seller). The takeaway for salespeople is that by priming prospects with a small request makes them more likely to say "yes" to the bigger requests, like a meeting.
Before asking your prospect for a meeting, consider asking for information or making a smaller request. Here are some basic questions you can use to prime your prospects before asking for a sales meeting:
Could we take a few minutes to discuss over the phone how our two organizations might be able to work together?
Would you be interested in hearing how we’re helping other like-minded customers like yourself achieve the same goal your striving for?
I was hoping you might be willing to help me or even steer me in the right direction, would it be O.K. if I asked you a couple of research oriented questions?
I was reaching out regarding <reference recent trigger event> and wanted to know if it would be OK to ask you a few questions?
After your prospect answers your initial (smaller) request(s), you than ask for the bigger request to convert the call to face-to-face sales meeting. Once you’ve been able to generate some dialogue with the prospect and get them to comply with a couple of smaller requests, they will be more likely to carve out some time on their calendar.
Tip 3, Scheduling First Time Sales Meetings, Explain the Purpose of the Meeting
It is important that we as salespeople understand that when we ask prospects to meet, the question going through the mind of the prospect is, "what is the purpose of the meeting and what’s in it for me?"
So saying to a prospect “I will be in your neighborhood, let’s schedule a meeting” doesn’t address the question running through the mind of the prospect. To that end, you must share with your prospect why you want to meet and what value they will get out of meeting with you.
Sharing with your prospect why you'd like to meet, even if the reason seems obvious, will do wonders for your success rate. Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer found people were 34% more likely to let a stranger cut in line when the stranger explained their reason, i.e. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
By providing your prospect’s with a clear reason and purpose for scheduling the meeting, your meeting requests will increase. Simply sharing any reason and purpose for the meeting will yield greater results than sharing no reason at all. However, the more compelling purpose for meeting, the greater the likelihood you will land more sales meetings.
For example, saying “I want to learn about your business, and culture so that when you do have a need we'll be prepared to service you” is not as compelling to the prospect as sharing “the purpose of the meeting is for us to discuss how your team is performing in the area of <insert relevant area> and I can share with you industry best practices including how we are helping our customers excel in <insert relevant area>.”
Tip 4, Scheduling First Time Sales Meetings, Communicate the Value of the Meeting
Having coached thousands of sales reps I have found that when most sellers ask for the meeting, they focus on what they want to get out of the meeting. They say things like “I want to learn about your business,” or, “I want to gain a better understanding of your technical environment and culture.” But these things are not important to the prospect. Instead, you need to let your prospects know the value the meeting will provide for them. Whether you can help them solve a problem, offer advice, share industry/bench-marking data or otherwise, let them know what they'd get in return from their time. Let them know why their time spent with you would be worth their while.
Tip 5, Scheduling First Time Sales Meetings, Stop Minimizing Yourself!
I hear so many salespeople, first year reps to 20-year veterans say things like “I just need to 10-15 minutes to……” What the prospect hears when salespeople make statements like this is “this doesn’t sound important at all.” Prospects respond by saying “send me your information,” or, “I don’t have time.”
Using the word "just" minimizes yourself as a salesperson and the value you have to offer. And what can you possibly hope to accomplish in a 10-15 minute meeting anyway? Meetings that short are for those selling small, low ticket products like kitchen knives, or curtains, or office supplies. When sellers make these kinds of comments they brand themselves and their offering as a commodity.