How "Best of the Best" Execute Initial Sales Meeting
“How many new business development sales meetings did you go on last week?" "How many new business development sales meetings do you have scheduled for this week?" "Dan, you need to schedule more sales meetings with new prospects."
Sound familiar? If you're a sales professional responsible for new business development in which you sell IT staffing services I'm sure you can relate. And if you're a sales manager, I'm sure you're thinking to yourself "how can I get my sales reps to attend more sales meetings with new prospects?"
Having worked with hundreds of IT staffing firms across the country, I don't think there is such a thing as scheduling and attending "enough" initial sales meetings with new prospects. Everywhere I go, and everyone I speak with from within the industry is obsessed with getting more face time with new prospects. And why shouldn’t they, were in sales and this is what we do!
In this blog post I'm going to share with you how best of the best execute initial sales meeting.
Before I highlight what top performers do differently in their initial sales meetings, I want to share with you three interesting observations I've made regarding IT staffing firms and their quest for getting and executing initial face to face sales meetings.
- Frequently I hear staffing leaders say “we’re great once we get in front of the customer, we just need to figure out how to get in front of the customer more frequently.” When I hear this I think to myself, is that what’s really happening? Is it really possible that salespeople flat out can't sell over the phone but once they meet live and in person with the customer they're a super-star? Something about that strikes me as odd. Are there really a bunch of salespeople out there that are amazing in front of the customer AND also lousy at scheduling meetings? Seems like a strange a paradox, like an amazing fireman who is great at putting out huge massive fires and saving children and the family pet but clueless with driving and operating the fire truck. Doesn’t that seem unlikely?
- I have yet to meet a single IT staffing firm-NOT ONE-that provides training for running a sales meeting. Where and how are IT staffing sales professionals being taught how to run a sales meeting?
- I have yet to meet one IT staffing firm-NOT ONE-that tracks sales meeting effectiveness including meeting to job order conversion rates. If you don’t measure number of face to face meetings to job order conversion rates than how do you know how effective you and your sales team are performing in those sales meetings?
But forget about my observations, let’s look at some hard factual data. According to Forrester Research, only 19% of the more than 400 US-based IT and Executive Buyers surveyed believe that their time spent with sales people (in a meeting) is valuable and lives up to their expectations.
It seems to me there is a disconnect, but where? I believe the disconnect is tied to the criteria or standard that IT staffing sales professionals are being held to for running the initial sales meeting which leads me to the purpose of writing this blog.
How “Best of the Best” Execute Initial Sales Meeting
Remember, top performers don’t attend the most meetings. What makes them a top performer is what they accomplish in those meetings. Here is how the “best of the best” prepare for and execute the initial sales meeting.
Top performers ask themselves the following questions and write down their thoughts, answers and plans on paper.
- How will I prepare for my sales meeting?
- What are my meeting objectives?
- How will I research the company and hiring manager in preparing for the meeting?
- What are the desired action items I want my prospect to commit to during and after the meeting?
- What will I say to compel the client to commit to those action items?
- How will I address FAQ’s and objections?
- What ideas and insights will I share?
- When, where and how will I incorporate the data (from my meeting research) into the conversation to build credibility and earn the trust of my prospect?
- How will I uncover my prospects's pain points and their buying process?
Key Takeaway: Create a sales meeting preparation checklist to help you prepare for and get organized for all of your face to face sales meetings. Fully embrace and adopt the utilization of your checklist before attending any sales meetings. A few days before (any) sales meeting review your checklist with your sales manager to make sure you haven’t left anything out. Ask your sales manager to test you by trying to “poke holes” in your plan. See if they can knock you off your game. For sales managers, you just want to make sure your business development reps actually took the time to properly prepare. The difference between a top performer or “best of the best” and average performers is that top performers take the time to prepare for their sales meetings, every time.
Opening the Meeting
Top performers take the time to plan out exactly what they will say to open the meeting. They practice rehearse what they will set to frame the conversation and set expectations regarding what topics will be discussed, what decisions will be made and how much time is required. Below are few best practices for how top performers prepare for how they will open a sales meeting.
- What specifically will I say say to open the meeting and get the conversation going down my desired path?
- How will I open the sales meeting in such a way that I create a peer-to-peer conversation and avoid the superior-subordinate (commodity) dynamic?
- What will I say to put the conversation back on track if the customer takes control of the discussion?
- What will be said to uncover and set expectations regarding:
- Time allotment?
- What I want to get out the meeting?
- What the customer hopes to get out of the meeting?
- The decisions that are to be made?
- How next steps and action items will be follow up on?
- How much time will I spend on rapport building and what questions I will ask?
Key Takeaway: Top performers aren’t born with magical powers or natural ability of knowing how to open a sales meeting. They learn how to do this through training and/or experience and then they practice. For every initial sales meeting you attend, practice role playing exactly what you will say to open the meeting five times. Ask your supervisor to play the role of the customer and a peer to observe and provide feedback. Do this until you’re “conversation ready” or unconsciously competent.
Transition To a Business Conversation
- How will I transition the opening of the meeting into a business conversation?
- What specifically will I say to transition the conversation?
- What fresh ideas, insights or bench marking data will I share to add value to the conversation to make the transition?
Key Takeaway: For every initial sales meeting you attend, practice role playing exactly what you will say to transition your opening into a business conversation eight times. Ask your supervisor to play the role of the customer and a peer to observe and provide feedback. Do this until you’re “conversation ready” or unconsciously competent.
Discuss Business Issues, Uncover Latent Pain and Admitted Pain
Top performers prepare for what they will say to uncover latent pain and admitted pain in their sales meetings. They do this because they know and understand that new business development and building a sales funnel is all about uncovering customer pain points. You can't build a sales funnel without uncovering customer pain. Top performers prepare for this by doing the following:
- What questions will I ask to uncover the customer’s current state and desired future state?
- What questions will I ask to uncover a pain point or business issue the client must solve?
- What questions will I ask to uncover the goals the customer is trying to achieve?
- What questions will I ask and relevant customer success stories will I share to convert those pain points into sales opportunities?
- How will I qualify the customers motive, sense of urgency and commitment to solving those problems?
- What relevant customer success stories or value proposition will I share to demonstrate we have the relevant expertise and experience to help the customer?
- What will I say or ask to uncover how the customer feels about working with me and my company and how will overcome any concerns or objections?
- What questions will I ask to uncover their purchasing process including the steps or obstacles the customer will have to overcome internally in order to work with me and my company?
Key Takeaway: Top performers don’t go into sales already knowing how to facilitate a discussion on a customer’s key business issues. They’re taught how to do it and then they practice rehearsing the conversation including the questions they will ask and the comments they will make via role play. For every initial sales meeting you attend, practice role playing exactly what you will say to uncover and discuss business issues with a prospective customer five times until you’re “conversation ready.” Ask your supervisor to play the role of the customer and a peer to observe and provide feedback.
Closing The Meeting
Top performers understand that the true barometer for measuring the effectiveness of a sales meeting is based on whether or not the customer commits to a follow up action item such as committing to a follow up meeting, facilitating an introduction or signing the MSA. Top performers plan for the following.
- What will I say to summarize and demonstrate I understand the customers goals and challenges?
- What will I say to summarize the ideas, options and solutions we discussed and are considering?
- What will I say to check for understanding with my prospect to ensure we both have the same understanding of everything that was discussed during the meeting?
- What action items(s) or commitment will I ask my prospect to take next and how will I ask this of them?
Key Takeaway: Top performers have learned through their personal experience and training that there is a right way and wrong way to closing a sales meeting. To avoid stalled sales cycles and keep their sales opportunities moving forward they constantly practice how to close a sales meeting.
For every initial sales meeting you attend, practice role playing exactly what you will say to summarize and close a meeting five times. Ask your supervisor to play the role of the customer and a peer to observe and provide feedback. Do this until you’re “conversation ready” or unconsciously competent.
As you can see, there are many reasons why top performers have far more productive sales meetings than average business development representatives. The question becomes, what is your standard and expectation for how your sales team and your business development reps run the initial face to face sales meeting?
Is the goal to simply do a “meet and greet” with as many prospects as possible? Or, is the goal to execute a sales meeting in which the salesperson positions themselves as an authoritative thought leader who drives demand for him or herself and gets the customer to consider a solution that was never on their agenda and under consideration in the first place? That is how the best of the best execute the initial sales meeting and why they don't need to attend as many sales meetings as average performers do.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.