5 Tips for Running Successful Face to Face Sales Meetings Blog Feature
Dan Fisher

By: Dan Fisher on September 26th, 2012

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5 Tips for Running Successful Face to Face Sales Meetings

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Last month I shared with you 4 Tips on how to use a strong value proposition to open new accounts.  Now that we ceo_leading_meeting.jpgunderstand how to get our foot in the door, I turn my attention to running effective face to face sales meetings.

Did you know that most face to face sales meetings in the IT staffing industry result in a "no decision?"  You know, when the client says "I'll think it over," or "stay in touch," or "try me back in 90 days."  Why does this happen?  Poor planning.  Too much focus on the "broadcast message" where the seller talks about their service offerings, features & benefits.  And, most importantly, too few (and ineffective) questions are being asked (from the salesperson). Top performers on the other hand open new accounts, generate opportunities and establish clear next steps in their sales meetings.  Here's how they do it.

1. Pre Call Planning & Research: I could write an entire blog on this topic alone but here are the basics that you must come prepared with for all face to face sales meetings. internalize the basics: company size, locations, service offerings/products, their top customers.  What is their business model? Are they growing and investing? Where, why and how?  What is their big picture strategy and how does technology fit in? What are their key initiatives currently under way? Upcoming? What are the major trends currently driving their industry? How is their strategy/growth impacting the IT department (and/or) product development? Uncover critical business issues they are trying to solve and goals & objectives they're trying to achieve. If you fail to do this basic research then you have wasted your prospect's time and your time.

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2. Opening the Meeting: How will you open the meeting? What specifically will you say?  How will you quickly demonstrate credibility and show the client this will not be a waste of their time? When and how will you transition into your questions?

First, I  strongly encourage you to use a meeting agenda. Your meeting agenda should highlight the basics: Who will be in attendance (name and title), time and location of meeting, specific topics to be discussed and decisions to be made during the meeting. The agenda should also highlight how long the meeting will last.

When opening the meeting re-confirm everything that was agreed to on the meeting agenda (when the meeting was scheduled). Be sure to re-confirm the client's expectations of the meetings, do NOT assume nothing has changed. Ask the client, "what specifically would you like to get out of our meeting today?"

Get down to business by sharing with the client the research you have done on them, their company and their department (this is your moment to shine...impress them with what you know about them).  Then, share with them why you think you might be able to impact their business. Share your value proposition with them. When sharing your value proposition do it in such a way that is builds credibility.  Don't make it a sales pitch.  You should be sharing a relevant story that demonstrates how you have helped another client in a similar situation.  How did you help them? What action did you take and what were the business results?  After doing this let the client know that you have prepared a number of questions to gain a better understanding of their goals & objectives and to determine if and how you might be of value. Remember, people don't want to be sold, they want to buy.  Transition into your questions.  Before the meeting write all of this down on paper and practice sharing your value proposition out loud

3. Prepare Thought Provoking Questions:  Don't go into your meeting with the "industry standard" questions thought provoking sales questionslike these: "What types of skills do you look for?" "What do you look for in a vendor?"  "How often do you hire?"  These questions are self-serving and do nothing to differentiate you. Instead, ask thought provoking questions that demonstrate you're truly interested in helping your client achieve their goals. Show them that you did your homework and that you want to be more than simply a vendor.  If you want to be a true partner, you have to prove to them that you have the chops to do it. A few examples include "what obstacles do you foresee in achieving your goals?" "If you had three ideal outcomes for this project, what would they be?"  "I saw in your 10K statement that one of your challenges is....what do you find most concerning?"  You want to engage dialogue with your client where you can be part of the solution, not after the solution has been defined (order fulfillment). Write down on paper your top 7-10 questions (make sure they're open ended).  What issues do you want to validate?

4. Anticipate Objections & Questions:  You need to be prepared for any and all questions and sales objections.  So, what questions might the client ask you? You have to assume they are going to ask what clients you are working with within their industry, using the same/similiar technology and/or trying to solve the same/similiar issues.  Depending on their experience with their other vendors (your competition), the're most likely going to ask you questions about how you handle certain situations (where they have been burned or let down by their current/past provider). Again, write down 10 questions you anctipcate to hear on your meeting and practice speaking your answers out loud. 

5. Closing the Meeting:  How will you close the sales meeting? The answer to this question starts at the begining.  What is your goal & objective of the meeting?  You can have multiple goals and they could potentially change in the meeting based on what the client shares with you but I suggest you envision the end of the meeting before it begins. Part of your goal should include the client committing to action.  They don't have to sign a contract but you do want them to committ to taking some sort of action.  Remember, you get paid for what your client does, not what you do.  So what action-item(s) will you ask your client to commit to?  By what date?  How will you transition to the close of the meeting?  What specifically will you say? I suggest you summarize the key takeaways from the meeting and then ask the client "may I make a suggestion?" When they say yes, you simply suggest the next logical and reasonable next step in the process to move closer to a sale.  Again, make sure this next step requires the client to commit to some sort of action.  It could be them scheduling a follow up meeting, or introducing you to someone else in the account.  If you're the one doing all the work you will have a sales bottleneck.

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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.

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