Why You Need to Start Every Sales Meeting the Same Way
Salespeople often measure their success with one number: the quota. When it comes to improving at sales, though, the quota doesn’t deliver a lot of useful information. How to get better is a practitioner’s obsession. We believe that sales process is what transforms results for salespeople. One example is the select number of sales meeting “non-negotiables” that have a massive impact when deployed consistently.
These simple process tweaks are not conceptually mind-blowing, and do not tend to surprise people. They do not require a ton of effort or practice to begin using. They do, however, transform the way a prospect (particularly in the c-suite) views a salesperson. When used every time, these “non-negotiables” define the difference between a salesperson and a sales professional. This level of professionalism commands mutual respect and captures both the attention and interest of the prospect.
The Tech Check
One of our sales experts likes to share a horror story from early in his sales career. He and a colleague showed up for a meeting with a room full of c-level execs, only to find they did not have an HDMI cable for him to connect his computer and present. They relied entirely on MacBook and AirPlay. The meeting was scheduled for 50 minutes, but 30 of those minutes were eaten up by messing around with technology. When he finally began, there was no way to fit all of the critical information into the time remaining. The prospect saw an organization with low professionalism and easily said “no thank you” to a request to reschedule.
Whether you’re presenting in person or remotely, technology is involved in every sales meeting today. This is why the first non-negotiable is the “tech check.” It looks a little different depending on the type of meeting, but it’s always essential to make sure you are prepared and confident in your tools.
Tech issues can be a silent hindrance on remote meetings. It is unsettling how often salespeople go about their day not knowing it’s difficult to hear them and they need to replace their microphone or make an adjustment to the way their equipment is situated. Some of this can be playtested with your team, but there are also benefits to confirming that everyone can hear and see after the audience has joined the call.
Confirm what the prospect is seeing. This small check serves multiple purposes. (1) It confirms that people are not distracted or looking at another monitor or screen. (2) It demonstrates that you are considerate of others’ perspective, fostering trust. (3) If there are issues with your video or sound equipment, they will be uncovered.
Test any equipment you will bring to the meeting well in advance, so there is time to solve any issues. Bring extra cables and backup copies of your presentation, including paper copies in case of an equipment failure. On the day, show up early to the room and verify that all of the equipment is working.
The Time Check
Another member of our collective once scheduled a meeting for 30 minutes and found out midway through the presentation that he really only had 15, because something had come up. Sometimes the prospect will be mindful of this and let the salesperson know, but it’s rare. That is why non-negotiable #2 is a time check. This helps you in two ways.
(1) It verifies that the person is available for the full scheduled window. If they aren’t, you get the opportunity to tailor and prioritize the presentation to their window. You can avoid being cut short before missing important points.
(2) It’s an opportunity to gauge the interest of the prospect by asking the follow-up question, “if we run a few minutes over is that okay?” Their answer to this question can be revealing in terms of how interested they really are at this point, and where you are working from in the sales process.
An ancillary benefit of the time check is that it demonstrates that you are being considerate about the discussion. You come across as a serious professional, differentiated from the standard.
Proper Use of an Agenda
The third non-negotiable, proper use of an agenda, might just be the most essential sales meeting process step. Establishing a specific agenda before the call alleviates the fear of the unknown for the prospect. They might fear wasting their time, or talking about something other than exactly what they want to.
Even more important than the existence of the agenda is how you use it. Walk through it line-by-line with your prospect, adding some color to make sure they understand what each item means. After that, ask one of the most important questions on every sales call, “which of these items would you consider to be most important?” Their answer to this question will show you what the prospect hopes to spend most of their time talking about. This can be particularly useful after the time check, if you learned that the prospect has to depart early. After this, you should ask, “what would you like to discuss other than what is shown on the agenda?” The purpose of this open-ended question is to get the prospect thinking and sharing the core reason they are on in this meeting.
Both of these questions demonstrate that the salesperson is serving as a genuine advocate of the prospect’s success, rather than someone who wants to run through their slides. It shows that they care about the prospect’s time and how to best take advantage of it. Ultimately, this use of an agenda establishes mutual respect, and serves as a springboard for a successful discussion.
Getting to it!
These three process steps are easy to implement and always catalyze meaningful discussions. If you think they are obvious, pay attention on the next sales call you join. Does the salesperson execute on all aspects of these three non-negotiables?
Author, Kevin Sweet is product manager at Maestro Group in Washington D.C.
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