“Pick me up at the airport and you can brief me about the client on our way to the meeting.” As a sales leader, have you ever asked one of your salespeople to do this? In today’s virtual world, the equivalent could be, “let’s have a quick call” the day before or just before the client call.
As a young salesperson, I believed just getting one of my senior executives to meet a client was a success, often disregarding the achievement of a tangible outcome. This was a combination of a lack of experience and/or confidence on my part. Today, we still see so many important client meetings miss the chance to make real progress due to a lack of serious preparation.
Our leadership responsibility is to ensure the best possible outcomes from client meetings. This includes coaching and high preparation expectations for every client encounter we aim to use to advance our relationships and ultimately… our success.
No more unnecessary “coffee and donuts” meetings, where pleasantries are exchanged, and we affirm how great our company, product, or service is. Where we may ask how things are going for them, only to find out nothing changes to advance our sales opportunity.
Time for change. We can set ourselves up for success by putting in the coaching work way ahead of the actual sales call.
As part of our sales culture, we can instill the disciplines that will lead to successful outcomes for every important client encounter.
Salespeople need to understand specifically how to prepare and structure an executive client meeting. This should be part of the sales training and tools they are equipped with.
Consistently committing the time to coach and rehearse these meetings with our salespeople, well in advance, ensures everyone knows exactly what their roles are, and most importantly, what outcomes we are aiming to achieve.
Research is Table Stakes
Before we get anywhere near our client (virtually or for real), committing to understand our client’s business priorities and determining how our value proposition will advance them is your salesperson’s responsibility. From there, we can start planning the engagement.
Encourage your salespeople to have absolute clarity around what we would like to achieve as a result of the meeting with our client – the prioritized desired outcomes. What are we going to ask our client to do as a result of our meeting?
We can also decide who, during the meeting, is going to own the achievement of each outcome. Consider the sales manager, executive, and salesperson… or even another colleague joining the meeting that will lead the conversation.
People typically make buying decisions first on emotions, and then rationalize with fact and evidence-based reasoning that aligns to the decision.
A great example of this is when we are looking to buy a new house. Most people know within minutes of walking through the door whether “it feels right” or not. Then, if it is a fit, we get into all the practical details to support our emotional decision.
So, in our meeting, it is important to plan which emotions we want to trigger with our client. Do we want to excite them? Disturb them? Or reassure them?
It could be our value proposition is aimed to excite our client, demonstrating how, by working with us, we can help them to achieve a step change in customer service for their clients.
Alternatively, we could lead with evidence their competition is forging ahead with net promoter scores. Then assure and excite them with what we can do to help them re-gain lost ground. We can use examples of successful results with other clients in their field.
People connect through stories, so the preparation of a compelling, engaging storyline is critical to creating emotional momentum. Use the story to demonstrate our value in a way our client can envision success. Consider introducing use cases from other clients in the same industry. You can also bring in statistics, insight, and interesting points of view to create collaborative engagement. Be prepared to exchange ideas on industry trends and for how we will handle any difficult questions or obstacles placed by our competitors.
Pre-wiring the meeting, through collaboration with supporters, can create a high-level of confidence while preparing for the meeting. We may also wish to send information or initiate client reference calls to set expectations that will improve our chances of a successful meeting.
After our meeting, it is important to debrief. Did we achieve the desired outcomes? Is our client motivated to take actions, commit resources, or make recommendations up and across his/her organization? Are they excited to progress our project and to our next encounter?
Develop a sales culture of being prepared! By consistently investing coaching time to prepare and rehearse, we will not only achieve better outcomes from our meetings and differentiate from our competitors, but we will also demonstrate real leadership in how we expect our sales teams to conduct themselves.
Looking into 2021, take time to (a) make sure your sales teams are trained and equipped with an understanding of the importance of quality encounter planning, and (b) implement the discipline of “no encounter plan – no meeting” for each of your must win deals.