As many of us are enjoying the good fortune by returning to normal ways of conducting business following the pandemic, one of the great joys coming back are client meetings. Real, live, face-to-face client meetings. Remember those?
Joking aside, as we get back into the swing of spending quality, face-to-face time with our clients, we have an opportunity to think about how we are going to make the most of these important client meetings.
So, how are we are going to ensure we deliver real business value for our clients? More importantly, how are we going to achieve the outcomes from these meetings we need in-order to advance our sales opportunities?
As with so many aspects of selling, it is all about preparation, rehearsal, and execution… and at Revenue Storm, we refer to this as “encounter planning.”
It may seem obvious, but time and again, when coaching sales teams, we find ourselves discussing what is it that we want to achieve as a result of an important meeting? And what actions do we want our client to take after we leave?
By focusing on these five key areas, we can improve both the business value we deliver for our clients during our meetings and the outcomes we achieve for our sales teams.
- Meeting Objectives – mutually agreed with our client
- Attendees – client and our team
- Desired Sales Outcomes – what actions do we want our client to take
- Intellectual & Emotional Management – our point of view / triggering emotions
- Preconditioning – sharing information / setting expectations
- Meeting Objectives
A successful meeting is dependent on having a set of agreed objectives with our client well ahead of the meeting itself (i.e., no surprises). Have we researched which of our client’s business priorities we are going to focus on? Have we tested that these are the topics that our client is expecting / is comfortable to discuss? In other words, is our messaging / value proposition going to resonate with our client’s business agenda while advancing our position?
Client attendees – do we know who from our client will be attending? For each client team member joining the meeting, do we understand their business priorities and their personal agendas? What about any concerns they may have about our company – either from personal experience or DUL (dislike, uncertainty, loyalty to others) planted by a competitor?
Our Attendees – every member of our team must understand what role they will play during the session. And then, there are the two golden rules: 1) No one attends without a specific role. 2) No one attends that has not been a part of the meeting rehearsals.
Yes, I hear you… and I really do understand this requires a lot of effort and the ability to “manage up” in our own organizations sometimes. But believe me, once you adopt this level of meticulous planning and preparation, you will reap the benefits of far more productive client meetings and enhance your personal success.
- Desired Sales Outcomes
Desired sales outcomes are the whole point of the meeting really – around which we plan and rehearse every other aspect of this encounter with our client. What is it we want to achieve? Do we have one goal or several? If several, which ones take priority? Who in our team leads on which topic during the meeting? Are our goals realistic for this session with these client attendees? Most importantly, are we clear on what actions we want our client to take as a result of this meeting?
The single most important measure of a successful meeting is having motivated our client to take specific actions on our behalf, either during or after the meeting, that advance our position with a specific sales opportunity. This happens when our client sees and feels the real business value / personal value of working with us. The converse being equally true.
- Intellectual & Emotional Management
If we want our client to take specific actions during or after our meeting, then it makes sense we need to be relevant. Our storyline, insights, and point-of-view on their business priorities must connect. We need to demonstrate it is our team that will best help them achieve their business / personal objectives. Have we considered how we want our client team members to feel during the session? What emotions do we want to trigger? Do we want to excite them with our point of view and ideas? Are we going to disturb them – getting them to potentially see lost opportunity should they fail to take certain actions? Or are we there to assure them we have this?
Our team will be there with them for the journey no matter what. Earlier, I mentioned handling concerns a client may have about our team. Again, this requires preparation and our ability to inhibit or counter emotions that have been triggered before… either from a difficult personal experience or through traps laid by our competitors.
What actions can we take prior to the meeting to help in setting expectations, achieve our desired outcomes, and engage our client’s emotions? Sometimes we can make the mistake of trying to share too much information during the meeting itself. We have a 40-slide presentation and a 30-minute meeting. That never happens, right? But seriously, we should consider adopting a “less is more” approach during our meetings. By sharing compelling information, customer success stories, relevant white papers, etc., ahead of the meeting, our client can read them in their own time. And hopefully, these ideas will help to resharpen our meeting disciplines as we once again start to plan face-to-face client encounters.
As sales professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure all of our team members attending the meeting are as well prepared as possible. Thankfully, the days of taking one of our senior executives in to meet an important client where we get the call to “pick me up at the airport and brief me on our way to the meeting” are over. Our executives expect us to own this critical aspect of our role. Meanwhile, they are supportive in being guided in roles we want them to play and the importance of preparation / rehearsal. So, be confident, take the lead, and enjoy more positive outcomes from your business meetings.
Engage you sales managers to promote encounter planning as a core value across your sales team. Get a slot on the agenda at your next team meeting to share these ideas with your colleagues. Help them improve their success in executing sales meetings that deliver great outcomes.