The first call, whether face-to-face or virtual, with ANY new contact, regardless of where you are in the sales cycle, is the most important because it determines if there will be a second.
I coached an initial call recently, where a senior-level contact asked for a 15-minute meeting to discuss some specific things they had seen on my client’s website. The seller had prepared a deck for the meeting, where the first seven slides were all about themselves, their company, their solutions and services, the awards they had won, etc. – the typical 50-slide capabilities presentation boiled down to seven slides. Plus, it had all the things the client had likely already viewed on their website. Only on slide eight did they effectively ask, “Now tell us why you called?” Remember, they were granted only 15 minutes. You do the math.
The Worst Mistake We Can Make on a First Call Is to Talk About Our “Stuff!”
There is only ONE acceptable outcome we want from the first meeting. To get a second.
When people first meet you, especially busy, senior-level executives, there are two questions they are going to ask themselves about you:
- Can YOU help me?
- How can I use you?
In the First Meeting, There Is Only One Thing You Are Selling: YOU!
In the first meeting, your job is to begin building a relationship with trust, answer the two questions they will ask themselves about you, and most importantly, create enough curiosity and emotional engagement for them to want to spend more time with YOU.
How Do You Get the Second Meeting?
First, do your homework. Leverage social media, other contacts, and some of the tools your sales enablement or marketing teams have deployed to find a way to make a personal connection. This helps demonstrates that you care.
Additionally, by gaining insight into their business priorities and personal agenda, you can determine the thought leadership you can offer to demonstrate how you may assist them. Your job in the first meeting is to take the risk to deliver a strong point of view that differentiates you from your competitors and creates enough interest for them to want to spend more time with you.
Here’s My Rules for the First Meeting:
- Find a way to connect with them personally and do that at the start. Be attuned to quickly shift to business when they are ready and not waste their time.
- Discuss your thought leadership and point of view. What is their thinking process? How aligned is it to yours? Can you help shape or change their thinking?
- Do NOT talk about any specific service or solution. It is too early in the sales cycle to know what to sell them. In fact, you should not discuss solutions for the first two to three meetings. Instead, make it about building a relationship and getting their support to get other people “in the boat” whom you can collaborate with so you can “widen the net.” The minute you talk about solutions, you have immediately repositioned yourself from a partner to a vendor who is just there to sell them something.
- Offer a vision for what the second meeting (and beyond) might look like and get an agreement on a date for the next meeting. It might be to discuss your thinking with others in the organization, or to collaborate with them and determine if there is a pathway to work together.
I know the hardest thing to sell is you. We have all been trained repeatedly on what we sell, how it works, how much it costs, and hopefully, the benefits our offerings provide. It is the value and outcomes you should focus on. The others are not as important early in a sales cycle.
When you focus on how you can help support your client’s success (the specific person you are selling to, not their company) and make the shift from WHAT you sell to HOW you sell, you will find your initial meetings are a lot more productive and successful. Then, you will get a lot more second meetings, and have a lot more fun!
For your next initial client meeting, do your homework and decide what personal connections you can make, what thought leadership and point of view you will deliver, what the next meeting might look like, and how specifically you will ask for it.