First Meeting Outside Sales Strategies. You Got the Meeting. Now What?

Often the question is asked, “Do you have any tips on making the most of these first meetings?” Yes, I do. Here are a few.

First meetings have a specific objective. Make a substantive advance toward a sale. “I’ll call you” and “You’ll call me,” “we’ll keep in touch” or “I’ll send you that info,” are sorry substitutes for a substantive worthwhile first meeting.

You need to:

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1. Obtain the information you need from the prospect to determine what to do next.

2. Identify needs that play to your strengths.

3. Lead the prospect to the conclusion that it would be worthwhile to invest additional time with you.

A current coaching client spurred me to write this by her request to look over her Powerpoint slides and critique them so that she could have the best first meetings possible with all her new appointments. Guess what? We didn’t do that.

We did discuss going into first meetings with a strategy as to how to obtain the result we seek. It doesn’t happen by accident and it certainly doesn’t happen if we spend a good chunk of first meeting time presenting garbage (even garbage that looks nice) without a clue as to what the prospects real issues are.

You can probably only count on 30-40 minutes for your meeting. So you have to move through your objectives within this time frame. If the meeting ends before you have accomplished your objectives, your ability to make advancements on this account will be significantly diminished.

You need to ask a lot of organized focused questions. You are trying to do much more than just “find the pain.” You need to discover the past, current and anticipated future situations of the company and the decision-maker you are talking to. You need to find out much more than just their buying plans for your offering. You need to find out how their needs have changed over the years, how they have selected vendors, what success looks like to them, their best experiences, their worst experiences.

My recommendation is that you prepare a “Client Needs Analysis,” which essentially is all your key questions organized onto 2 or 3 sheets of paper.

You are asking questions with a purpose. Your offering has certain strengths. Previous or current clients have often experienced certain situations that led to them doing business with you. You know that your clients often experience certain benefits when they do business with you. You need to ask questions that will uncover information you can leverage to advance a sale.

And when you discover a benefit you can deliver, that doesn’t mean that you immediately start explaining it to the prospect. Early explanation of benefits is not fun for you or your prospect. You need to uncover all the information you need and to work through all your questions, before you start hinting at benefits.

Just as you set the appointment by remaining in control and working your plan, that is how you will have a successful first meeting.

Let me ask this. Have you ever stopped to write down all the specific benefits that your product or service delivers? Have you written down the specific problems or losses that clients were suffering before working with you. Have you written down and documented specific success stories (quotes, letters, testimonials) of your clients or customers.

If you haven’t, how can you ask the best questions to advance the sale. The most powerful questions are questions calculated to provide you information you need to really advance the sale.

Your questions should lead your prospect to the conclusion that they have a problem worth addressing.

If your service reduces administrative costs by 10%, cuts production errors by 5% and reduces finger loss by 50%, you must ask questions about these issues.

Once your carefully planned calculated questions have uncovered needs that play to your strengths, do you then launch into your presentation? NO!! You only discuss the issues that the prospect has identified as a concern.

You may know that very important benefits can be delivered by you. But if the prospect has not identified them as important, you should not bring them up. Present only to the issues that the prospect considers important. Put your pre-formatted presentation away.

You have another important objective before you leave. You must solidify the next step. The next step is not you do something and the prospect does nothing. The next step must involve the prospect taking some action that will advance the sale. Your questions lead the prospect to the conclusion that it is in their best interests to invest more time with you. They might commit to a 2nd meeting with another decision-maker, provide some information to you, introduce you to someone important, the point is that part of your plan going in is to engineer some continuing involvement with you.

We know that if the meeting ends with “I’ll call you” or “You’ll call me” that you are going nowhere.

You engineer the result you seek with careful preparation of your questions and client needs analysis.

Best wishes with your selling,
Scott Channell

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