What does success look like for you in this meeting?
I’ve been fortunate to lead and participate in hundreds of sales meetings with executives and owners from Wall Street to Main Street. While many ended positively, others allowed for learning opportunities. In all of these meetings a common denominator exists: all parties come with an idea of what success looks like to them. For the salesperson it may be getting referred to a key decision maker, identifying all the criteria to win a bid, or confirming when the contract has been fully executed. For the client it may be negotiating a 20% reduction in the price of the quote, discovering the top 3 features of an application, or learning about the fastest-growing market segments.
Since both parties have different incentives, the best salespeople make a concerted effort to understand the client’s underlying motivations by getting them to paint the picture early on in the meeting. This approach ensures the salesperson is addressing the client’s most important needs at that very moment. In addition, the best salespeople not only get the client talking early, they also align their incentives with that of the client. If done effectively, the meeting is usually a success for both parties and urgency is placed on what is most important.
OK, what if I already have a preset agenda?
Having an agenda for your meeting is highly encouraged. It’s also professional to share the agenda with your client prior to the meeting and get their feedback. If you’re not doing this now, I highly encourage it. This practice allows your client to get involved in “structuring” the meeting flow and confirming their priorities prior to the meeting. Think of it as reducing the risk of having a disorganized meeting. Usually, the client’s idea of success validates the preset agenda. However, if the facts have changed for your client prior to the meeting, rather than be confined by the preset agenda, ask the client this question: what does success look like for you in this meeting?
OK, what if I am not prepared?
Rather than hang up the phone or pack up to leave, take time to understand the “why” behind their idea of a successful meeting. Listen, and take notes. By fully understanding the “why”, you put yourself in a position to uncover more opportunities to help and advise the client.