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Practice Management > Building Your Business

How to screw up a first sales meeting fast

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Sometimes just getting that first meeting feels like a major victory. You’ve been dying to work with this client or company for months and you’re finally on their radar. You can’t wait for the first meeting — and neither can they. You’ve piqued their curiosity and they want to learn more.

Except when you actually do talk to that prospect, their enthusiasm starts to wane. They bring up obstacles and no longer seem so motivated to move forward. It all happened so fast that you don’t even know what went wrong.

The speed backlash

If you’ve ever had a hot prospect suddenly cool down, I have one thing to say: “Slow down!” 

It’s highly likely that you misjudged your prospect’s interest as readiness to change. In your eagerness to capitalize on this opportunity, you made sure they knew all about your competitive advantages, top-notch service, latest technologies and more. And you probably talked fast to get as much as possible into the time you had.

If that happened, you’re probably starting to feel the speed backlash.

How can you know if your prospect thinks you moved too fast? They tell you everything is fine, even though it couldn’t be with their current status quo. They brush you off with a price objection. They turn a minor obstacle into a show stopper. Or they simply thank you for the update and promise to contact you when the need arises. 

Prospects who receive massive information dumps unconsciously erect barriers to slow or even derail your sales efforts. If this is happening, you’ve made the mistake of talking too much. When your prospect can barely get a word in, they feel like you lack concern for their needs — and that you only want to make the sale.

How to increase the success of a first sales meeting

Top sellers realize that making a sale is a slow, deliberate process. They know multiple people are involved in the decision process — and they all have to agree before moving forward. They understand it takes time to demonstrate value and develop strong relationships

Knowing this, they put together a one-step-at-a-time sales strategy that actually advances the sales process much faster than if they tried to do everything in one or two conversations. Here’s how to earn your prospect’s trust in that crucial first sales meeting:

1. Do your homework

Learn as much as you can before your meeting. Review your prospect’s website. Look for gaps between where they are and where they want to be. Identify primary initiatives. Figure out how your product or service helps achieve those objectives or ties in with critical business drivers.

For example, if you know that “Earning Customer Loyalty” is important to your prospect, determine how your product can contribute to this objective.

2. Focus on results

Your product is a tool — nothing more. People buy it because of what it does for them, so make sure you know what difference it makes.

Be prepared to talk about the business results your prospects will achieve when using your product or service. Be ready to explain how it helps reduce time to market, increase operational efficiency or improve sales — and have a relevant story to share that illustrates the points you’re making.

3. Plan your questions

Questions are key to your success. They demonstrate interest and concern. Prospects feel you are more knowledgeable when you ask good questions.

Questions provide valuable insights into customer needs and the decision-making process. They are the basis for developing a strong relationship. Plan at least ten questions ahead of time.

Make sure you find out their status quo related to your offering, priority objectives and relevant strategic imperatives. To keep you focused, have them in front of you during your conversation.

4. Establish a logical next step

Before your meeting, determine how you want it to end. A successful advance might be an information-gathering meeting, an analysis of current work flow or a presentation to other decision makers. Feel free to recommend the next step. You know what typical prospects go through when the want to change, so share the process with your future clients. 

The sales and buying process can’t be short-circuited. If you go too fast, problems are guaranteed to arise. Your opportunity will evaporate into thin air.

The big first sales meeting

When it’s finally time for the big meeting, get down to business fairly quickly. Start by stating your purpose. It’s enough to simply say, “As we talked about in our initial conversation, we work with client or companies like yours to help them [insert business driver/value proposition].” Then, share a short story about how your company helped another client and the specific results they attained. Talk results, not products.

Explain your process in working with accounts. Tell your prospect it’s essential to understand their objectives, needs, issues, and challenges in order to determine the value you can provide.

Transition to questions and spend the bulk of your time investigating. Find out why their curiosity was piqued in the first place. Ask about the current situation as well as related business objectives. Explore any issues or challenges that may arise if they stick with the status quo. Discover what they’ve already done to reach these objectives. 

Even though your prospect asks, don’t be tempted into talking about your products or services. Answer their questions briefly, then refocus on the business issues. Unless there’s a clear business case for moving forward, nothing happens. If they already have one, you want to know that. If they don’t, you need to build it with them. Before you leave, suggest that logical next step.

This is what the top sellers do. They don’t rush the sale and, as a result, they get the order. And quicker. Follow their example and you’ll soon be enjoying the same success! 

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