Many sales people waste time with people that are not empowered to decide on or purchase the products or services they sell. Meeting with the right senior executives is one of the best sales techniques you can use to accelerate your time to success with your customers. Therefore, its critical to ensure that each of these meetings are productive and prove to be valuable for the executives you meet with.
If you demonstrate that you can help that person/company in one way or another, you will have a much greater chance to quickly identify and close new sales opportunities. Conversely, if your meeting is a waste of time for that executive, you will prolong and potentially destroy any sales opportunities you had, and it will likely ruin your chances for a follow up meeting. Here are the top 10 steps you should complete before, during, and after your meetings to ensure they are both productive and valuable for your customers.
- Know the executive(s) with whom you are meeting. With a little bit of research, you can typically find out a lot of important information about your customer and should understand where they’ve worked before, the areas of success they’ve enjoyed, special interests they may have, groups they belong to, and other common contacts they may have with you or others in your company. Check out Noah Rickun’s article Show Up Prepared to find out how “it will take you only a few minutes to uncover enough insight to warm up a prospect at a first meeting.”
- Understand their role and responsibilities. The best way to get this information is to ask others you know in their department/division, or at a minimum, search the website for executive profiles, presentations they may have done, or articles they’ve written. Knowing this will enable you to build credibility by referencing it during your meeting, and ultimately help you determine how your products would map to their interests and initiatives.
- Schedule the right resources to join you and be sure they are briefed and prepared before hand. Make sure that anyone you bring is well aware of the above items as well as the agenda including their role and any of the topics they are to cover. Role play before the meeting to be sure everyone knows who, when, and how they are expected to participate.
- Share your agenda with your customer before hand and confirm who else will attend. By doing so, you can be sure that the topics you want to cover are relevant while soliciting input for other areas or topics they may be interested in. This simple step gives you the chance to change course if your initial agenda missed the mark, and enable you to reach out to any other executives you were not aware were asked to join.
- Prepare an executive summary presentation or discussion document to follow during your meeting. Don’t just wing it. Having a professional looking document or presentation to review will demonstrate that you have invested time preparing, will help guide your discussion to be sure all important points are covered, and will prove that you care and value your customer’s time.
- Complete proper introductions. Make sure that everyone introduces themselves, and ask them to describe their role and responsibilities, and convey any particular areas they want to cover and what they want to get out of the meeting. Make sure you also briefly describe what if any relationship exists, and where and how both companies have worked together in the past. This is a great way to break the ice and build instant credibility for you and your company. Don’t assume the people in the room are aware of any prior relationships or successes.
- Review the agenda items up front and confirm the amount of time you have for the meeting. Ask your customer to prioritize your topics and determine any others that need to be covered before jumping in. This ensures you review the most important items first, and less important ones last or not at all if you run out of time.
- Ask open ended, relevant questions, and listen carefully and take notes. Make sure your valuable time is not wasted with you or your team doing all of the talking. The best way to identify new sales opportunities is to understand your customers challenges and how your products and solutions can help them. Don’t make the mistake of jumping into a hard core sales pitch before you have had the opportunity to clearly identify the value add you can provide. Periodically pause during the meeting and ask your customer if the content being reviewed is important and is resonating with them. If not, switch onto another more important subject.
- Before the meeting ends, recap the items covered and determine next steps. Set aside time to briefly review and prioritize what you covered along with any action items that were agreed to. You should get concurrence for follow up meetings, and determine the focus areas along with any other individuals that should participate. Solicit feedback from all attendees to determine on the spot if they received the value they expected and covered the topics they were most interested in. Ask for guidance on how you can improve the next time.
- Deliver what you promised. After the meeting, it’s critical that you follow through on what you said you would do. Send a thank you note to all that attended and document the action items and provide any information you promised. The value you can add begins when the meeting ends. You should also call each of the customers that attended to get their feedback. Many times in an open forum, individuals will not chime in during the meeting and might have valuable information to share in a private setting.
By completing these 10 steps, you will be guaranteed to have successful executive sales meetings, and prove to your customers that you are a valuable and credible resource for them.
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