Meeting Series #2 – Manage your meetings like a Boss!

So after my earlier post, I am hoping you have the basics for your meeting right. You have a goal for the meeting. Check. You’re on time and setup. Check. Have done the research to enable you to build rapport and understand how you are going to be able to solve the prospects problems. All sorted.  Now you just need to put on your best suit, slick your hair with some brylcream,  gargle a little Listerine and woo the customer with your silken chat, regaling them with tales of other customer wins and how they would be stupid not to go with anyone else, right? Wrong!

Sales is part science and art……actually, a scientific approach to sales gives you a framework to hang  your art. You need to bring your personality to every selling situation, engaging your prospect and enabling them to bring their personality, pain and frustrations to the table, all in a natural conversation. A tough ask!

a scientific approach to sales gives you a framework to hang your art

There are many, many sales frameworks out there but I find myself gravitating towards Sandler and SPIN methodologies, they work best for reps and are easy to coach to the non-traditional sales person.

So how do they help you manage a meeting like a boss? I’ll show you the 6 steps, including a little role play.

  1. Build Rapport

You need to build a good rapport to be able to engage with your prospect. A very simple area I see forgotten quite regularly is to make sure you introduce yourself to everyone in the room and have an understanding of their role in the business. For more tips on how to do this check a couple of my previous posts – #1 in the Meeting Series – Get the Basics right and #1 to Build Rapport is to Smile.

  1. Agree an agenda

This where the Sandler system excels, creating an Up Front Contract with the prospect gives you the permission to ask the qualifying questions to understand their personal pain and validate the opportunity. There are 4 steps to agreeing an agenda with a prospect

  1.  Appreciate their time
  2. Customer objectives
  3. Set the stage
  4. Agree next steps

Let’s see it in action through a role play;


SALES: “Just want to check that we are still ok until 3pm today”

PROSPECT: “I have to be at another meeting at 3pm, so would like to stop 5 minutes early. Is that ok?

S: “Not a problem, before we get into it can you please tell what you would like to get out of the meeting today?”

P: “Sure, I would like to get a better understanding of your pricing and how you compare against the competition”

S: “Perfect, we will definitely cover that off. Firstly I’m not even sure this is going to be the right solution for you, is it ok if I ask you a few questions to better understand what you are trying to achieve and whether or not we can help?”

P: “Sounds good to me”

S: “Great. At the meeting if you feel this isn’t going to be right for you please don’t hesitate to let me know. If you think it is a fit, do you mind if we finish 5 minutes early to discuss next steps?”

P: “Perfect, what questions do you have for me?”


  1. Discovery

This is the stage where you want the prospect to describe the situation in their terms and take the opportunity to delve into their core motives for meeting with you and help figure out if your product or service is a good fit for the prospect.

First you need to learn about the customers’ business, delving into the elements that is run through the gambit of ‘Who, What, How, Where, Why’s’ that are pertinent to your solution. E.g.

  • What is their current situation?
  • Who does this impact in your organisation?
  • Why are you trying to improve it?
  • How are you going about that?
  1. Why now?

So you have used your questions sparingly and in the context of a conversation. You now understand the prospects environment and have a good idea as to where your product or solution could potentially help.

Now you need to dig into the real reason why they will buy your solutions. Sandler describes as the 3rd level of pain, or personal pain.

People are rarely going to tell you that the project they completed a year ago isn’t working or that it was their initiative that is failing. No-one wants to tell you they have an ugly child! So you need to finesse your questions. Sandler created a great set of questions to help curate curiosity in a contextual conversation and uncover the personal pain, some of my favourites are;

  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • How long has it been going on for, what have you tried to do about it, were you happy with the results?
  • What is the cost to you if you do nothing?

Solving any existing pain requires a change to their existing process. Change is tough. Change requires investment of time and capital. Hopefully the pain you uncover is stronger than the organisations resistance to change. Best not leave it to hope! Here are a couple of questions that are great to ask;

  • Do you want to change this?
  • How committed are you to changing this?
  • How committed is your organisation to changing this?
  • When do you need this change in place?
  1. Priority

There are certain products and prospects where budgets are constrained and needs to have been allocated prior to making a purchase decision. But for many solutions your offering develops a strong Return on Investment (ROI) or mitigates a significant risk for which budget is always available, it is just a matter of where the project sits in their priority list.

When starting this stage of the discussion it is important to have the prospect restate poignant pain problems in their own words

S: “Thank you for sharing, it helps me a get a better understanding of your challenges. Just to ensure I heard you correctly, how long did you say this had been a problem for?”

Once the prospect has restated their problem you need to understand where resolving it sits in their priorities;

S: “How important is it for you to resolve this?”

S: “Where does this rank in importance to your other initiatives”

It is also important at this stage to educate the customer of the buying process through your questioning. If you know that other departments, e.g. IT & legal, are normally involved in the purchase process you need to understand how their particular situation. E.g.

S: “When dealing with other similar companies they have needed to engage their legal, procurement and IT teams. Is that the case with your organisation”

S: “How long does that process normally take?”

  1. Fulfillment

Now comes the fun part, where you can finally dump all that knowledge about your product or service onto your hapless prospect. WRONG! There are a few little tricks that can help you take this opportunity to get a firm future commitment from your prospect while also doing a trial close.

Prior to doing any demonstration or presentation I like to clarify a couple of things with the prospect. Let’s role play this again:


S: “Just so I have heard you correctly, are you trying to solve x, y, z?”

P: “Yes, although z is a little more important for us”

S: “Ok, so presuming that we can solve your pain do you see any reason as to why you can’t proceed with us?” That line can be a little presumptuous but is good to get your cards on the table early.


Now onto the demo and presentation. It is really important that you focus on showing how your product or service is going to be able to solve their problem, not go into a long diatribe of all the cool widgets, reports and dashboards you can provide. Juliana Crispo from Startup sales bootcamp describes a negative correlation between the number of irrelevant features shown and the likelihood of a sale.

Features demo v sales

Once you have finished the presentation/demonstration it is another great opportunity to get feedback on how the customer feels you may be able to solve their problems. Let’s check it out in another role play;


S: “Thanks for asking questions throughout the presentation, we understand our solution isn’t right for everyone, but on a scale of 1 – not solving my needs to 10 – there couldn’t be a more perfect fit, sign me up Scotty! How would you rate the presentation?”

P: “Probably around the 8-9” Bingo!

S: “What do you need to see today that would make it a 10?”

P: “Probably a report on usage”

S: “Is this what you are after?” {show reporting capabilities}

P: “Exactly”

Here is where you need them to come towards you with next steps, a great question to ask is;

S: “OK, so what happens next?”

A common mistake at the end of meetings is that they end with ambiguous next steps and no clear time frames. Meeting should only ever end in 3 possible ways.

  1. A sale
  2. No, with a good reason.
  3. A future date and agenda to move forward

That was a long one! Hopefully there were some valuable tips for you, be sure to check in for part three in the Meeting Series – The follow up

Happy selling!

 

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