Written by Sean McPheat |
I read recently about a building that had collapsed, trapping many people inside. Although thankfully extremely rare, these types of occurrences put fear and trepidation into anyone who steps into a similar type of building.
The cause of this particular collapse was the poor foundations of the building. Apparently, the concrete used had been watered down to save money, and hadn’t set to the required consistency. Hence, anything built on top of it was bound to be in danger, and it was only a matter of time before the building became unstable or failed.
When you think about your meetings with prospects, the same analogy can be used concerning laying the foundation. If your preparation isn’t up to standard, chances are the meeting may fail at some point, or not be built to withstand pressures that may be thrown onto you.
Have you ever been in a meeting and a question has been asked, and you suddenly go blank, wondering whether the other person can smell the fear exuding from your very soul? Then you’ll know the effect poor preparation, or lack of foundation, for the meeting can have.
Although it would be impossible to forecast every single point that may come up in a meeting, here are some tips that will at least give you some confidence before you set foot in their place of work:
1. Have a distinct and specific purpose for every meeting
Going in there to ‘test the ground’ or ‘see if they have a need for my product’ is tantamount to watered-down concrete in your foundation. ‘Winging it’ will be seen as an insult to the prospect’s time and money. Remember, they don’t know what your product will do for them, so going in there with no planned agenda, no purpose except to talk about you and your product, will show a distinct lack of professionalism.
An example of a purpose could be ‘to ascertain whether my product will raise productivity or profit levels by a significant percentage’ Or ‘to determine whether my product exceeds the specification levels of the competitor product they are using at the moment’.
Have a real reason for visiting that will benefit the prospect, not give you a chance to show off your product knowledge.
2. Research their business, in relation to your products and services
When we ask salespeople what research they do before approaching a client, very often all they do is look at the company website.
Remember, most websites are simply on-line brochures and will tell the buying public what they want to know. It won’t tell you where their needs are, what their future plans entail, or highlight where they might be losing customers.
Use LinkedIn to find out about the buyer you are going to meet. Set up a Google Alert to keep up-to-date with new ideas and news items the company will be advertising. Go onto their Facebook business page to see what others are saying about them. Subscribe to their Twitter feed and see what is current in their world. Tap into their industry magazines online to give you a feel for what’s happening in their business.
This may take you more than a few minutes to gather the information. But it will help you not come across as a muppet when you’re in front of the prospect and they mention something you should have known about them.
3. Check you have everything before going on the visit
Have you been driving to a prospect, or just turned up at their office, and suddenly realised you had left that vital report or that important piece of information on the printer or on your desk? It happens to most of us. Instead, before you leave for the call, run through what you’ll require for the meeting, imagining you’re already there, and go through what information you’ll require to back up what you will be discussing. It’s worth spending those extra few seconds, so you don’t have that familiar sinking feeling later on.
4. Check your appearance
Obvious really, but make sure you’re dressed appropriately for each call. Some places are very laid back and expect their staff to be in tee-shirts, but others may have a ‘suit-and-tie’ regime that would make you look out of place if you went open-shirted. Ladies have a slight advantage here, as the dress code may be easy to administrate. No hard-and-fast rules here, but it’s better to dress up and then remove the formality than to dress down and be embarrassed, even at then subliminal level.
5. Allow extra time to get there
Yes, we all know it only takes 20 minutes to get to their office. But fate can conspire to make the journey reminiscent of visiting Hades on a bad day, so always, always, always allow a little extra time. It could make the difference between arriving neatly-disposed, calm and professional-looking, or having to apologise for wasting the prospect’s valuable time because you aren’t a very good planner (prospect’s thoughts: “if I use this person, is this a sign of things to come?”).
6. Before meeting the prospect, adopt the right mind-set
This entails going through the meeting in your mind beforehand, remaining calm, putting the emphasis on the prospect’s business rather than your products, and ensuring your professionalism exudes from every pore (another reason to follow tip #5).
Visualise yourself meeting the prospect and being in control. Allow yourself to imagine making the right moves, asking the right questions, getting the right information and being the right solution for this prospect’s situation.
Doing this will give you the confidence to be assertive and build trust in their eyes. It will also mean they have confidence in you, which will give you more kudos and line the pathway to a successful conclusion.
These aren’t the only tips to get you fully prepared, but should help you achieve at least some of your goals. And it will make sure you’ve laid a more solid foundation to create a more secure building for your presentation of your solutions.
Originally published: 3 October, 2013