Guaranteed Better Sales Interactions? Plan On It

We don’t always do the best job that we can at preparation.  But one thing is for sure – there is no shortage of meetings each day, especially in sales and marketing.    Due to the collaborative nature of selling today, those meetings burn not only y0ur time, but the time of other valuable people in your organization.  It pays to do them effectively and efficiently.  So when is the last time you pre-planned an important meeting? 

On my better days, this makes the difference between a highly successful meeting or one that lacks specific direction and outcomes.

You can do a pre-meeting plan in a phone call, or more formal written document.  But whatever form it takes, I guarantee that you will have better meetings, and accomplish more in them if you take a few minutes and plan ahead.  It works for non-sales meetings too.

So what comprises a good pre-meeting plan? 

To fit your unique situation, you’ll ultimately need to answer that for yourself.  But here are some suggestions from my “g0-to” pre-meeting plan document to get you started:

1.  Meeting Logistics: 
Communicate the time, date, exact location, attendees from both organizations, dress code, and a reminder to bring business cards.  It seems simple, but at least one or two of these are almost always missed.  By the way, your client will give you points for asking for this information ahead of time. 
Not all their vendors come off this organized!

2.  Client Snapshot:
Include a brief, relevant overview of the client organization to baseline the participants.  Especially in the age of the internet, you never look so unprepared as when a team-mate asks a basic question that they should have known going in. 
You’re on for preparing them!

3.  Client Goals, Problems, Needs:
What does your client need from this meeting?  How often do you go in to a meeting without the answer? Too often if you ask most clients.  Preparing for this item is the only way you can know that you will deliver “in-meeting” value. 
Provide “in-meeting” value or your follow-up won’t matter!

4. Sales Objective for the Meeting:
What do you hope to accomplish from this meeting?  Some people are not comfortable with this prep question.  I don’t know why.  Clients know that we are all in business to give and get.  Don’t just go in for a visit.
What’s annoying to them is you being unclear on what you want!

5.  Main Agenda Topics and Topic Owners:
Being organized ahead of time to avoid confusion or conflict makes a huge difference on the impact of the meeting . The collaborative nature of selling has introduced a variable that did not exist in the “1 vs. world” model of sales meetings.  We all think we’re smart and we all hate silence.  Have this mapped.
Someone will say something dull unless you script it out!

6.  Potential Objections, Planned Responses, and Owner:
If you can do just one item on this list before your next meeting make it this one.  This is the most critical item and most often missed opportunity.  Prepare for objections before you get in there.  Here is a fun exercise to run before the meeting: Ask 4 participants what our ideal answer to a client’s question/objection will be and watch how far-flung the responses are.    Practice this, or at least plan for it, and your meeting will be many times more effective.
A crisp response to a tough question can mean a win or a loss!

So there it is, your starter “Pre-Meeting Plan.”  Now go make it yours and watch your meetings soar.

Good Selling!


The Art of Selling Is in the Heart, Not the Brain

It is all too easy to forget this fundamental in our age of ROI, NPV and Cost/Benefit, but it is critical to remember –  At it’s core, buying is an EMOTIONAL decision.

I was reminded of this today when I picked up a tweet from the Harvard Business Review that mentioned the concept in a blog post by Clif Reichard.   Cliff is a 55 year veteran of sales and customer service.  We can all learn a lot from that type of experience.

Cliff says that  “…Many sales organizations do little to create an emotional connection with prospective customers and concentrate instead on hype-filled sales pitches. We do the opposite: By conveying our warm feelings, we create an emotional bond without appearing phony or insincere. Then, by making an objective presentation, we show that we respect our customers’ ability to make their own judgments. The art of selling is in the heart, not the brain…”

Being honest with yourself, when is the last time that you and your team put as much energy into the heart of a pursuit as the brain?


Focus on Your Clients

A mentor once told me that “Sick companies are internally focused – Healthy ones are focused on their customers.”  Wise words from a wise man.  Thanks, Larry. 

With the economy slowly crawling out of the funk, where are the leaders in your company focused?  It’s easy to become entranced with YOURSELF.  Think about it.  Do you spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy looking at your own company’s Operations?  Alliance Relationships? Cost Containment/Reduction?  Organizational Structure?  Market Segmentation? Inventories? Corporate Branding?  If so – STOP!

These are all necessary concerns.  But they are also a very  – dangerous distraction from your most vital area of  focus in this moment –           The Client! 

If you take your eyes off the client right now, you run the risk of buying your stock high and selling it low.  How so?  You burned a lot of calories keeping clients during the downturn (never worked so hard for so little myself).  If you focus internally now, you may have burned them in vain – only to have a competitor snatch the client away from you as you focus inward and miss the first signs of the recovery.

Instead…Spend as much of your time as possible with clients.  Have progress report meetings to brag about all that you did for them in the past year, hold peer-to-peer executive lunches with them, bookmark web articles of interest and share them with clients, make twice the cold calls than you did last month, do a speaking engagement, double your contacts at a given account this week…

…However you want to…



The NEW NORMAL…Buying Power Has Changed

In their great white paper, Selling in the New Normal, Jeffrey and Chad Koser (authors of Selling to Zebras) cite Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, coining the term a “New Normal” to focus and re-engage GE  in the economy we’re dealing with for the foreseeable future.  More on this white paper in future posts, but for now…

One of their more interesting points is that post Great Recession, the people you sell to don’t have the decision-making power they once had.  It’s dangerous for your sales if you don’t realize that.  What’s worse is, sometimes even they don’t know it.  “A decision that once required director-level approval now goes to the CFO.  Previous CFO-level decisions go to the CEO or board.”  

Not talking to C-level executives?  You’re going to need to change your approach.


There’s No Such Thing As “Selling” Anymore

In my nearly 20 years in business development, many things about sales have changed.  One of the most significant is the slow and steady evolution of the power / authority in a sales process migrating from the “seller” to the “buyer.”  At one time, the seller controlled all.  Manufacturers made things, sellers sold them.  They would arrive at the buyer’s office with a bag filled with collateral which included the sum total of information on that product and its specifications.  The seller was the authority and controlled the transaction.  For reasons to many to list here, including most powerfully the internet, that equation is turned on its head.  Buyers are now in the driver’s seat.  References on this phenomenon are readily available.  Three of my favorites, however, are The New Solution Selling, by Keith M. Eades, Customer-Centric Selling by Michael T. Bosworth and John R. Holland, and The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer.  I could run a blog for months just posting about these approaches, and will be citing them often, but regarding my post today, they have one theme in common.  There is no such thing as “selling” anymore.  It’s about helping your clients win and matching your selling process to their buying process.  Once you accept that fact, your success as a salesperson can really take off.  I highly recommend you check thes books out.