Those of us in sales know that a lot goes into getting a meeting. Prospects are busier than ever these days, especially at the executive level. Executives take fewer calls with sales people than they used to.
If you do get a meeting with an executive, congratulations. You’ve done something right, your message resonated, you’ve uncovered a need, or you were just so persistent they decided you wouldn’t go away unless they finally took the meeting! Regardless of the reason, you don’t want to waste all that time and energy, which is why it’s crucial that your sales calls are actually effective.
It’s hard to hear, but the truth is, most sales calls today suck. Most executives don’t take sales meetings because they don’t see them as effective and they don’t get any value out of them.
To support this, Forrester Group posted some findings from a research study that tells the story of why. Their research shows that only 15% of executives find meetings with salespeople to be valuable. Only 6% felt that the salespeople were actually trying to help deliver results by trying to identify problems and challenges, then finding solutions.
To combat this problem of sales meetings that suck, we offer three keys to successful first meetings:
- Preparing in advance is key. No matter the size or scope of a sales meeting, preparing is paramount to success. Are you and your team clear on the objective for the sales meeting? Have you conveyed the objective to the client, or are you just assuming they know the meeting objective? Believe it or not, many sales people do not have clear objectives for sales calls, and preparation is hurriedly done right before the phone call or on the way into the meeting. We also often see that sales people don’t have a strategy in place for achieving the objective for the meeting or success for the sales call. While you cannot predict every situation that will arise in a sales call, you can be prepared to address typical challenges clients face. Preparing insightful questions based on what you learned during research or that are aligned with typical challenges specific to their role allows you to uncover the information needed to better align your solutions.
- Focus on the customer. If your communication with the customer is all about you, your products, and your demo, it’s obvious that you are simply there to get a deal as quickly as possible. Too often sellers jump right into their generic value proposition or scripted demo. It is critical that you communicate your desire to understand their priorities and challenges first. We call this being others-centered. The customer needs to feel that you care about what is most important to them, the challenges they have and how they are trying to solve them. Don’t talk about your products and services until you understand what they need to solve. And then, speak to how your products solve those specific issues.
- Demonstrate that you’re listening. We spend a lot of time working with our clients on active listening. Just like getting better at delivering your demo, active listening is a skill that can be developed. As a general rule, you should spend more time asking and listening than speaking. Active listening is one of the best ways to build rapport with your clients. They need to know that you are interested in them and that you hear them. If they do not feel that you are listening and understanding what they are saying, then the quality of information you receive from them will quickly decrease. A great approach to demonstrate that you’re actively listening is to clarify and summarize by saying, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying…..” and then ask a follow-up question. This is a great way to confirm that you heard them and also a way to clarify or gain more understanding by asking another related question. While this sounds very simple, it’s easy to get too focused on your message rather than focusing on the client, what they saying and how they are saying it.
Kodiak Group is a sales effectiveness company that develops sales transformation programs and playbooks that drive results. Let us know if you have comments on this post or if you’d like to chat.