Ever been at a sales meeting with a great prospect when they’ve said…“This is all very interesting and your case studies are fine, but tell me, why would we use you?”
Ever felt that sinking feeling when a prospect tells you they’re happy with their current supplier, so they’d need a really good reason to switch – can you give them one?
You can feel pretty small and out-of-control of the sales conversation at that stage.
And that’s not a good place to be.
You might find yourself resorting to clichés about the wonderful benefits your product has, the great value and ROI you can bring, the big names you’ve worked with (even if it was 10 years ago).
When what you really want to be doing is helping your prospect solve their business problems. Because you absolutely know you could do a great job, they’re a great fit and that you can bring more to the table than their incumbent.
Good and bad news
The bad news is that it’s very hard to move a prospect forward towards a sale if these are the things you’re hearing, or these are what you’re feeling.
The good news is that it can be turned around.
Take control of the sales conversation
Here are five common reasons that explain why you may be having these out-of-control conversations.
- You’re using a telemarketer to get appointments, with little or no supporting marketing
- You’re not a thought leader in your area, and your prospect has never heard of you before now
- They’ve never heard you speak, read your articles or attended any webinars or events that you’ve held
- “Let’s just meet for a quick coffee and I can explain in more detail what we do” – was how the sales meeting was set
- “We’re up seeing a client really close to you, so why don’t we meet for a quick coffee…. etc.” – was how the meeting was set
Prevent this happening in the first place
Always easier said than done, but here are some ways to get you thinking about it – you can see immediately how they link to the points above.
- Become a true thought leader – learn more on how to do that here
- Write useful articles that help solve your clients’ problems
- Run valuable webinars or workshops that help your client to do their job better
- Give stuff away for free – knowledge, advice, tips, support, all linked to the first three points. More about how this works here
- Don’t telemarket until you have at the very least some basic supporting marketing in place
- Don’t aim to get quick meetings over coffee. These are rarely serious business meetings, these are a coffee, and are often the by-product of a little too much pushing, and a gentle, non-busy or junior-level prospect. (Notable exceptions are referrals and recommendations, where it’s a quick chemistry meeting and can easily progress to a business focus.)
But say you do get a quick meeting over coffee.
Should you turn it down? Not necessarily.
First, qualify your prospect
Perhaps blindingly obvious to you, but it still worries me how many people I see going into a sales meeting armed with a credentials deck and no real understanding of the prospect’s business – or a clear idea of whether or not they are the right company for them to be doing business with in the first place.
Do your homework before you meet
At the very least:
- Check them out on Companies House. Are they the right size, head office in the right location (Timbuktu anyone?), right industry?
- Read their company website and blog articles.
- Check your contact out on LinkedIn. What do they write about and share, who do they follow? Who else works in their team? Which other employees would you ideally need to get to know? Who’s their boss?
- Google them in the broadest sense – you’ll soon find out a bit about their culture and what they like to get involved in.
- Google them to keep an eye out for any PR. Positive or negative, you might learn a bit about their wider business ups and downs.
- Now step into their shoes and see if you can imagine – from your experience of other clients’ problems – what types of challenges they might have that you could solve.
If they’re not a good fit, say goodbye.
You would never have had a long term, profitable relationship anyway, so don’t waste time trying to make them fit when you could be busy building real relationships with lots of other lovely new clients.
If they’re a good fit, then turn that meeting around from a quick chat over coffee to a serious business meeting.
How to create a sales meeting from a quick coffee
Your aim is to provide value every time a prospect has contact with you.
And if you manage to do this, then you can meet as equals, rather than as lowly suppliers begging a buyer to give you work, even though they are happy with their incumbent.
A useful email to help you turn a meeting around
You and I have a 60 minute meeting in the diary on Thursday 24th February.
I appreciate this is down right now as a coffee and introduction, but rather than just share what we each do (yawn….), I’d rather be useful and have you leave that meeting feeling like you’ve either learnt something new or gained something that you value.
So, if you can share with me a problem you currently have, or might have in the near future (that’s relevant to what we’re discussing), then I’ll do a bit of homework and run a 45 minute session to help you start cracking it.
We may do some brainstorming, need a flip chart, marker pens… and there may be interactive questioning or facilitation. You might also like to invite a couple more people into the room so you can get early input from others who might be involved down the line.
We think of it this way. If this meeting was a 60 minute session with a consultant from one of the big four, billing £200/hour, (and yes, they do outsource their X to us), then you’d expect a lot more than a chat. You’d have some tough questions for them, that you’d want answers to.
Now think of us as that consultant – and ask away.
How does that sound to you? We’re hoping it will be more stimulating than a general credentials meeting where we wibble on for an hour about our services, benefits and ROI 😃.
Changing the mindset of the prospect
This whole approach (tone notwithstanding as I may have been far more casual than you might want to be) is designed to change the mindset of the person you’re due to meet with.
No longer is it about them having to listen to a potential supplier sell them stuff they don’t necessarily need (or want) for 60 minutes. Wishing they had never agreed to the meeting in the first place.
Suddenly they have the opportunity for a spot of free consultancy – and it’s all about them and what they need.
Did you see what I did in para 4? “…. like to invite a couple more people into the room….”
Bringing other people into the sales meeting
That’s the invitation for your prospect to get some other people around the table to share in this bit of free consultancy, which might help them all do their job better.
It might also help your prospect to bring a wider team on board – especially where a business case needs to be built, to get the go ahead for a project.
For you, this will help bring in others relevant to the buying cycle (jargon alert). In higher value services, there’s rarely only one person involved in buying – there’s often a gatekeeper, influencer, budget holder or decision maker as well (hopefully self-explanatory names). The person you’re meeting may hold one, none or several of these roles.
You may need to get to know them all.
The more people in the buying cycle you have on board, the greater your chances of connecting with your prospect in such a way that you are building the relationship, adding more value – and winning the work.
The role of case studies in a sales meeting
So, you’ve run 45 minutes of brilliant facilitation, brainstormed their challenges, helped them with budgeting different solutions and sketched out a rough project plan. (And yes, you do need someone at that sales meeting who can do all this, plus think on their feet.)
Now’s the time to whistle up some comparative case studies demonstrating:
- Your approach in action and the type of work that has then followed
- The results you’ve had for other firms from applying this sort of thinking at the beginning
- The firms most similar to your prospect that you’ve done this for
What you’re doing here is reassuring the prospect that this high-value, consultancy-led approach is what (in part) differentiates you from others. And that you’ve applied it many times over, with reassuringly similar (and positive) ROIs.
Your message to them: You know what you’re doing, because you do this for a living, you do it all the time and you’re very good at it.
So, what are you waiting for? Get on out there, take a different approach to your sales meetings and bring those prospects some serious value.
They will remember you for it.