We spend a huge amount of time getting customers to accept a request for a meeting. Customers are busy. They have an aversion, even a preference, not to talk to sellers. They worry about wasting their time.
On our side, we are incredibly busy. We are juggling all sorts of balls, prospecting, managing qualified opportunities in our pipelines, making sure our current customers are happy, doing the endless amount of internal reporting our managers seem to want us to do. The few meetings we can actually get are important and we want to accomplish as much as we can.
Recently, I’ve taken to asking sales people the question, “Are you ready for your next customer meeting?” (This can be a phone conversation, virtual or F2F.)
Often, the response is a puzzled look, “What are you talking about? I know what I want to pitch in this meeting! I’ve done hundreds of these before, I know how to handle anything the customer might bring up! I’ve got my script!”
Then I ask a series of questions:
- Why did the customer choose to take this meeting? Why is the meeting important enough to them to choose to invest their time? (It’s probably not to learn about your product because they can do this without meeting with you.)
- What are the customer’s objectives and goal in this meeting?
- What are the top issues impacting the company the customer works for? How do those impact the person you are talking to? How are those likely to drive his priorities and interests in this meeting? How do you know if these are important to the customer?
- Are there any business issues your customer may be missing? Things that have changed in the customer’s company. Things that have changed in their customers, markets, that may impact them?
- Is there something special about their business/function they might be interested in learning?
- What does the customer need to prepare to get the most out of the meeting? Do they need to bring data/information? Do they need to invite others in their company to provide expertise?
- Are we and the customer planning to accomplish as much as we possibly can in this meeting? Will each of us be ready to do this?
- What might happen that could completely derail this meeting? What can we do to avoid it? If it happens, how do we deal with it?
Meetings with our prospects and customers are critical. It’s how we get much of our work done. It’s how we and the customer make progress in achieving our shared goals. Each meeting in which both we and the customer don’t achieve as much as we possibly can is a missed opportunity for creating value, building trust, and moving the project forward. Each squandered meeting, in the least, lengthens the buying/selling cycle. In the worst case, the customer may decide they are wasting their time, choosing to stop.
Think of the meetings you have conducted in the past 90 days:
- In what percentage of them did both you and your customer achieve your respective goals?
- In what percentage of them could you and the customer have accomplished more?
- What percentage of meetings, after conducting the meeting did you think; “I should have asked this; I forgot to ask that; I didn’t handle this very well?
- In what percentage of meetings would the customer say; “I learned something important to me that I did not know! This was the best use of that time I could have made! I’m looking forward to the next discussion!”
- In what percentage of these meetings did you and the customer agree on and document specific next steps and schedule the next meeting?
For each meeting, there are actually two key things we must ask ourselves to assure we are achieving as much as we can.
- Are we ready for this meeting?
- Is the customer ready for this meeting?