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Create Value In Every Meeting

by David Brock on July 8th, 2009
A few days ago, a reader contacted me with a great question: “Dave, you always talk about creating value in every meeting with the customer. What do you mean? Is it realistic? How do I get what I need accomplished?” Thanks, for the question and keeping me from being glib.

Let me back up a minute. One of the most common issues that comes up when I speak with sales people is, “we can’t get meetings with customers, how can we sell if we can’t get in front of customers?” I see the same issue, sometimes I have difficulty getting customers to meet, what’s up?

In truth, we have done it to ourselves. Customers don’t want to see us because too often we waste their time — and they are so time pressured that one more sales person wasting their time is unacceptable. We spend our time pitching our products without understanding what they are trying to do.

How to we create value in every meeting?

It starts with planning and preparation. Shooting from the lip doesn’t work. If we aren’t prepared, we are wasting the customer’s time and our time. The best sales professionals prepare for every meeting.

In planning the meeting, a key question we have to ask ourselves is “What’s in it for the customer to participate in the meeting?” We always know what’s in it for us—we’re trying to advance our position through the selling process, but until we can answer the question about what’s in it for them, we will waste their time.

If we can’t define what’s in it for the customer, then we should cancel the meeting — we aren’t ready for it.

Now, let’s talk about this concept of “what’s in it for the customer?” We aren’t talking about solving world hunger, we are talking about using the customer’s time well. At the end of the meeting, the customer should have the reaction, “That was a good use of my time, I’m glad we had the meeting.”

Think about it, if we pass that test for every meeting, customers will no longer avoid us, we will have less trouble getting meetings with them, customers may even start to look forward to meetings.

But if we are so focused on creating value for our customer, how do we achieve our goals? Frankly, the two are in separable. Early in the customer’s buying process, we want to understand their goals, problems, challenges. We want to understand what is standing in the way of them achieving their goals. Here, the customer is focusing on themselves, they are describing what it important to them.

We might, during these early meetings help the customer in other ways. We might help them clarify their thinking about the issues and priorities. We might help them to look at their business in different ways. We might help them understand what they should be considering in seeking solutions to their problem.

Later in the buying process, we are helping the customer understand potential solutions to their problems. We are showing them the results they should expect. We are showing them how to manage the risk and achieve results.

Through this process, we are a partner to the customer in defining and solving their problems. Sales people only pitching their products, features and functions leave the task of solving the problem on the customer.

So how do we create value in every meeting or interchange with the customer:

1. We plan and prepare. Until we can answer the question, what’s in it for the customer, we don’t have the meeting.
2. After the meeting, we want to make sure the customer says, that meeting was a good use of my time.

For some tactics and tips on doing this, send me a note to ask for our Call Planning Checklist. It is a pragmatic guide to creating value in every meeting.

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