Most of the time, you’ll need to have a sales meeting to convince the decision-makers that your product or service will provide a significant return on investment (ROI). Developing a strong sales meeting strategy can boost your small business sales process, win more business and increase your profits.
There are two vital elements involved in preparing for a sales meeting: the first is preparing your attitude (read the first part of our sales series: A sales winning attitude), and the second is research.
There are two schools of thought when preparing for a sales meeting; either you can thoroughly prepare and investigate the company or you can have a more open approach.
Ultimately, your approach will likely depend on the type of sales meeting and your personal preference. However, regardless of your prefered approach, it’s always best to do some research and make sure you understand the company and their market before you meet with them. Nothing stalls the progress of a meeting more than making the wrong assumptions or delivering incorrect information.
5 things to help you prepare for a sales meeting – The full preparation approach
If your preference is to prepare for meetings fully, then here are five tips to increase the chances of a successful sales meeting.
Step one: Do your research
Start with the company’s background and understand why they exist (their purpose), not just what they offer. This can go a long way in establishing confidence in your understanding of their ultimate business goals. The best places to do company research include:
- Companies House
- Review platforms
- Social media
- LinkedIn profile of the person you’re meeting
- Partnering websites
TOP TIP: Remember, looking at a company website or literature alone won’t give you a true reflection of what the company needs. A company’s marketing is (or should be) customer-focused. It’s giving you a clue as to what they want the end goal to appear to be, not how they operate. Think Wizard of Oz – you want to see ‘the man behind the curtain’, not the Great and Powerful Oz.
Step two: Prepare questions
While conducting research, make notes and prepare questions. Make sure these questions open-ended questions to ensure the prospect elaborates on their answers.
As well as company questions, make sure you ask vital sales questions too. For example, understanding their timescales and budget early on could save you a lot of time if expectations are unachievable (or unrealistic).
Step three: Decide your approach
Tailor your pitch or story to the client. Again, your research will outline what’s important to the client. For example, if the client values responsiveness and good customer service, include case studies and instances where you exceeded existing customer expectations.
If multiple members of your organisation are attending the meeting, ensure you are all aware of the game plan. An uncoordinated sales meeting could be disastrous. Make sure you know your roles and responsibilities and agree on silent queues to know when to speak or stop speaking.
Step four: Decide your expected outcome
Defining the purpose of the meeting and setting expectations of your desired outcome will help ensure you keep your meeting preparation on track.
For example, is this going to be an exploratory sales meeting or do you need to close the sale in this meeting? Depending on the purpose, you may need to prepare a quotation to take with you, or ensure you ask certain questions to help you put together a proposal to send at a later date?
Step five: Practice
Practising your meeting with colleagues can help identify particular areas of strength or gaps in your knowledge. For example, if you have a presentation, this can help ensure it’s working as it should, and you know the order of the slides in relation to your pitch.
Asking someone to role-play the prospect can be a great way to test your knowledge and fine-tune your answers. Make sure you present your pitch as if it were an actual situation, as this will help you practice body language, tone of voice and the speed of your presentation.
Prepare for a sales meeting – The open approach
The main benefit of the open approach to sales meeting research is you shouldn’t have any preconceptions or assumptions.
It’s always best to do a little research, like understanding who you’re meeting and the purpose of the meeting. However, only doing this basic research should mean you don’t have any preconceptions about the company. You’ll have to ask questions and seriously pay attention to their answers.
This approach can make the meeting feel more natural. However, it does rely on your skills as an interviewer. If this is something you’re concerned about, it’s best to write down some questions you know you need to answer before you enter the meeting – it’s always best to know what you don’t know.
What is the best sales preparation approach?
At the end of the day, neither of these approaches has been proven to be better or worse than the other. However, understanding each method should help you refine your chosen technique, and you may even find that your approach is entirely dependent on the industry or individual client.
Whichever position you take, it’s about working in the best way for you. Your objective during these meetings should always be to gather enough information to answer their needs with your product or service effectively – and close the deal. How you get that information is up to you.
If you’re still unsure, one of the most effective ways to understand which approach to take can be to practice a technique called ‘Mental Rehearsal’. This visualisation process is what top-performing athletes use to help prepare themselves before a competitive performance.
Mental Rehearsal is designed to help you visualise your journey to success. This can be visualising your walk to the car, the car to the meeting, the questions in the meeting and the handshake accepting the deal at the end. It may be that by mapping out this journey, you identify where barriers to your success are going to be and can help you think about how you’re going to overcome them – either through research or writing a question to ask in the meeting.
There are lots of resources on visualisation techniques online. This one from American coach Jack Canfield is simple to follow and provides a practical example of Mental Rehearsal.
How ETC can help
If you need help preparing for a meeting, or want to discuss either approach to preparation, please get in touch.
If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.