There’s nothing more powerful than a face-to-face meeting when you are trying to win over a customer. But forward planning is vital. Sales expert Andy Preston of Outstanding Results reveals how to prepare for a meeting - from presentations to travel planning
A lot of sales people take the path of least resistance. A quick phone call or an email is easier and quicker than meeting up. However, customers and prospects find it easy to ignore emails and calls - and that makes selling a lot tougher.
When you meet with someone, however, you become the most important thing to them at that moment. A face-to-face meeting is much more persuasive. You get more information, you can gauge their reactions, find out what their objections are and overcome them.
Travelling to meetings is very time-consuming. Research shows that salespeople spend just 7 per cent of their time actually selling face to face. The rest of the time they are in the office, on the road or doing other non-sales activities. So it’s vital to prepare properly for meetings to ensure they are successful.
- Research the company. Check their website and search for company news and announcements. Look for an angle that will help you sell. Use that information in the meeting. If they’ve just come back from an industry exhibition for example, ask them how it went.
- Google the person you are meeting. Read up on their background and look for places where they are quoted such as press releases and articles. You should be able to gather information from a range of sources, including the company website, LinkedIn and Facebook.
- You should be in charge of the timescales. When you book the meeting, tell them how much time you need and check how much has been allocated.
- Prepare your response to objections. The most common are the same in any sector - 'leave it with me', there’s no budget, we’re happy with who we use. Think about who you are meeting - an IT director may have different objections from a financial director, for example.
- Plan your journey and allow enough time to get there. There’s no excuse for being late. Use your satnav, but also make sure you know what to expect at the other end. You may need time to find the exact location and find a place to park.
- Look the part. Arrive slightly early, looking smart, with polished shoes. Make sure you’ve got everything you need to hand.
- If you are using a PowerPoint presentation, make sure it is tailor-made for the client you are seeing, with references to them and their needs. If you are using a previous presentation as a model, allow plenty of time to check it - you don’t want to bring up a slide with another company’s name on it.
- Set an agenda. The sales person should be in control.
- Prepare questions. Asking questions and listening to the answers is vital if you are going to impress the person you are meeting. Ask if they are having any problems that they need help with. Use the information to angle your sales pitch.
- Don’t forget the lost art of territory planning. If you are on the road a lot, you need to be clever about how you use your time. Arrange several meetings in one area to minimise travel times and plan the most efficient routes from place to place.
At the meeting
There are three golden rules when it comes to sales meetings:
- Ask questions and listen to the answers.
- Resist the urge to jump in and sell too early. Let the client talk and tailor your pitch to their precise needs.
- Don’t leave without getting a commitment - if it’s too early to close the sale, put a date in the diary for the next meeting.
Andy Preston is a leading expert on sales and selling. Originally a professional buyer, Andy became not only the top salesperson in his company, but one of the top salespeople in his industry, and draws on that expertise to help people with sales and difficulties with selling.