Let’s face it: A successful sales meeting usually starts long before everyone is gathered in a conference room. Therefore, sales professionals should invest time and effort into preparing for their meetings and doing groundwork ahead of time to ensure optimal success.
Diligent sales professionals who do their homework, anticipate different scenarios and polish their responses, are more likely to maximize the sales interaction and advance the sales process. Those who show up unprepared or refuse to go the extra mile for their prospects, may lack the confidence and resources to convince their audience to move forward.
Simply put, preparation is key to success. Below are a few critical steps you need to take to prepare for your meeting, woo your prospects and move toward earning another valuable customer.
Step 1: Create the Roadmap
Create a roadmap and determine how the meeting should go. Outline next steps in the process and set up specific objectives. Sales professionals should know ahead of time what they are trying to accomplish and what they are willing to settle for during negotiations. Use your instincts and expertise to anticipate the direction of the meeting and figure out how to handle potential objections in a polite and highly-professional way.
Step 2: Develop and Share Your Vision
The next step is to develop and distribute a meeting agenda and other important reading materials prior to your appointment. These items will help you stay on track and move the process along. Make sure the participants familiarize themselves with all the aspects of the agenda and review the materials BEFORE the meeting.
Step 3: Know Who You’re Dealing With
We can’t stress enough the importance of thoroughly studying and researching your audience prior to you presentation. You need to find out who is going to attend the meeting, what their titles and positions are and who the decision makers are. You should know what products or services they are currently using and why you are able to provide a better solution. Prepare a list of open-ended questions designed to draw out critical information. Just make sure you are not over relying on things that may no longer matter to the customer.
Tap into online resources to expand your research and gather your facts. With the advent of social media, today’s sales professionals have the advantage of digging up all the crucial details about their prospects – their ongoing needs, goals and challenges. Review their activities on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs, find out about their personal interests, opinions and aspirations, and use that information as a tool to connect with them on a deeper level. Such nuances can make all the difference during the sales process and help you strike the right chord with the buyer.
Step 4: Set Your Expectations
During your appointment, clearly articulate the purpose of the meeting and desired outcomes. Your job is to explain how the customer is going to benefit from your products or services. What are the short-term and long-term consequences of their purchasing decision? And how is it going to impact their productivity, image or profitability? In addition, decide whether you should make a sale, brainstorm new ideas, spark some initial interest, or bring a potential investor on board.
Bottom line: Each meeting is important and each sales interaction can have major consequences in the sales process. When the customer has a multitude of options to choose from, you should always put your best foot forward and prepare to the best of your ability. Using your charm or relying on an existing professional relationship is no longer enough. The more you practice and rehearse before your meeting, and the more time you spend gathering information, the more effective and compelling your presentation is going to be. Even long-term relationships may come to an end if you don’t put in the effort and plan ahead.