Saturday, November 20, 2010

No More "Good Meetings"!

One of my professional pet peeves as a Sales Executives was hearing one of my sales people tell me they had a real "good" meeting with a prospect. When I inquire "why"? as my blood begins to boil, I would be answered with much hand waving, vague examples of what was accomplished and little in the way of next steps. This reminds me of something a former boss of mine would bemoan. Mike Boich, the founder and former CEO of Radius had a favorite saying, "When all was said and done, more was said than done".

I recall unloading on a Senior Director of Business Development after I was again told how "good" his meeting was with a strategic partner with little to show for it other than a lengthy intellectual discourse and supposed alignment with the partner's strategy. After I peeled myself off the ceiling, I sat this individual down and outlined the essential characteristics of a highly productive sales call.

The stage for a highly productive sales call is set well in advance of the actual meeting. Every encounter with a prospective customer must be well thought out. You want to prove the value of your time (and theirs) at each engagement. Some sales people are notoriously known for "winging it" on a sales call and guess what, it comes through loud and clear to the prospect. Know exactly what you want to accomplish BEFORE the meeting and then develop a plan as to how this will be accomplished. Do you want to present the concept of a pilot program? Gain an introduction to a newly identified decision maker? Whatever it is, be very clear in your mind what you want to derive from the meeting.

In turn, know exactly what you want to communicate to the prospect(s) as to how your product or service will solve their problem. Every interaction with the decision maker or influencer is an opportunity to demonstrate and prove your value. Take advantage of it!

Another key attribute of a highly productive sales call are the definitive action items and next steps that are agreed to by both parties BEFORE you leave the room. If the next step is to initiate a pilot program, then the key participants must be identified and contact information obtained. Second, the start date of the pilot must be determined. Third, specific assignments and responsibilities must be outlined. Who is going to do what and by when. Four, the potential customer agrees to this and off you go.

Through out the discussions, always seek out opportunities to affirm what your company can do for the customer. This can be done by presenting a quantified R.O.I. analysis or a proforma estimate of costs reduced or even better yet a forecast for incremental revenue. Promises are not what prospects want. They want proof.

So, let's recap:

1) Conduct a pre-call planning session: Know exactly what you want to accomplish in the meeting and what outcome(s) you need.
2) Determine the all important NEXT STEPS. This includes dates, times, targets, actions, owners, participants, duration and costs. Get buy-in from the prospect.
3) Prove your worth on every sales call: Every interaction with the prospect must advance the relationship toward the ultimate objective--win them as a customer!

Do yourself and your boss a favor. Expunge the term "good sales call" from your company lexicon and from your consciousness. Focus instead on proving your company's value, adding value to your prospect's business and advancing the deal along at each engagement point. When you do this, you will be not only highly productive but you will close more sales.

Happy hunting!

Mike Vanneman