Julie Tucker
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New prospect? How to prepare for that important meeting

Preparing for an important sales meeting can be challenging for any business. When you consider the average salesperson spends 19% of their time in meetings, their value becomes apparent. If you’re not sealing the deal, you could be wasting a lot of time.

According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 95% of businesspeople believe face-to-face meetings are essential for forming and maintaining long-term professional relationships, with 89% of them saying they are crucial to “seal the deal”.

Unfortunately, research shows only one in 50 deals are completed at the first meeting, according to Marketing Wizdom, so it’s vital you nail it first time!

Do your research

The obvious first step is to do your research into the company you’re planning to meet. Make sure you understand their market and find out as much as you can about the individuals coming to the meeting. This will demonstrate you’re commitment and prevent you from being caught off-guard with any questions.

It may come as a shock that 70% of salespeople have admitted to being unprepared to answer questions from their new prospect, according to a survey by Forrester Research. In addition, more than three-quarters (78%) failed to fully grasp the issues at the meeting.

When you go in unprepared, this drastically reduces your chances of success. The first port of call should be looking at the company website. Read everything thoroughly, so you understand their business and objectives. Look at all the company blog posts, news and features to get the full picture.

Search for the company’s social media accounts and also, find out the names of the company representatives whom you’ll meet and look up their LinkedIn accounts. Identify their position in the company and try to get an idea of their interests and background. This can be a great way to connect on a personal level, especially if you have mutual connections on LinkedIn, or shared interests. It can also be a good conversation starter if there are any awkward moments when it doesn’t seem to be flowing.

The information should not be used to overwhelm the client with your knowledge. Nobody likes a know-all! The knowledge is there in your corner, so when you’re asked a question, you can answer it.

Consider your pitch

This brings us to the second point: your sales pitch. While you don’t want an obvious sales pitch that seems contrived, you need to have something great to offer. Whatever you use, make sure you know it inside-out.

Study your pitch objectively to make sure it has the right tone. Ask a colleague to read it as well, to ensure it makes sense and sounds interesting and knowledgeable. Keep a close eye on the type of language you use. It should be consistent and easy to understand. Don’t over-complicate things, or inadvertently fill your pitch with clichés and buzzwords.

Keep to the point and get a second opinion on anything that needs to be added or removed. Address all the requirements of the potential client and demonstrate that your company fully understands the industry. Make it clear why your company should be chosen above all others.

Try to pre-empt any questions that might arise and mention them briefly in your pitch. Don’t let it get too long, as people’s attention can start wandering.

Prepare some questions

Remember when you were in a job interview, and you were asked if you had any questions, and your mind went blank? Before the meeting, always create a list of questions in advance that you can ask your potential client. Word them carefully so they help you to learn more about their needs.

This will also demonstrate you have done your homework and taken an interest. If you don’t know where to start, try to compile a “safe” list of questions that will be relevant, no matter how the meeting is going.

Ask what kind of budget they have for the project; what they would like from your company that they haven’t found before; how you can help them with their goals; and what the next step will be. These questions may prompt more questions in return from the new prospect that may add value to the conversation.

Have a “practice” meeting

Invite your colleagues to a warm-up meeting and make sure your sales pitch is clear. This will iron out any potential last-minute hitches.

If any colleagues will be at the actual meeting with you, make sure you’re all on the same page. Don’t leave it until the last minute, as if you find any additional work is needed on your sales pitch, it may be too late. Listen to your colleagues’ feedback and incorporate it where necessary to give a polished performance on the day.

Consider your sector

While there are a number of general guidelines to help prepare for an important sales meeting, it’s also worth considering the particular sector you’re working in.

Times have changed, even over the past decade. The growth of flexible work spaces, technology, social media and other online marketing methods for businesses have changed the face of the workplace and our practices.

In years gone by, before we had today’s technology and marketing channels at our fingertips, there wasn’t as much scope to sell yourself. It would normally be a case of sales reps being assigned a territory and scheduling an hour’s meeting with each distributor in their area.

Without as many visual aids, the reps would usually sit around the negotiating table with the clients, have coffee and biscuits and talk about new and top-selling products. Instead of taking the time to understand the clients’ challenges and what made them tick, the reps tended to go through a checklist.

Today, with technology at our fingertips, and a better knowledge of how to woo new prospects, it’s possible to improve the format and value of meetings no end.

Media, creative and technology sectors

The media, creative and technology sectors have enjoyed the biggest advances in recent years, so when you’re meeting new prospects in these fields, why not take advantage of this to make your meetings something to remember?

When you’re an up-and-coming business, working in a flexible workspace, you can pull out all the stops to create the personal experience of your choice. Book a private meeting room and then start to prepare for your prospect meeting, using everything in your arsenal to seal the deal.

When scheduling the meeting, make sure the people you’re meeting are the decision-makers, with the power to purchase, influence or advise. Connect with them on LinkedIn and include a personal note to each person.

Your priorities are proving your credibility in the marketplace and your ability to handle their account. Focus on how you can solve their needs, highlighting around three ways of how you can add value to their business.

Give a demonstration of your product or software at the meeting, so the clients have a good understanding of how your ideas are different from what they already have in place. It’s important that your presentation utilises all the relevant technology and marketing techniques that combine to make your business special.

Make sure you understand their budget and timeline and be confident you can adhere to this. Going the extra mile and covering every eventuality will give you the edge on rival companies who may not have been so thorough in their preparation!


© fizkes / Shutterstock

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