The first time I went to a sales meeting with my mentor, John (also known as the Sales Ninja), the client expressed their excitement to work with us before we sat down! We did not deliver a presentation; instead, we discussed how our organization would work with theirs. We answered questions, finalized details, and established next steps. How did this ninja awesomeness happen you ask? Let me share a few ninja secrets on what to do prior to your sales meeting:
Establish trust and common ground.
When we booked the appointment, John found our contact on LinkedIn. He connected with her and then looked at mutual connections. He found out that she had a connection with three people who understood our business model and value proposition. John called all three and found out that two of them did not have a close relationship with her, but one of them did. He asked this contact to call her and tell her about his experience with our organization.
Our prospect received a phone call from someone she trusted before our meeting. They expressed their confidence in our organization and recommended that she work with us. This positive reference helped us establish trust and credibility before we even met her!
Another way to establish trust is to provide valuable materials published by yourself or your organization before your sales meeting. According to iMedia Connection, 68% of consumers feel better about a brand after consuming content from it. More on providing materials that add value and increase familiarity later.
Know who is attending the sales meeting and who needs to attend.
John looked our contact up on LinkedIn and found her title before the sales meeting. He also spoke with three people who had worked with her organization. Through his conversations, he learned that she was not the decision maker. She would influence the decision, but ultimately, we needed to get in front of the COO. John had a few contacts in common with him, and through two positive references from mutual connections, the COO decided to attend our meeting.
In addition to getting the right people to attend the meeting, you need to understand what motivates your attendees. If you are selling a new technology platform, are you speaking with a CFO who is driven by price point? Perhaps you are speaking with a Human Resource representative who is concerned about administrative burden and user friendliness. Is the decision maker a strategic buyer? Technical buyer? Find out about their goals and needs before the meeting. Putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes goes a long way and demonstrates that you will serve as their advocate.
Learn about your prospect.
When you call mutual contacts, ask for the back story on your prospect. We learned that our prospect had a terrible experience with an enrollment firm in the past, and where the project had gone awry. Do a little digging to learn about their current strategies and the challenges they are facing in their industry. What is their target market, who is their competition, and where do they sit in the market? Review their website, see if they have been in the news, and read their blogs, posts, and articles. Are there industry issues they are dealing with?
Ask your contacts about their culture. Look for clues on their website by reviewing their mission statement, vision statement, and application process for employment. Check out Glassdoor to get an understanding of how their employees feel about working for the organization. Are they paternalistic? Do they struggle with retention? Researching beforehand gives you a clear understanding of how you can provide value and demonstrates your commitment to the prospect.
Have a touch point multiplier for every encounter.
Beginners view the sales meeting as their touch point. Experienced salespeople add one touch point by confirming the date, time, and location beforehand. A sales ninja has a touch point multiplier in their mind, meaning that for every meeting you have with the prospect, you multiply the touch points by an appropriate number. For example, let’s say that you have a meeting in three weeks and your multiplier is 5:
- Send an email immediately when you book the appointment. Include something of value to the prospect. If you did your homework and found out that they are interested in wellness programs, include a sample flyer you prepared for another client that demonstrates how you can help them achieve their goals. Include an article written by yourself or someone from your organization to establish yourself as an expert.
- Send an email the week prior to the sales meeting to add more value. For example, tell them you are looking forward to meeting with them and thought they might find value in the attachment. Include a case study which explains how you increased participation in a wellness program by 42% for another client.
- Send a third email the week of the meeting and express your enthusiasm for helping them achieve their goals with the wellness program. Include a few bullet point ideas on how they can increase participation in their wellness program. Do not give away the entire strategy, but demonstrate that you understand their needs and have innovative strategies to share. Also include a letter of reference from a client with similar goals and challenges.
- Call your prospect the day before your meeting. Express your excitement to meet them in person and confirm the meeting details.
- Text your prospect when you are on the way to their location. For example, “Can’t wait to meet you- I am leaving the airport now! I’ll stop and pick up some treats for your office and will see you shortly!”
You can use a combination of formal and informal touch points prior to the meeting. This strategy creates a pattern of positive experiences, demonstrates that you care about the prospect’s needs, proves that you have extensive industry knowledge, and it all happens before you walk into the room!
Understand what you are selling.
This may sound obvious, but I have attended countless meetings where a broker presents a spreadsheet with health options and explains how each plan works. I cringe when a broker relies solely on this strategy, because they misunderstand what they are selling. They believe they are selling a product when they are actually selling a service. The client can get the product from thousands of brokerage firms. They might be interested in how the plans work, but what they really want to know is what they will experience if they contract with this broker. The wellness feature on the medical plan sounds wonderful, but how will the broker engage with employees to make sure they are using it? Why should they purchase this health plan from you instead of their current broker? Ultimately, we are all selling an experience, but we’ll cover that at a different time!
Let’s revisit the technology platform example. The CFO might have a few non-negotiable features, but is ultimately a price driven consumer. The IT Director is a technical buyer, while the HR Director is more of a strategic buyer. You might have the same product, but you are ultimately selling something different to each of these individuals. Understand what you are selling inside and out, and understand what the prospect wants you to sell.
Prepare the right questions prior to your sales meeting.
Beginners make a presentation and focus on features of their product or service. Seasoned salespeople ask open ended questions to get the conversation flowing. Sales ninjas ask pointed questions that demonstrate their knowledge of their own industry, the client’s needs, and leave a lasting impression. Sales ninjas establish themselves as experts by asking the right questions. You cannot prepare solid questions if you do not do your homework before your sales meeting. Sales ninjas have questions that get the prospect to speak most of the meeting because they they understand the position of power in a sales meeting is the individual who speaks the least. Because of this, they are much more likely to close the sale.
Hopefully this helps you land your next big client and changes the way you approach a sales meeting! It is more than showing up and telling your prospect about an amazing product or service. The best thing you can do is learn about your client’s needs and demonstrate why you are a good fit for them before you even shake their hand.
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