Sales meetings aren’t always easy.
I still remember my first sales meeting with a customer quite vividly. I also remember it with a little bit of embarrassment because I was clearly unprepared. There were questions I had no answers for. I didn’t have the required materials for a demo. And most importantly, I wasn’t leading the conversation. It was the worst sales meeting of my career, and it didn’t do great for my confidence.
We’ve all been in a similar situation, right? But that sales meeting taught me the key element to a sales meeting success—preparation.
But what is it to prepare?
Well, I’m going to share four essential steps which I practice before I get into a sales meeting and which I recommend for other salespeople too.
Research about the company
You know you should do this. You are probably doing it. But you may not be using the information during the meeting. When you understand the prospect’s business better, it gives you the confidence to ask relevant questions and also provide specific answers during the sales meeting.
So to what extent of research should you do about a company? Here are three key information you need to gather before your sales meeting.
The business and industry
Try to find out what business and industry are they in. For example, if they are in the manufacturing sector, get an idea of how the manufacturing industry functions, and what are the common jargon and terms they use. When you talk to customers in their language, you are not only gaining their confidence and trust but also building your credibility.
Pro tip: The best way to understand your prospect’s industry is to look at some of the publicly available industry reports. It will also help if any of your current customers are from the same industry.
Existing customers in the similar industry
An existing customer in a similar industry helps you better understand the business you are dealing with. It also comes in handy if you have to drop a customer reference in that particular industry or a company with similar size to show that you have dealt with a similar customer in the past.
Pro tip: Do watch out before you drop names. If the prospect is a bigger fish than your existing customer, don’t bother.
This is relatively common and which most of us do—finding out if they were in the news recently. So if they recently have a round of funding, you know they have the budget to buy your solution. Or if they launched a new product, they may require a better system to handle the operations of an additional product. Or, if they recruited a C-level executive—you know who is the decision maker.
Pro tip: Use tools like Owler and Google News to get to know the recent news.
Know your attendees
Before your meeting, send out an email confirming the attendees and the agenda. Get to know who are the attendees of the meeting, why they should attend it, and if the decision maker is one of the attendees.
Once you have that information, do some homework about your attendees on social media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Check their previous jobs and the positions they’ve held to know the kind of experience they come with.
- Find out what LinkedIn groups they are a part of. Read their LinkedIn bios to know their areas of interest. For example, if the prospect talks about being enthusiastic about new technology in their bio, you can use that information in your conversation.
If you don’t find them on social media, fear not. You can check online to see if their name appears in a magazine or an article. After all, any information is useful information.
Set a clear agenda and minute everything
Is it your first meeting with the prospect? Are you going there for a demo? Or are you meeting the prospect to close a deal? Setting a clear agenda before the meeting ensures you are making the best use of time and there is clarity in the actions to be taken after the meeting.
For example, if it’s your first sales meeting with the prospect, then your agenda can revolve around identifying their needs, understanding their business challenges and pain points, and a brief presentation of how your solution can help their business. Make sure you have relevant documents in hand so that you can quickly share them with prospects during the meeting. That’s important because your next steps shouldn’t be sharing documents but meeting a wider audience for a demo, or a meeting with the decision maker. Unless, of course, they have requested for a quote 🙂
Make sure you minute everything
One of the best practices you should follow is to minute key points discussed during the meeting. A format I usually follow is:
- Date and time of the meeting
- Names of the meeting participants who attended
- Key points discussed
- Next steps (action to be taken and DRI with deadlines)
- Next meeting date and time
Check the prospect’s engagement level
Once you are prepared for your sales meeting, it’s time to get into the meat of the meeting. Make sure you pick up physical cues of the prospect’s engagement level during the meeting. Some of the things you can do if you find your prospects getting distracted are,
- Ensure that your conversations are not one-sided and that your prospects are engaged in the conversation. For example, if you are setting the agenda before the meeting, ask them if they want you to cover any other detail during the meeting.
- Involve them during the demo. If you’re selling a SaaS product, ask your attendees to sign up for the product while the demo is going on, or add them as a user, or send them an email to pique their interest.
- Maintain eye contact with all the attendees in the room, and not just with one.
- Switch off your phone so that your attendees are not distracted by it.
- Stick to the allotted meeting time, unless you are given the permission to extend further.
There are, of course, plenty of other things you can do to prepare for your sales meeting—dress in your best professional attire, don’t be late, etc. Being prepared gives you the confidence to carry forward the meeting, and drive it in the direction you want.
If there are any other methods you use to prepare for your sales meeting that we haven’t mentioned, let’s have a conversation in the comments below.
Cover image by Sailesh Gunasekaran
Thanks to Radhika Bhangolai, my co-author on this blog.