According to a recent report by Industry Week, Americans attend more than 25 million meetings each day—and we waste approximately $37 billion on unproductive meetings annually. The reality is that client sales meetings are essential; and when approached with thorough planning and preparation, they can be incredibly productive.
I spent years as a straight-commission sales rep. Now, as an executive, I see the meeting challenge from both vantage points. This type of structure is what I appreciate when a salesperson calls on me:
- Reconfirm the start and end time. This helps to keep the meeting on track and sends the message to your customer that you value his/her time.
- Reiterate the reason for the meeting. Are you reviewing project status? Introducing a new product or solution? Be specific. And above all, be flexible: The client might have more pressing issues that have come up since you scheduled the meeting a week ago; be ready to pivot and redirect to best meet your customer’s needs.
- Create an agenda. This helps to keep you on track and will direct you back if the discussion veers off topic.
- Be prepared. Do your research! This is particularly important for first-time client meetings. Not only should you spend time learning as much as you can about the company, brand and industry, be sure to research competitors to see how they market their products/services.
- Ask questions. To maximize meeting productivity, prepare questions in advance. And then set the tone for your meeting by letting your customer know that this isn’t a one-way sales pitch: “I’m sure you’re going to have questions for me—I know l have questions for you.”
- Identify next steps. Make a list of actionable items throughout the meeting. Identify what needs to be done to move the sales process along—maybe there are benchmarks that you’ll need to hit to move the process forward. Remember: Not every meeting results in a sale. It could be that there is no future—and that’s ok, too. Either way, you want to know where you stand before you leave the meeting.
- Follow up within 24 hours. Whether you’re sending an email that identifies action items, next steps and deadlines, or hand-writing a thank-you note, be prompt.
Sales is all about serving the customer: Let them talk about their needs and expectations—and really listen to what they have to say. The rest is all about following up with quality products/services and personal service. At the end of day, regardless of our industry or market, we all want to work with a sales rep who really gets us—and then gets it done.