Why do you suck at client meetings
I am just amazed by the number of mind-bursting sales pitch client meetings that I have witnessed. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall because the rules to follow are so, so simple. If only we all knew them. I bet that if you suck at client meetings you are guilty of at least one of the 5 cardinal sales sins described below.
1. You go unprepared
Never, ever go into a meeting without these two vital tools: an agenda and a list of attendees. Why does that matter? Because doing your pre-meeting research is getting half of the job done. Having an agenda gives you control, lets you forecast possible pitfalls and lets you prepare for comebacks if you are hit at a weak spot. From a more pragmatic point of view, it lets you engage the right resources that will make you stronger and quicker.
Also, you would need to do a meticulous and scrutinising dissection of each attendee. I don’t mean just taking a quick peek at their LinkedIn profile. I mean starting with what elementary school they went to, checking on the internship they did when they were 22 years old, and coming all the way through to the most recent project they worked on. Ask yourself two questions: what makes them tick and why is that important to me?
In a way, you are hiring each one of the people you will meet at this meeting. You are hiring them to be the advocate of the idea, to be your fan, your proponent and the conductor of your influence within their organisation. So, please, please, please do your research properly – look for articles they published, look for any spot that you can use to build empathy – you went to the same school, you are both avid runners, you are both vegan or both go to the Sundance Film Festival each year. Keep hunting until you find that connection with each candidate. It’s 2016. Use the technology that we have today to your advantage.
2. You choose the wrong seat at the table
Where do you sit when you go into the meeting room? Does that matter to you at all? It sure should. I can tell you where I sit – definitely not with my back facing the door.
If you are given a choice, sit as far away from the door as possible, so that you can own the room. Sitting at a power seat will subconsciously make you more confident and thus make your messages stronger. Sitting with your back facing the door is a position of weakness because it makes you vulnerable. Pick a seat, which gives you an overview of the room. Also, mix with your clients: don’t have your team sit on one end of the table while the client’s team sits at the other end of the table. It separates you into two distinct groups and thus makes convincing and influencing your client more unnatural. You need to kill the “us-against” them syndrome as early as possible.
3. You are not hearing your client
Kids in sales guru preschools (if there were any such schools) would know that selling is 90% listening and 10% talking. No big news here. You essentially need to shut up in order to seal a deal. So, yes, you are listening but are you hearing? If you hear what your client is saying you might catch a glimpse of what’s broken within your client’s organisation and think of ways you can provide the sought-after remedy with your offering. Some people call this active listening, but the term is not the point. The point is to listen, see, hear and breathe with your client’s needs. Your client’s need is your key to understanding them and to offering something of the most relevance, which ultimately leads to closing a sale. Don’t waffle your chances away.
4. You are not adjusting
You need to be nimble, quick and alert. A meeting can take the wrong turn at any point. Are you prepared to get things back on track if that happens? You have got to remain vigilant for any signs of your audience either getting bored, inattentive or aggressive. Adjust your message; be ready to drop it halfway if it is not working. Yes, I know you spent a lot of time preparing, but just drop it while you can. Circle back, take control of the meeting, check on what went wrong, address it and remedy it right away. Then, move on in a new direction and into new messaging. Your client meeting is not a recital; it’s a tango. You need both parties fully engaged and eye-locked into the dance.
5. You are not finishing strong
You need to provide a strong closing to your meeting. You need to recap the takeaways and next steps, and then you need to get up, smile, shake hands and get out. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t blabber on and on, but instead keep sharp focus on what’s been covered in the meeting and what are the next steps. Respect your time if you want your client to respect you. Close the meeting on a strong note. And don’t completely fall apart or drop your entire act once the meeting is over. You need to keep making good impression even outside the boundaries of the meeting. Be succinct, be memorable, be attentive and leave your clients hungry for more.