Updated: Nov 15, 2019
I recently was the buyer on a sales call where I knew the seller hadn’t done their homework. If they’d spent a few minutes looking at Pivotal Coaching’s website, they’d have had most of the answers they needed to ensure that their services recommendation aligned with my needs.
Pivotal Coaching is not a mass market solution nor B to C. My reaction…judgemental and irritated. Not only did I have a bad impression of the seller, it also meant we had to take extra meeting time for me to educate them.
Meeting preparation, even 10 minutes, would have completely changed my buying experience. It is something I expect as a buyer and is a process I coach to with Pivotal Selling’s meeting prep. As I am focused on B to B sales, what I share in this article reflects B to B sales process.
For those who want the quick read of this article, here are the key takeaways:
• Make it a habit to prepare for meetings
• Shift your mindset from your sales agenda to understanding your client’s needs
• Focus on the client’s needs by predicting what they may need help with
• Demonstrate you prepared for the meeting, even if not 100% accurate, and invest in building a relationship
• Ask good questions that show you’ve prepared and thought about the client’s business
The often-declared reason for not preparing for a meeting is lack of time. The tension point here is what the cost is for not being prepared for a meeting. The bigger the client, the more time that should be dedicated to preparing. At minimum, here are the three meeting preparation steps to always complete: 1) review company website, 2) read LinkedIn profile of your buyer(s) and 3) Google company and read news tab (Twitter as an alternate).
If you are a professional sales person, there’s no excuse to not prepare. Taking your preparation from a skill to a competency takes practice. For sales skills to become a competency, they must be practiced. Only 30% of sales competency can be realized through training and reading. The remaining development gap is realized through practice and yes, practice in real time with your clients.
A sales person shouldn’t go to a meeting without getting to know who they are meeting, both the business and the buyer. If you haven’t gathered insights, I’d predict that you are services/products pushing. In this sales style, there’s a high risk you’ll misalign what you’re selling to the buyer. This is a sure way to reduce your success at closing.
You know that saying about first impressions? The sales impression is even more unforgiving. The buyer holds the power to decide whether they’ll continue to have a conversation and to buy from you.
If you don’t make a good sales impression, your chances for a relationship and future buying opportunity are gone.
Take a minute and put yourself in your buyer’s shoes; recall a sales experience where you knew the person didn’t understand your needs or were product/service pushing. How did that experience feel? You know how I felt about my own experience; I’ve been motivated to write about it. Make the most of your own buyer encounters to ensure your buyers get a great experience with you. Your buyer knows if you’re prepared to meet them.
The Wrong Assumption
My expert and technical clients are made very uncomfortable with this next concept. I coach my clients to make assumptions about what could be happening in their buyer’s world. We talk about predicting what the client’s needs may be. There’s a good chance you won’t be 100% right and yet if you share your assumption or prediction with the insights you used, your client knows you’ve done your homework and are trying to be helpful to them. This style has served me, and many successful sellers, well over and over again.
For those readers who are skilled with cold calling, you know how important preparation and predictions are in asking for a meeting and in having a meeting. I have done a lot of cold calling in my sales career. Preparation and prediction continue to be the foundation, or habit, of how I think about a potential client’s needs and how I prepare my meeting questions.
Preparing customized questions for every meeting, yes every meeting, is ingrained in my meeting preparation habits. I touched on conversation style in the post The Give and Take of Conversation. This is the 80/20 principal. It’s your client doing the majority of the talking. The follow-up post to this would be questions and leveraging great questions. Let me know if you’d like to hear more on powerful questions. Being good at questions has made me great at both sales and coaching.
You Don’t Have the Answer
Even when you have the very best product or service, it may not be the answer, or solution, for your buyer. The competent sales professional knows their product inside and out, gets to know as much as they can about their potential buyer, business and personal, and facilitates a conversation that shows there’s a product/service and buyer fit, or not. This is strategic selling. This is successful selling.
Your buyers will never be critical of a well-formed question. A well-formed open question could be the gold mine of information to help you find the alignment and close the sale.
Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes.
Research shows that customer experience and a trusted advisor are still very important to their buying process.
The research would also show that sellers are falling short of delivering on client expectations, on delivering great sales experiences.
There are several sellers out there who have gotten my constructive and supportive feedback. The sellers weren’t used to getting feedback. An interesting point of discussion is whether the buyer should be giving real time feedback to the seller. If it hasn’t been a great sales experience, there likely won’t be another opportunity for it. In my own experience, the sellers were definitely not expecting it. They weren’t used to their buyers trying to help them so directly.
The great sales people I interact with have sales personas that include mindset, client centricity, interpersonal, skills, sales skills ,sales process and lots of practice.
Let us know how we can help diagnose and realize the potential of you and your sales team’s
LISA W. HAYDON MBA CEC CSP Lisa W. Haydon is a leadership development consultant, certified executive coach and mentor sought by business owners and corporations for help in achieving professional and business growth.Lisa bring extensive business experience and business acumen to her client work. She honed executive coaching for growth in prestigious corporations and now delivers transformational client experiences through her company Pivotal Coaching. Lisa is known for a growth mindset, a focus on people for performance and helping her clients realize results. About Pivotal Coaching:As a leader in executive coaching services, Pivotal Coaching works with corporations to transform the potential of human capital into business growth. We provide results-focused professional development in two areas: Leadership and Sales.