November 16, 2008

The Different Types of Sales Meetings

There are lots of different types of 'sales meetings' and understanding the differences between them is key to success.

However, salespeople and sometimes even the customer get it wrong, with the result being a mismatch of expectations. Here are two classic examples:

1. A buyer makes an enquiry and the sales person visits as a result. The sales person arrives expecting to listen and engage with the customer to explore his needs and requirements, but it does not turn out as planned:

- To his surprise the buyer is withdrawn and says very little. It becomes more like an interview of the salesperson, than a two way conversation, or exploration of needs. The salesperson ends up doing most of the talking and leaves confused about why the buyer even wanted to meet.

- Worst still the sales person arrives to be led into the board meeting, introduced to a number of people from the buyers side and shown where he or she can connect a laptop in order to deliver a presentation.

2. A sales person arrives to meet a potential customer for the first time. After a few short pleasantries, the salesperson powers up his/her laptop and launches into a slide presentation about his/her company and its solutions. After a dozen slides the buyers eyes glaze over, but with a lot more slides to get through the sales person does not even notice. When the presentation is over the buyer wants to get out of the room as quickly as possible.

The sales person has used up all the time talking about himself and has found out little about the buyer and his requirements. Because he/she delivered a presentation before finding out what the customer wants, there is no way of ensuring that the content of the presentation reflects the requirements of the customer.

All too often when a sales person visits a prospect the objective is to deliver a sales presentation – a slide show, or powerpoint presentation. But, although that is the most common approach, it is suited to only a small proportion of all sales meetings. The problem is that it means the sales person ends up doing most of the talking.

Most sales meetings are conversations - purposeful two-way conversations that explore needs, the implications of those needs and the potential solutions that can address the same. The word purposeful is important here – in that you have giving the buyer a reason to meet and that reason is clear. There is no mismatch of expectations.

For almost all sales meetings the salesperson almost always does more listening than talking, although the balance can shift as the sales cycle / relationship develops.

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