January 31, 2009

What are sales people doing to make their sales meetings more effective?

Here is what sales people are doing to make their sales meetings more effective:

Present later and only when you have a full understanding of the customer’s requirements. There are many types of sales meetings. The least effective (particularly at the early stages) are sales presentations, where the sales person is expected to present details of his/her company and product, often using a slide show.

Demo later and do it better. Doing a demo too early generally means you are less in control of the outcome and that includes managing customer expectations. Presenting a demo before the customer’s business drivers, product requirements, background, etc. are established makes it difficult to ensure that your demo hits the mark. It often results demos that focus on features, as opposed to benefits.

Talk less and listen more. If you are talking more than 50% of the time in any sales meetings you have a problem, and in initial meetings you will want to spend more than 75% of the time listening. That is the only way you can establish needs, build rapport, etc.

Ask more questions and better questions. Questions that illuminate the customer’s wants and needs, criteria, decision making process, etc. Questions that invite direct answers, even if they are negative,‘is this a good time for you to consider this solution’, ‘is this price range within your budget’, or ‘have you ever done business with a company of our size before’. Questions that will prequalify the customer in terms of; budget, authority, timing and need.

Do a more structured needs analysis, taking the customer systematically through a process of clarifying business needs and priorities with the prospect that identifies unanticipated needs, that builds; understanding, concensus and tension for change. It also enables the seller to uncover hidden motivations, understand personal and political motivations and build a quantifiable business case.

Tell more stories of how other customer have benefited from your solutions, focusing in particular on the impact on the performance of their business. Customer success stories, particularly when validated by customer quotes, have a greater impact than almost anything else.

Set expectations and agree realistic objectives. What do you want to get out of the next sales meeting? What is the customer expecting? Too often sales people go to a sales meeting expecting to sell, while at the same time buyers arrive expecting to be sold to. Managing expectations is key, for example a salesperson might say ‘I’d like to listen so as to understand your requirements and thereafter I will go away and formulate some ideas that we could discuss at a future meeting and there after prepare a proposal if that is something that makes sense…’. Have a clear next step in mind is important, including a minimum expectation of what you would want from the prospect (e.g. another meeting, documentation, etc.) in order to advance further.

Prepare, plan and pre-qualify. A meeting that lasts for an hour, if it is to be effective, requires 2, or more hours preparation, follow-up and follow-thru. That includes; confirming who is to attend, clarifying expectations for the meeting, researching the company and its industry, preparing your list of questions, as well as answers to objections, etc.

Taking better notes in meetings and more systematically following up with those that have been met. They are adopting a keep in touch, or relationship mindset.

Working better as a team - too many cooks spoil the broth, the same is true of selling. Too often when 2, or more people it is vitally important that they work well together, that each has a role (there is one person leading the meeting), that each person decides what areas/questions he/she will address, how one will communicate too the other during the meeting (e.g. a signal to suggest moving on, etc).

Stop selling and start acting like an expert. That means adopting a consultative approach, helping the customer to uncover problems and explore solutions. Demonstrating your expertise and knowledge of not just your products, but the customers industry/business/challenges and how they are being addressed by others.

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