Hey there, my digital friends,
I took a break from educating myself to my detriment. I’ll not call it a “resolution”, I came to this decision while breaking one of my more unrealistic of those “resolutions” of 2017. I’ve resolved to do this nonetheless. This is (in my universe) “The Year of the Dave”. In my head every morning I see a paper Chinese Restaurant menu, and on the colorful wheel of years, sandwiched in between the caricatures of Monkey and Dog is a cartoon drawing of “Medium Dave” (halfway between “Fat Dave” & “Skinny Dave”). You can’t get better if you’re not getting better. I’m trying not to waste any time – weekends, evenings, early mornings, I’m at my best when I’m constantly reading. Podcasts in the car, articles saved on my iPhone and kindle, Fast Company or Forbes in my backpack for times when I have to wait or have a few minutes when I walk into a meeting. You can fill your mind with some really good stuff if you’re not spending time commenting on recycled memes on the interwebs.
But my best advice? Once you get that audience with your target? We’ve all heard the adage that “you have two ears and one mouth… listen twice as much as you talk”? Well, that’s true with one modification. Listen 75%. And the other 25%? No matter how much you think you know, make 75% of THAT 25% about asking probing or clarifying questions, and stating back a summary at the end. Take good notes, capture the actions, confirm or clarify at the end, and follow-up.
Here are a few articles that have a couple of good concepts in them about making meetings their most valuable.
Preparing for a Meeting
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
Read about the company online. Look them up on Yahoo Finance (thanks Greg), look at their website’s “about” and “investors” sections, look at their Wikipedia page. Social media stalk your prospect OR existing customer. If a customer? You should AT LEAST follow them on LinkedIn. If they have a blog or a podcast? Read or listen. Learn about them, don’t be a creeper, but understand what they like. And unless you get to know them personally and your politics or religion align? Both are fairly off limits. Use good judgement here.
– Build a meeting agenda,
– Make sure you have business cards
– Send an email confirming the meeting beforehand
– Do your research about the person with whom you’re meeting
– If you’re taking lunch in, confirm whether the group has any dietary restrictions
– If possible, make reservations, or if doing lunch onsite/having a working lunch, preorder. It helps to ask the customer which they would prefer, especially if you have any technical content or project documentation you have to review.
– If you’re taking someone with you, make sure you fill out a meeting template – they need to know who they’re meeting with, if and what they need to prepare for, and your objectives for the meeting. Having something clearly documented, and having a pre-call, helps them help you.
– Make sure you verbally, never via email, tell them about any quirks the customer might have, or any behavior they don’t like.
– Know your customer’s dress expectations. When in doubt, business professional is almost never a bad thing. Caveat – some customers HATE ties, and if you know it’s jeans day, and you can pull it off, jeans are ok as long as they’re nice and professional. I tend to always wear a sport coat or a nice sweater. Stay away from tennis shoes… unless, of course, you’re going to play tennis.
– If requesting a demo OR a presentation, state expectations clearly in an email, and get confirmation that the responsible parties know your asks and agree to deliver them. Never wait until the day before or the day of.
https://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/companysearch.html – If publicly traded, look up this free resource for company filings. Research is easy with these “more than 21 million [company] filings”.
Selling to Executives
On this one, you have busy executives right at your own company. Ask THEM what THEY look for in vendors, and think about how you would sell your solution or services to them if you had to meet their objectives. Ask your best customers about what THEY expect from vendors – ask them that early in the relationship, then KEEP asking them. People love to provide coaching. It’s one of the very best ways of learning who they are, and what their real expectations are. The visceral honesty that comes from opening up and being a teacher. From talking about yourself.
Take your best sales executive to as many meetings as they will give you time to do. Learn from them directly as much as you can. When they can’t go with you, or you need someone with a different skillset, use whatever Subject Matter Experts you have at your disposal. I PROMISE you that key executives that care about company sales performance shouldn’t be upset with you for asking them to go to a quality, qualified meeting (and neither will your SMEs) If they are? Sorry, friend, you’re working at the wrong company. They can’t go to all of them, but it never hurts to ask. Just be clear about what kind of a meeting it is, who/roles that will attend, their titles and your key objectives. Then make sure you control what you can.
– At the beginning of the meeting, right after introductions, review your meeting objectives/agenda and ask for their objectives & expectations. Make note of them.
– During the meeting, make sure you both prioritize their asks (unless they’re totally irrelevant, then schedule something else as a follow-up to address those items), and captured (and addressed) any questions and actions that come up during the dialog).
– At the end of the meeting, clarify with the customer that you’ve hit the mark.
– Develop hand signals, kicks under the table, or tic looking winks for those aggravating times when someone starts babbling on and on about a solution that your customer told you on your precall they think is full of holes.
– Stay off your computer or your phone. Unless you’re taking notes with it (and they know it) or they’ve asked you to look something up, pay attention, even if you’re not the primary presenter. You might just learn something. Oh, and your customer might just know you actually DO care about solving for their challenges…
– If you didn’t get to something you had on the agenda, either in your summary wrap up, or in your follow-up email, ask them if you need to hit those items.
– At the end of the meeting, review the action items and give them a realistic follow-up action time. Pad that by at least 20% if not more. For example, if you intend to send your follow-up email by EOB today? You should tell them, “you’ll have your follow-up email by EOB tomorrow at the latest”. And then? Make SURE you send it today before your head hits the pillow. In the immortal words of the elusive Steve Barone, “Promise a Neon, Deliver a Porsche” or maybe update that with “Promise a Hyundai, deliver a BMW” for those of you that don’t remember Dodge Neons.
Following up on meetings
It sounds so basic, obvious and academic, but how often are we at our best in meeting follow-up? The more I do what I say I’m going to do, the more success I’m going to have. The more I FOLLOW UP the more I’m going to SELL UP. Treat every meeting as gold. If you’re not required to be there, and if you add or receive no value from it? Remove yourself. If you have to or need to be in the meeting? Treat it with seriousness and respect. Maintain attention, don’t get distracted, TAKE NOTES, and if you have an action? Follow-up on it as SOON as you can prioritize it. The longer you wait to follow-up on it, the more of the essence of what you’re supposed to do you lose.
https://hbr.org/2015/11/two-things-to-do-after-every-meeting – Great advice on follow-ups, persistence and sense of urgency!
Meeting Note Templates– Build a SYSTEM of follow-ups for internal and external meetings. Here are some interesting ones from the web. You can use an Excel sheet that you customize and print, or have printed in a binder, OR just make a process for it and follow it.
http://www.brighthubpm.com/monitoring-projects/14642-keeping-track-of-your-projects-action-items-in-excel/ – For more complex projects
http://analysistabs.com/excel-templates/mom-minute-meeting-free-download/ – Think of how our customers would perceive us to be if we sent out transparent and consistent follow-ups in the same format, the same process, every time?
Follow- up, be your best you.
Even the best, most seasoned reps and executives are arguably up to 10x more efficient if they follow a system. That doesn’t make it boring, it makes you efficient. I PROMISE you’ll get more done if you do.
Oh, and find yourself some heroes and some mentors. Learn from them. People love to coach. Copy what they do with their business relationships. Imitation is the best form of flattery. Then think about how you could adapt their success to your style. THAT’s how you win.
But I digress. This was supposed to be me posting a couple of cool links I found. I could go on about this forever, and likely did. Have a great sales week!