Do you know the six Ps of selling?
Proper Planning Prevents Pathetically Poor Performance
Or something like that.
Of course, the same could apply to giving a public talk, conducting a recruitment interview or playing a round of golf but in this post, I want to concentrate on preparing to make a sale.
However, in this post I specifically focus on preparing for a face to face meeting, as that’s a useful context to examine my points, but the ideas could equally apply to a phone call, a video connection or even a text-based exchange.
Who are you meeting?
Although you’ll likely have names and job titles, think about the role they’ll play in the decision-making process (or better yet, if you have someone you know inside the organization, ask them to help you find out).
Someone will be evaluating your proposal from a technical point of view; making sure what you suggest will fit with other systems, etc. Someone else will likely examine things from the end-user’s perspective and consider whether it’s going to make life easier. And of course, there will always be someone (and it often is just one person) who holds the purse strings and makes the ultimate, financial decision.
The point is, you can avoid being caught out by establishing a lot of this in advance of any meeting.
Why are they meeting you?
At Miller Heiman Group, we’ll talk about the VBR; the valid business reason. People’s time is valuable and never is this more apparent than in Business to Business (B2B) selling.
Gone are the days of the cosy chat, or the pleasant coffee. You need to have a persuasive reason to meet from the customer’s point of view. “I’d like to take you through our updated product range” won’t suffice. “I’d like to think we can save you 10% on this year’s renewal premiums” is more like it.
Alongside this you need to establish your credibility. If you’ve had no prior dealings with this customer, then perhaps a case study from another client in the same industry would help, or better yet a personal referral from a colleague of the person you’re meeting.
Again, think about this before the meeting itself.
Prepare to get information
This is the age-old advice about asking questions and listening – and I mean really listening to the answers.
If you can expect that you’ll be required to produce a written proposal or quote after the meeting then make sure you prepare to ask relevant questions, so that you can accurately connect what you’re proposing to the situation that your customer is trying to fix, avoid or accomplish.
For one of our recent #SalesTipTuesdays, I suggested that since we have two ears and one mouth we should use them in that ratio and I think that advice bears repeating here.
Prepare to give information
Most of us are more comfortable here because it’s safe territory: talking about our own products and services. But make sure any features or benefits you outline can survive a customer’s “So What?” challenge. And be prepared to back up what you say with some kind of proof if you’re asked to do so; ensure you have evidence to support your claims.
Prepare to get commitment
How will you know if the meeting’s been successful? What would be the best outcome and what would be the minimum outcome to make it worth your while? Again, it’s useful to have thought this through in advance.
One great way of seeing whether you’ve made a convincing proposition to your customer is asking them to commit time and effort in taking a next step. This can be outlining their decision process to you or setting you up on a preferred supplier register, or something along those lines.
A customer that’s prepared to take action and move things along is one who is seeing the benefits of what you’ve outlined. A customer that says, “Leave it with us” or “We’ll get back to you” should sound alarm bells.
To finish on another old cliché:
“Fail to plan, plan to fail”.
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