Business Development Clinic: How can I increase my success rate in sales meetings?

Typically most professionals will need to have a face-to-face meeting with a prospect before converting them to a client. Very often these meetings can make or break a potential adviser/client match made in heaven. 

Here are our tips to make sure you get the most out of these meetings:

1. Bring another person with you

It’s very difficult to focus 100% on your potential client, if you are having to take notes, keep an eye on the time, gauge how well the meeting is going. This is why bringing another person along with you can really help you in a sales meeting. Their observations and reflections can be invaluable to help you when you decide the next steps after the meeting.

2. Ask for little acts of commitment

We sometimes forget that business development is as much about us checking the fit with the potential client, as they are checking the fit with us. Often people are too polite to tell you straight out that they are not going to work with you. Consequently, you only find out that they don’t want to work with you when the phone calls are not returned, emails are ignored and proposals are left catching dust in a desk drawer.

Click here to download our free ebook "The reluctant business developer's guide to winning clients". (email required)

To help minimise the amount of time you spend following up, build in little acts of commitment from your potential client. Remember that they control the business development process & timings. So take your lead from them. For example, if they ask for a proposal, ask them when they want it by, and when you should follow up if you have not heard anything.

3. Set & agree an agenda

The most successful sales meetings I have had, have always started with a joint agreement of the agenda. This can take many forms. For example, how about

  • circulating a suggested agenda in advance.
  • asking your potential client at the beginning of the meeting what they want to achieve in the meeting
  • asking them what you need to prepare to help them get the most value from your meeting

An agenda makes sure that everyone in the meeting has the same expectations and stops you going off on a tangent. It also gives you some big clues about what to ask the potential client.

4. Listen & summarise understanding

In a sales meeting you want to be listening for more than 70% of the time. If you have a deeper understanding of your potential clients business, you will have a better chance at helping them find the right solution. To get this understanding means you need to listen. At regular intervals take the opportunity to show your prospect that you ‘get’ them, by summarising your understanding of what they have been saying.

5. Qualify, qualify, qualify

As I mentioned earlier in this blog post, the business development process is 2-way. As you go through the meeting, take the time to check out how good a fit they would be for you, or maybe one of your colleagues. If you are sensing that they would not be a good fit, be prepared to say early into the conversation. If that happens, do remember to point them in the direction of someone who can help them.

6. Have credibility stories at the ready

In your sales meeting, your prospect will be wondering –  openly or not – whether you are credible enough to help them. Therefore, don’t talk about how “I can do this”, use credibility stories to illustrate your expertise. E.g.   “with this client, they had a similar problem to you, we did this…’

7. Structure the meeting

A good structure for a sales meeting is to position expectations at the start of the meeting, then spend a good half of the meeting listening to them. Finally, if the client is indicating it, offer some suggestions to how they could proceed.

8. Don’t be afraid to offer solution

Even if it is just a sales meeting or a networking meeting, most prospects still want to get some value from the meeting. So don’t hold back, once you have a good understanding of their business, in asking powerful questions to move their thinking on. Or how about kicking around some solutions with your prospect. The golden rule is seek first to understand.

What other tips would you add to this list?

Click here to download our free ebook "The reluctant business developer's guide to winning clients". (email required)

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