The first sales meeting with a client is like going on a first date with someone that you would like to form a lasting relationship with.
“They are finally agreeing to meet with me!” Your own personal bias tells you that this can only be a good thing.
You are imagining what it would be like to be managing “X” as a customer, without considering other agendas and factors at play.
Even when a prospect is looking to buy and wants to meet, there are risks that you should be aware of.
When clients have agendas other than considering your product
- They already decided to purchase from another supplier, however as part of their procurement process, they need a competing bid. Your meeting is already doomed! You are their “cheap date”, because they only need to invest 45 mins of their time for you to invest potentially days in a proposal that will end up in the scrap heap.
- Meeting with you is part of their KPIs. Procurement managers often meet with suppliers even if there is no opportunity on the horizon and no real drive to change their current arrangement.
- They are pumping you for market intelligence. You feel important when they ask your opinion on the market. But this exchange could be all they see you for.
Other reasons you can be wasting your time with a first meeting
- You are meeting with the wrong person. Some organisations setup complicated processes in order to reduce the number of sales people reaching senior management. You feel like you are a mouse entering a maze. Of course they don’t realise that they really need your offering! You want to help them but you are currently stuck in a dead-end…
- Large organisations have structured procurement cycles that only get renewed every few years. Unless you have the ability to call and influence their CEO, there is very little you can do to about it.
- They have no intention to buy from you, but want to use your proposal to put pressure on their incumbent supplier.
What can go wrong in a first meeting?
- Knowing too little about an organisation can turn them away. Similar to going on a first date, your partner expects you to know something about them and why you could be compatible.
- Not asking appropriate questions about their challenges will reduce your understanding of their problem and your ability to articulate a solution.
- Over-elaboration is a trap that many technical people fall into. Imagine your first date is at a restaurant when she asks you about free range eggs. “Free Range Eggs” is your trigger so you launch into a 15 mins lecture on everything you know about the topic! Your partner is now looking for an exit. Over-elaboration in a first sales meeting is dangerous because it draws the client’s attention to you. Before knowing the client well enough, anything you say could sink your opportunity. You will make far better progress by answering questions briefly and directly, and then redirecting questions back to the client to better understand their challenges.
Consider the following before your first sales meeting
- Why did they accept my invitation to meet?
- What do I know about this organisation and their reputation?
- Is there an agenda outlined? What can I do to anticipate questions?
- What is their role or title? Are they likely to be the decision maker, recommender, influencer or coach?
- What are the best two customer references to make a good impression? If you don’t have many customers, then talk about similar organisations you are meeting with and who have asked for proposals.
- What do you know about the organisational culture?
- What do you anticipate their “decision process” to be? Try to confirm this in the meeting.
It’s important to be aware of factors that will affect the first sales meeting. Some will make it near-impossible to sell in the short term. However if you are prepared you will have a better chance at understanding their challenges and respond with a good solution.