• Great Sales Leaders: Take Control of Meetings and Use Them to Enhance Their Credibility

    Sales leaders involved with complex sales quickly figure out that being able to obtain and conduct quality meetings has a huge impact on their success.  Sales is about building quality relationships, and you have to meet with prospects to build those relationships.  Depending on your industry, and your company’s brand recognition, quality meetings can be costly to obtain.  For companies without good brand recognition, the process can be very daunting. Figuring out who the “right” people are is one process, and then convincing them to meet with you in person is another process. Prospects are busy and they value their time, so they need the right incentive to schedule time with you. Assuming it all works and you are able to get your desired audience to meet you, there are some things that need to happen prior to, during, and after the meeting if you plan to be successful.

    Early in my career, this happened to me. I would always be prepared and excited to be attending the meeting with prospects that represented great potential, but I would let my primary contact control the meeting. They would make the introductions, go over the agenda, and do most of the talking.  I just figured I would speak when needed and everything would be ok. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do.  What I didn’t realize was that by being somewhat passive I couldn’t build my credibility in the same way I could if I took control and established myself as the expert on the subject. I also couldn’t set the expectation that I was in control of the process, which becomes important in long sales cycles.

    I believe that as soon as the meeting is scheduled, great sales leaders realize that it is now their meeting and they take control.  You can never guarantee that there will always be a fit, or an immediate need for an additional meeting, but here are a few additional things I have seen great sales leaders do to increase their chances of being successful:

    • Draft agenda: Send a draft agenda prior to the meeting (depending on your business this could be done verbally). This does three things: 1) It is the start of you controlling the format and content of the meeting 2)It shows that you are organized, and that you are preparing 3) If there are any objections to what you want to do, the prospect will tell you in advance of the meeting.
    • Show up early but not too early: Great sales leaders do not show up late, especially if there is
      prep required for the meeting.  They will have hammered out any issues (i.e. projector problems) before the scheduled start of the meeting. However, they also don’t show up too early.  Seems subtle but showing up too early (i.e. 45 minutes before a meeting) can be a little annoying for the prospect if they were trying to finish some other task before your meeting.
    • Command the room: It should be clear who is leading the meeting. There are a number of ways to do this, and it is primarily based on your personality. Some leaders can simply do it by the strength of their voice. Some always make sure that they are standing while speaking.  The trick is not to be obnoxious, while at the same time not blending in.
    • Control the pace/time: Sending the draft agenda in advance, and then getting people to agree on an agenda at the beginning of the meeting will help. Also at the beginning of the meeting you should ask/confirm the length of the meeting, and then state “that is enough time for us to cover what we need”.  That statement is just another subtlety that gives the prospect more confidence in your ability to make the best use of their time. As the meeting continues, always
      be aware of the time.  Don’t be one of those people that finds out there are five minutes left in the meeting and then rushes to cram in 25 minutes of presentation into those five minutes.  That never works well and it makes you look bad, and then you usually don’t get to adequately talk about next steps.  Always be prepared to wrap up the meeting on time, and if they want to
      extend it, that is ok.
    • Be interesting: It is hard to explain how to do this, and it just comes naturally for many.  I don’t
      recommend trying to be a comedian, or doing something weird and out of your comfort zone. Just realize this could be to your competitive advantage.  People may not buy from you just because you are interesting, but they are much more inclined to meet with you again.

    Meetings are an important part of the consultative selling process.  Prospects only have a limited amount of time and they are usually meeting with multiple vendors.  Having an outstanding solution and reputation are crucial, but that combination by itself is not always the deciding factor.  Great sales leaders realize that the company brand and your personal brand are not necessarily the same. They also never forget that people buy from people.

    Great sales leaders use meetings as a sales tool.  They see it as more than a way to talk about how their solution is a great match for your problems.  They also use meetings as a way to show competence and enthusiasm, while building credibility with the prospect.  Little things like showing up early and commanding the room show enthusiasm. Creating the agenda and being diligent about time helps with your credibility.  It shows that you are able to do what you say you’ll do in the amount of time allocated, and therefore they will feel more comfortable about giving you more time.  Great sales leaders never forget that it’s as much about building relationships as it is about the actual solution.