Sometimes basics are taken for granted and it feels it’s not worth investing time and assumed as if all sales reps are aware and entering a client meeting well prepared. However, that’s not true.
During our B2B sales consulting experience of working with customers of various sizes made it clear to us that only ~ <5% (Sales) Professionals go prepared for customer meetings. The following is my learning and our quest to bring the process to all parts of B2B sales to ensure Sales Rep can control as much as possible.
Whoever has been in Sales, we all know one thing – It takes efforts and time to get a client meeting. I feel it’s a sin to enter this meeting/call without preparation. That means we don’t value our own efforts of getting that meeting.
I follow the below checklist and a few of our customers suggested me to share it with the larger team. I hope a few of you might find value. I am a student of “B2B Sales”, so this list is just my WIP learning and no way I claim it to be perfect or applicable in all scenarios.
Lets go thru the checklist:
1. Go Thru the Linkedin Profile of the Person/ People With Whom You Have a Meeting.
- Go thru the profile completely (and don’t restrict yourself only to the customer’s current role) including her education, location, past assignments etc.
- Go thru his/ her activity details. It will tell you more about her – what she likes, what she shares, what is she passionate about.
- Focus on posts she has shared in the last 1 year. This will be of immense value during your meeting.
- If time permits, read thru the testimonials she has received. If there is a trend in the testimonials, you will come to know about her personality and her approach to work.
- There are tools eg. “Crystal Knows” which gets integrated with google chrome and can tell you personality traits of the customer/s you have a meeting
2. Go Thru the Customer’s Company
If you aspire to be a great sales professional, you will invest time to prepare. If you are happy being an average sales professional, I am afraid this article may not be of much use to you.
- If it’s a listed company, go thru the latest investor presentation.
- If it’s a privately held company, go thru the company website, and YouTube to know more about the company, its products/services, its HR practices, etc.
On a side note – If you are a Large Account Manager, then this point is a must for you. Or else you will position yourself as a “Transactional or Postman Account Manager”.
3. Pre-empt the Client's Questions
Pre-empt the questions customer may ask during the meeting. Be ready with answers/details. Standard questions viz. reference customer names in customer’s industry, ROI, Differentiation (from client’s perspective) etc.
4. Be Ready With Your Questions
For example, if it’s an initial meeting, you may like to ask “Qualifying Questions” like
- What are the client’s expectations?
- What’s the trigger for the requirement ( i.e. need behind the need )?
- Client’s Buying Process?
- Who all will get involved in decision-making?
- Is the requirement a must to have or nice to have?
- Apart from us, who else the client is exploring? (You may refer to one of our earlier blogs on “Opportunity Qualification” for more details).
I get amazed by the number of sales professionals who are scared of asking questions to customers. Your time is as precious as the customer’s and the customer is talking to Sales Rep as somewhere she also is seeing value in your services.
Always ask questions (especially before you send a proposal). Just keep a balance to ensure the client does not feel like “interrogation”.
5. Anticipate/ Pre-empt Where the Meeting Could Go
Even if it’s a Sales meeting or a courtesy meeting, you may like to go prepared for situations if in case (especially with existing customers) the customer brings some past/recent escalation.
As an Account Manager, the customer may expect you to be aware. Pre-empt those escalation events, your customer may bring into the discussion.
6. Simulate The Call / Meeting
Simulate the call in your mind about
- Who would be starting the meeting and how it would pan out?
- Would you set the context or the customer will?
- What are all questions you are going to ask?
- If your colleagues are also joining, what are their roles (in asking questions, and sharing information)
- Are you comfortable with the flow of the meeting in your mind?
I am not saying that the meeting will go as per your simulation. But the research says – Sales Reps who prepare, win more. Visualizing the meeting (before the actual meeting) will help you be ready with minor (but important) details that otherwise you could have missed.
7. Be Ready With Key Documents/ Decks
This comes naturally to most of the sales reps. So, won’t spend much time. However pre-empting questions and simulating the call will help think of some more details handy for the call/meeting.
8. Prepare for Outcomes
Decide based on your stage of the sales cycle.
Write down the :
- Ideal Outcome: What would be the ideal outcome you expect from the meeting? Whether you want it to move to “Proposal stage or a meeting with key Business head or PO stage etc.
Always ensure you prepare to increase “your credibility” even if you qualify out or lose the deal. “High credibility” will take you to a next level and differentiate you from the rest of the “Sales Reps” who like to be at the “Transactional level” and “Opportunity focused”.
- Worst Case Outcome: What is the worst case outcome expected? i.e at least this is the minimum you should expect from the meeting. If you can’t get “Worst case Outcome” also from the meeting, then there is something wrong with the opportunity or your credibility with the customer, or your reading of the deal.
Note: Point 9 could be Call Plan – I am not getting into the depth about this as this is a separate detailed topic. However, it’s a best practice to follow a structured process to have a “ Call Plan” which ensures you don’t miss out on anything. Especially preparing a call plan should be a norm for important client meetings.
Our experience says, after few meetings, the above becomes a part of the Sales Rep’s DNA and the probability of “Good Meetings” will keep increasing compared to “Bad/Indifferent Meetings”.
As a sales consulting company we’ve worked with many B2B companies, and one thing we have seen is that 20% interventions could have an 80% impact on “ROI” and is also “easy to implement”. Meeting Preparation Checklist clearly falls in this segment.