In the last of this series on proven ways to blow a meeting, we’ll look at two related opportunities that many sales people love to take advantage to derail a meeting. They are two extreme sides of the preparedness coin, being over and under prepared at the same time, to the point where the two not only cancel each other out, but help you blow sales meetings, over and over. However, when balanced and artfully executed, they could lead to great success.
Being Over Prepared – In the first post in the series we looked at how reps are so focused on their agenda, that when ever they hear the “magic word(s)” they jump in, interrupt, and alienate their buyer. In a similar way, reps sometimes look at their agenda or meeting plan like holly scripture not to be messed with or deviated from.
You get a discussion going, your questions have the effect you’d hoped which to get the buyer to not only think, which is an accomplishment, but to think differently than they did before and coming in to the meeting. When they do, it is often unchartered territory for them, and often takes them to explore things that may not have been on either yours or their agendas. This is a great thing, taking the buyer to a new place, they start thinking out loud, and because their exploring, it is often not as structure as the formal and planned part of the meeting. It is during these moments of free form thinking that some of the best opportunities are born, but only if you let them. Great sales people can switch between structured and abstract and can fully function in both. Other sales people can’t dance without the safety net of structure, and instead of encouraging free form, make the mistake of bring the meeting back to “solid ground”, and blowing it in the process.
When you allow the buyer to drive, and encourage exploration of thought, possibilities no matter how different, you not only take the buyer to places other sellers don’t, but you also clearly communicate that you are focused on their objectives not just selling your product. But if you continuously try to “ground” the buyer, and refocus them on the agenda, you’re screaming “PRODUCT, I SELL PRODUCT, not outcomes.”
No Next Step – The other side of the coin, is when a rep goes into a meeting without a clearly planned next step, in fact a few next steps, think plan A, plan B, Plan C, and sometimes even D. It is important to remember that a next step is your destination, a desired outcome for the meeting. It is not the same as an agenda. There are various ways to get somewhere, in the above example, I am encouraging you to let loose and find and follow an unexpected path, one the buyer may suggest, one the circumstances may dictate, but a path that makes it easier to get to your destination, i.e. a mutual agreement of your ability to deliver value. Value here meaning helping the buyer achieve their objectives, not giving them a discount.
But without a next step, there is no destination, and as such there are no results. I am painfully surprised when I ask reps what they want to get out of the meeting they are about to enter. The answers range from “I don’t know, but I will when we get going.” One has to wonder how you start a meeting to get there. Others tell me, “Well, I want to close the deal.” Not a reality for B2B reps, unless you truly have a one call sale, not very common.
But if you combine the two above, know the outcome that makes sense for the meeting, the buyer and you, then you can take detours, follow the buyer down unbeaten paths, but still have your next step as a beacon for where you want to end up. What’s the old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going every road will get you there.” Well if you know where you want to go, then you wont need to depend just one road to get you there. I guess I bring this from my taxi driving days, if you know the city well enough you know multiple ways of getting somewhere based on various circumstances.
Now review the five things we’ve discussed, and avoid them.