by Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
When I talk to sales people about how they start sales meetings with new potential buyers (first time they meet), most (not all) tell me they “break the ice with some small talk”, then they “get in to it!” We’ll leave the getting into it for another time, what I don’t get is the “small talk” bit, I am not sure that in the current format, as practiced by most sellers is effective, necessary, and at times can be risky to the opportunity.
I am antisocial, (although some have accused me), but spending time talking about the weather, or the useless season the local sports team is having seems counterproductive to the goal of the exercise, helping the buyer move closer to their objectives, and yours. And while the people buy from people crowd may want to pounce on me, wait. You can “break the ice”, and set the mood without having to resort to pointless gibberish.
The buyers are all busy, as I should think you are, you obviously said something that caused them to invest an hour of their time with you, it is up to you to maximize the ROT for both. Getting to the point may not the worst strategy. Some buyers may make you feel that they required “small talk”, but that is more conditioning than anything else, if you deliver value by the end of a successful meeting, they will not complain about not having their time wasted.
I am also not suggesting that you jump right into the deep end, I know that the “void” walking between the reception area and the office or meeting room has to be filled, it is how you fill it that can differentiate you from the others.
As you are doing research ahead of your meeting, look for recent events, announcements, or analyst coverage, not specifically related to your product, but significant for the company and or the person you are meeting. A while back I was meeting with a dairy company that was the first to introduce Omeg3 into a line of product, to accentuate the launch, they introduced a beveled edged carton so it would look different from the other milk cartons on the shelf.
On “the walk” from reception, I asked how the packaging was received, changes they had to make to production, and were they looking to use packaging as a differentiator way with other products. While this had nothing with what we were meeting about, it indicated to the buyer that I came prepared, that I was taking an interest in the entire business, not just the part I can sell to, and I can relate the benefit of my offering to the other responsibilities he had. In return, the information he shared with me about the above, helped me refine and better position my value vis-à-vis his objectives. Small talk, yes, but it beat talking about snow in March or the fact that the Leafs were going to miss the playoffs again.
While we think we are being social with small talk, it can and does often come up being hollow, unimportant, and does not move things forward even one millimetre, in which case, what’s the point. It is also interesting that many people who don’t like the small talk when they are buyers, rely on it when they are sellers.
What’s in Your Pipeline?