Probably more sales are won or lost in the first face-to-face meeting with a prospect than at any other point in the sales process. You may not learn the outcome until much later, but it’s that first step that determines which path you’ll follow.
Sales guru and author Dave Kurlan offers these pointers to help make that first meeting as good as it can possibly be:
#1: Make a good phone call
It all starts with the initial prospecting call. Chances are you had an opportunity to discuss your value proposition, and as a result, you scheduled a meeting for a more in-depth conversation. The quality of the initial phone call will determine the quality of this appointment. Never be satisfied with simply “getting the meeting.” Set your call objective as “getting a good meeting.” Stay with the call until you’ve found out what you need to make that meeting productive. If you find some mental anguish, discover that they want to fix a problem and get them to invite you to have a next conversation, you improve the quality of this appointment.
#2: Ask a meaningful question
Start the meeting with a meaningful question to get the prospect or suspect talking. The first question sets the tone for a quality conversation. A good way is to open your meeting with a question like:
- “Why are you taking time out of your schedule to meet with someone that does our kind of work?”
- “What has to happen during our time together so you feel this was a great use of your time?”
#3: Drill down
Don’t let soft answers spoil your good questions. You must get past what Kurlan calls the philosophical BS (PBS) that you will hear from the prospect. Remember that your suspect is going to be a bit guarded initially. You have to probe with questions like:
- “Can you tell me more?”
- “Why is that a problem?”
- “How long has that been a problem?”
- “What happens if you don’t fix it?”
- “What have you done to try and fix it in the past?”
#4: Gain commitment
One of the biggest mistakes made in selling is attempting to close a suspect that really hasn’t committed to solving a problem. Assuming you have gotten beyond the PBS, you have to ask questions that get that commitment:
- “Do you want to fix this problem?”
- “Are you sure? It may be very difficult to do so.”
#5: Get a clear future
Don’t have a great conversation only to let the next step be cloudy. If you describe the outcome of a meeting with: “I’m supposed to get back to them sometime next week” or, “They’ve asked me to reach out to them again in 30 days,” there’s nothing clear about your next step at all. The next step must be something that moves the sale forward.