Anticipate Questions and Objections
What are some expected questions and objections? They might include:
- “You need to talk to the vice president of human resources.”
- “Tell me about your company and why you are different than other companies?”
- “I am not interested.”
- “Send me a proposal.”
- “I have a friend at XYZ Company who said your company did not provide the best service in the past.”
What next steps might you suggest to the client?
- Request information.
- Set up a pre-meeting phone call with others in their company.
- Meet to review service needs and their situation.
- Decide if further investigation makes sense.
Set an agenda
From my experience in the industry, people often show up for meetings for which an agenda has been sent at the last minute and has not been read.
A meeting set up this way is often unproductive. The sales cycle can be unnecessarily lengthened and you have another “we’ll get back to you” or “let’s stay in touch” prospect. Not to mention, this type of unprofessionalism feeds into the negative perception of the vending and OCS industry.
Qualify the terms for the meeting
It is extremely important the client knows – ahead of time – why you want to meet with them. When we meet with salespeople without knowing what they want to talk about, we often don’t listen to what they have to say until our brain registers, “Aha, so that’s why you are here.” If we only have 30 minutes to meet with a client and it gets side tracked with other discussion topics, including chit-chat, all of a sudden we find ourselves with 10 minutes left to talk about the item at hand. But if we do a good job of preconditioning, we can ask the client to come prepared with information that helps to achieve the “End in Mind.”
Many salespeople in the industry do some sort of preconditioning. The best get client confirmation that the End in Mind and agenda are appropriate and do it consistently.
Consider the Opening Statement
You may already be well aware that after you finish informal introductions and conversations, clients tend to change personas. They become more alert and are now wearing their “business hat.” At my company, we call these next five minutes “The High Risk 5.” It is now time for your (already practiced) opening statement.
Elements of a good opening statement include:
- A favorable human-to-human connection.
- Context and confirmation for the End in Mind.
- Clarification of the path, topics or agenda that will lead to the End in Mind.
- Invitation for approval or modification to the approach.
After reading this article, you may think there is no way you will spend the time it takes to develop a meeting plan for all customer meetings. Here’s my suggestion: if what you have read makes sense to you, start with four upcoming significant client (prospect or current customer) interactions. Spend the extra time on the End in Mind – the rest will automatically flow.
If, at the end of those four calls or meetings, you have found value, visit http://www.nf5.com/pages/community/ and tell us what worked, where you got stuck and what you would do differently next time. If you don’t find value, adopt this meeting plan to your style, develop your own, or find one that works. You will find it will make you a more efficient and effective sales person.
For sales managers and owners, I know you wear many hats. As a result, it’s hard to find time to review your sales people’s ideas in the pipeline and it’s difficult to know what questions to ask.
If you were to ask me, “What is the one thing I can do today to be more effective at selling our vending or coffee services?” I would advise you to institute a good meeting plan – make it mandatory for your sales people, at least for significant client interactions.
What’s outlined in this article is just one example. Taking the time to understand the elements of whatever meeting plan you choose will provide you the basis from which to ask the right questions of your sales people.