This Week’s Big Deal: Rethinking the Modern Sales Meeting
December 9, 2019
Before the digital age, sales meetings were generally face-to-face affairs, providing the benefit of body language, eye contact, handshakes, etc. Even when conducted over the phone, a salesperson could detect cues and signals while adding more of a personal touch.
In today’s environment, though, a sales meeting can take many different forms. They still happen in physical locations or via phone, of course, but digital-only meetups are increasingly common. A simple exchange over email or messenger can qualify as a productive meeting, and that efficiency is a necessity for large companies trying to close business at scale.
Regardless of the venue, a sales meeting is a critical opportunity. Here’s how you can refine and improve your approach to drive better outcomes and hit those sales goals.
Getting More Out of B2B Sales Meetings
The quality of a sales meeting isn’t determined entirely by what happens during the main event. Preparation and follow-up are key elements. Drawing from some of the latest and greatest trending content on the web, here are tips to strengthen your techniques.
Planning and Preparation Are Paramount
Whether your meeting takes place in person, over the phone, or on the web, one truth will remain constant: If you don’t convey knowledge of a buyer’s business, industry, and specific challenges, you’ll lose them quickly. In the latest State of Sales report, we learned that buyers are more likely to consider a brand’s products or services if the sales professional:
Has a clear understanding of their business needs (96%) or role (94%)
Shares content relevant to their role (93%)
Provides personalized communication (93%)
Targets the appropriate people at their company for initial discussions (92%)
These are all achievable with proper preparation. In some cases, answers can also be ascertained by asking exploratory questions during the meeting itself, but use caution. Busy buyers don’t want to waste time explaining things that a seller could’ve learned through cursory research.
In her writeup for Business 2 Community on How to Plan a Successful B2B Sales Meeting, Carrie Morgan zeroes in on several pillars of preparation, with a focus on defining the purpose of your meeting from the buyer’s perspective. What prompted the meeting? What are you going to talk about that matters to them? How can you provide tangible value to the person on the other end, in exchange for their time and attention?
Having clear answers to these questions in your mind, before the meeting actually gets underway, will set you up for success.
Engage the Full Buying Committee
B2B sales pros are often tasked with not just convincing one decision maker, but a collective decision-making group. Understanding how to navigate buying committees is essential to modern selling.
Part of the planning and preparation process should involve gaining a deeper grasp of the account’s layout and who the key players are. Which people in the organization are likely to have influence, and how can you connect with each of them in a relevant and personalized way? This task grows more complex when dealing with larger buying committees in enterprise scenarios.
Having accurate and up-to-date contact information is crucial to mapping out a buying committee. Using Data Validation with your CRM can help ensure you’re working with good intel. In some cases you may also be able to pick up important details during a meeting. (For example, “Is there an IT leader in your company who might want to chat about technical implementation?”)
Focus on the Experience
“Customer experience” is a trendy term in the business world these days, and with good reason: every interaction someone has with your brand and its representatives has the potential to shape their perception in important ways. As such, we should treat sales meetings as more than just a means to an end. This is an opportunity to make an impression.
Aimee Lucas of Qualtrics had a great post at Customer Think recently where she talked about Using Experience Data to Apply a CX Boost to B2B Business Development.
“With a little investment,” she writes, “it is possible to apply a CX lens to sales and engage members of that team around customer experience. That investment often starts by bringing to the sales team things that help them accomplish their primary objective – closing new business. That can then open the door to exploring additional ways to help them better measure and improve the customer’s buying experience, directly or through cross-functional efforts.”
Additionally, you might pick up some extra insights on strategizing around customer experience by reading or listening to this roundtable discussion at MarTech Advisor: Sales Enablement in the Experience Economy: Strategic Considerations for B2B Enterprises, featuring Jonathan Hinz, Jennifer Roderick, and Roderick Jefferson.
It’s Not All About Winning or Losing
The primary goal when heading into a sales meeting is, of course, always to win the business. But short of that, you can still come away with legitimately positive outcomes. Leaving a good impression, and laying the groundwork for an ongoing relationship, will put you in position to revisit discussions another time, gain a referral, or even earn an outright endorsement. Think about how powerful it is in today’s environment for someone to share with their network, “I didn’t choose to make a purchase from this rep but she was still so gracious, helpful, and accommodating.”
The No. 1 item in a recent writeup from Ruth Stevens featuring seven B2B predictions for 2020 is that relationships will replace the traditional funnel. (Some might argue this has already happened.) We need to start thinking long-term and stop treating each individual deal as the be-all, end-all. Relationships aren’t built in one single sales meeting, but they can be broken. As the old saying goes, trust is gained in drops and lost in buckets.
For further reading on this topic, check out the Power of Relationship Selling report, courtesy of Microsoft and Heinz Marketing, or Elisabeth Michaud’s guest post on our blog last week covering key takeaways for a winning strategy.
By taking the right preparatory steps, accounting for full buying committees, emphasizing the buyer’s experience, and making relationships your top priority, you can ensure that sales meetings are helping you meet your objectives.
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